Play Ball…or Quidditch

This week I went to two baseball games in a span of three days, and my team’s on a roll (Go Brew Crew)! It got me thinking about the influence of sports in novels, particularly as a world-building element in fantasy.

I admit it, I’m a sucker for sports. I tear up during those sappy inspirational Olympics commercials. There’s something about sports that pulls us together, ignites our passion and makes us believe in the “Cinderella” story. So, how do we use that in our writing?

Bring us into your world
The coolest thing about JK Rowling’s Quidditch is that it feels so real the readers get caught up in it. We have our favorite teams, even our favorite players in the books.

In just about any series, writers use sports as a way to paint the canvas of their worlds. It’s something we connect with on an emotional level, so it feels familiar, yet new. A simple detail that makes a big difference.

Every culture has its own collection of sports. With such a broad variety, it’s fun to mix & match, or come up with something completely new that best fits your world. It can be anything from contact sports to board games or mind challenges. In my WIP, my seafaring nation has an onboard dueling circuit and an annual fishing contest.

Reveal character depth
The way your characters interact with sports can tell us a lot about them. Do they love sports? Avoid them at all costs. If gambling is your world’s sport-of-choice, is your character a high-roller or the sucker at the table? Maybe he or she raises were-rabbits for racing.

Ooh, look, a tournament
Sport also serve as a great plot distraction! Want to throw in an unexpected twist? Focus your readers’ attention on an intense sports match, and we’ll be so worried about the outcome of the game, we’ll never see that zombie invasion or dragon attack coming.

Victory means everything
We all love rooting for teams! Some authors feed that love by giving us stories centered almost entirely around sports events or competitions—like The Hunger Games or Tron.

What are some of your favorite examples of sports in books? How have you used sports in your own work?


  1. I think it adds a little spice to the world. :)

  2. I have to admit, I hate sports. To such a degree that characters who play and enjoy sports are less likeable to me. But that's just me. ;)

    I've given you an award! Stop by to pick it up:

  3. Sarah, I bet that makes reading interesting sometimes. :)

    Thanks for the award! I'm off to craft my oh-so-clever answers.