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Saturday, May 21, 2016

Writing Parkour Fiction

I've written my fair share of parkour articles, as have many bloggers across the Web. It's a fascinating discipline that really lends itself to instruction and analysis. We love to explore and tear apart parkour ideas to gain brand new insights. Just look at all the amazing non-fiction parkour books you find on Amazon. Parkour writing is everywhere.

"Breaking the Jump" is the highly anticipated book
by Julie Angel that tells the story of parkour's origins.
Pre-order or buy it here:

But do you know what we don't see very often? Parkour fiction.

After a long search, I only found a few novels with stories of traceurs and traceuses, many of which appear to be self-published. It's weird. We see fiction, particularly YA, that covers nearly every niche, hobby and widespread craze. Parkour, having now been around for several decades and growing like a weed on steroids, is still so absent.

This didn't dissuade me from following my dream of creating a parkour story, which I spent the last year writing and revising. To be honest, I stumbled upon plenty of challenges that make parkour especially difficult to translate to the written word. If you want to take a stab at writing a story with high-flying traceurs, here are a few bits of wisdom I've garnered over the past year.

1. Don't Assume Readers Know What a Kong Vault Is

Unless you're writing exclusively for parkour practitioners, you'll have to dish out all the details about what the move looks like and how it works, all without boring readers out of their minds. Yes, it is as annoying as it sounds, but with practice, you can create strong visuals of cat leaps and precision jumps in just a few succint phrases.

2. Go Beyond the Movements

Especially if you are a practitioner yourself, you know the exhilaration of finally going for that cat leap, the shaky feeling in your legs before you try, and the feeling of freedom as you glide through the air. You know that feeling of sweat dripping down your face, of having your training partners telling you "You can do it." These are the things that bring readers to your world, the world of parkour. Use them.

3. Don't Linger on the Actual Training

Parkour is very visual, which is precisely why writing about it can be such a challenge. Although you can make some strong parkour scenes in your story, be aware that less is more when it comes to action scenes on the page. You can also keep readers interested by adding some dialog, sensations, inner monologue and other elements during a training scene.

That's all I've got for now. Whether you're writing a parkour short story or a full-blown novel, don't be afraid to just get started, and remember that practice makes awesome. The more parkour fiction we get out there, the more we introduce the art of movement to an even wider audience through the timeless medium of print.

If you want to follow the progress of my parkour book, a YA thriller about a traceuse who takes on the illegal wildlife trade in LA, like my author page on Facebook.

Have any thoughts or tips of your own, or even a piece of parkour fiction you'd like to share? Feel free to leave a comment or make a post on social media with the hashtag #writingparkour

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Parkour and the Media

Uh-oh. Parkour is in the news again.

What rooftop-jumping, death-defying, risk-seeking stories have they cooked up today?

Any parkour practitioner who has spent some time on social media has inevitably come across the negative news stories involving our beloved discipline. If a person wanted to learn about parkour exclusively through news stories, he might come out thinking that parkour is a dangerous, daredevil sport and that everyone who tries it either destroys or vandalizes something before falling to a terrible death. Don't believe it? Just take a look at some of the most popular parkour news titles on the Internet today.

"Parkour Girl Falls 17 Stories to Her Death"

"Hunger Game Stunt Double Dies in Parkour Fall"

"Russian Parkour Fans Damage Athens' Acropolis"

Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying these news stories shouldn't exist. I'll I'm saying is they are often the only type of news stories we see, with many featuring misleading titles just to score some precious page clicks for the news sites. (We call these titles "click bait")
German Traceuse Denise Reichert

For instance, the "parkour" girl in the first news story had never actually trained parkour before. She was basically just told to jump from one roof to another by a group of guys she was chilling with in the wee hours of the morning when her fatal fall occurred. It is a tragic story of a terrible accident, but that was no parkour girl.

It's not news that the media likes to focus on the negative, and parkour is by no means immune to that trend. These negative news stories often portray the discipline in a skewed light, usually describing it as a daredevil sport for thrill-seekers.

Add to this the fact that negative stories tend to get passed around the social media sphere more often than neutral or positive stories, and we have a recipe for widespread misconceptions about parkour. The same thing happens with parkour videos: some awesome footage of great athletes goes virtually unnoticed while "parkour fails" go viral.

Fortunately, there are some positive stories out there that celebrate parkour (or, at the very least, don't demonize it.) Just look at these titles:

"Parkour Changes Vista Teen's Perspective on Life"

"Fast-paced Parkour Offers Outlet for Women in Iran"

So apparently, there is still hope. Good news for us.

Here's the first thing that I think needs to happen. We need to stop spreading the negative stories if they are misleading. Even if you share a link on your Facebook page saying, "Hey, this story sucked because they made up a bunch of s*** about parkour!" Guess what? You're generating traffic to that news site with every one of your friends' clicks. Honest reports of tragic accidents, however, are a good reminder to train safe. Just get facts straight before sharing to avoid spreading misconceptions.

Second thing that needs to happen, we have to get some more positive stories in the news. Did your training group completely fix up an abandoned park? Did you lose 50 pounds training parkour? Tell your local news site about it. They just might pick up your story. Plus, whenever we see these stories, we need to saturate Facebook and Twitter with them to show the media outlets that we support this positive attitude.

Let's work together to change popular perceptions of parkour.

Train safe, and feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.