What could a test match at Lord’s Cricket Ground in London and a NASCAR race at Alabama’s Talladega Superspeedway possibly have in common? Me! Despite my complete lack of knowledge of both cricket and stock car racing, I coincidentally found myself in both places in the past few months.
Needless to say, the experiences differed widely in some respects. At Lord’s, there were Veuve Clicquot champagne and Hendrix gin stands. Dega (as I now know to call it) offered a lot more beer. At the cricket (as I now know to say), I could choose biryani or a Cornish pasty for lunch. At the race, the options ran more to burgers and bbq. The Lord’s spectators erred on the side of blazers, while the NASCAR crowd favored t-shirts and trucker hats. And while cricketers run back and forth, drivers endlessly loop.
One thing both outings had in common, though, was a wealth of story ideas for a mystery writer. Passionate fans could be driven to murder. Someone could push someone else off an upper level, poison their food, whack them with a cricket bat, mess with their car during a pit stop, use the roar of engines to drown out a scream, or strangle them with their orange-and-yellow-striped Marylebone Cricket Club tie.
While both events provided a good time and writerly inspiration, I’m more of a theater-goer myself. I prefer the drama provided by a playwright to that of a sporting event. Nonetheless, I have a lot in common with the cricket and NASCAR fans. The thrill of sharing an experience with others, whether in a theater, a stadium, or a speedway, adds to the enjoyment we all take from our chosen entertainment.
In comparison to such communal activities, reading is a solitary experience. But the many ways in which we seek out opportunities to enjoy it collectively—book clubs, community-wide reads, fan conferences for readers--speaks to the human need for connection that draws people to shared experiences. And as writers, we luckily get to make those connections through the stories we tell.
Have you had any new experiences lately that inspired you?