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  1. #1
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    Question I'm looking for some input for a story I'm writing.

    I'm currently trying to write a story in which one of the main characters is a figure skater. Before beginning my research for this story, my knowledge of the sport was pretty much limited to knowing the names of some of the jumps from watching the Olympics. I've been doing some research on my own via Google, and trying to ask questions online, as figure skating is pretty much nonexistent in my area, as I live in Mississippi.

    That said, if you all don't mind, I'd like to ask for some input and see what you think about the ideas I have as a result of my research to this point. I don't want to bombard you with unwanted questions, but if you give me the okay, I'll give the basics about the characters and see what you think.

    Thanks!

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    I think the majority of people here love to talk about figure skating at the drop of a hat. I'd be willing to wager you're going to get many many answers to every one of your questions. Ask away!

  3. #3
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    Here goes, then!

    The main characters are 12-year-old twin brother and sister from Lloydminster, Saskatchewan. The boy is a hockey player, which I've got covered. The girl is a figure skater. The way I see it, she's noticeably above average, and while I don't see her as a future Olympian, she's still quite talented, and possibly among the top several skaters in the province. They also have a 9-year-old sister who figure skates. She's closer to average. She's not bad by any stretch of the imagination, but isn't progressing as rapidly as her older sister.

    Based on what I've read online, and what I've been told by others online, the 12-year-old might be able to land all of her double jumps (including the axel), and may be working on a triple toe loop or triple salchow. On the same basis, I'm thinking that the 9-year-old might be struggling with her double lutz and/or double flip.

    If the answer is that those descriptions sound reasonable, what are the most common problems that a skater might have with the jumps they could be working on. I've read about the "lip" and "flutz," but I don't really know much about them. For someone trying to master their first triple jump, would under-rotation or failure to land the jump be a bigger problem?

    To begin, does that sound like what you might expect with skaters of that age and general talent description that I gave in the first paragraph? I'm also interested in any suggestions anyone might have. If anyone has any suggestions for particular strengths or weaknesses that either might have, I'd love to hear them. The book isn't going to have detailed descriptions of competitions, but there will be some discussion of figure skating since two members of the family are involved in the sport, and I want my references to be accurate and the discussion to be "intelligent."

  4. #4

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    Quote Originally Posted by ScottM84 View Post
    Based on what I've read online, and what I've been told by others online, the 12-year-old might be able to land all of her double jumps (including the axel), and may be working on a triple toe loop or triple salchow. On the same basis, I'm thinking that the 9-year-old might be struggling with her double lutz and/or double flip.
    Yes, that sounds reasonable.
    If the 12-year-old already has mastered the double axel, she might be working on both triple toe loop and triple salchow, but she might be much closer to mastering one than the other.

    If the answer is that those descriptions sound reasonable, what are the most common problems that a skater might have with the jumps they could be working on. I've read about the "lip" and "flutz," but I don't really know much about them.
    For a girl, "flutz" (losing the counterrotation of the lutz entrance so she takes off from an inside instead of the correct outside edge) would be the more common problem. It may be that she can't yet get the two rotations and get her weight over her landing side when she concentrates on staying on the outside edge -- if her coach insists on it, she may not be close to landing a double lutz yet.

    For someone trying to master their first triple jump, would under-rotation or failure to land the jump be a bigger problem?
    Underrotation would be a bigger problem. Especially in today's scoring system, where a badly underrotated triple will score the same as a bad double.

    When learning new jumps with more rotations (e.g., first triples), the early stages of the learning process tend to go through various degrees of underrotation, at first barely more than a double, all the way to fully rotated or close enough to count, months or years later. At some points in the process the skater may be more likely to land on two feet, other times she may be more likely to fall. Some skaters have a talent for staying on one foot even if the jump is not rotated (so-called "cheated" jumps), and they may believe they're closer to succeeding than they really are.

    I have definitely seen skaters learning new jumps and their coaches celebrate in practice when the skater manages to rotate a jump fully and come down on one foot on a fully backward edge, even if she falls immediately, because that's progress toward mastering the necessary rotation.

    But until she can rotate and stand up more often than not, the jump isn't really ready to put in a program.

    If anyone has any suggestions for particular strengths or weaknesses that either might have, I'd love to hear them.
    The 9-year-old is probably still working her way through tests as well as competing; the 12-year-old may have a few more tests to take as well, depending when she wants to move up to a new competition level. I'd let someone more familiar with the Canadian testing system answer any questions you have there.

    What kinds of strengths and weaknesses are you thinking about? Purely technical ones, such as what jumps they can or can't do, or whether they struggle with other general skills like spinning or quick footwork, or more specific spinning or skating skills? "Artistic" skills such as posture and body line, and flexibility/extension to support that line, or ability to skate in time with music and express its nuances? Maybe one skater is more of an introvert who tends to look down at the ice while performing, or an extrovert who gets energy from performing for audiences.

    The 12-year-old might be starting to go through body changes that make her worry about getting too tall and/or too curvy to maintain her jumping ability.

    Does either of them suffer from nerves/performance anxiety and find herself unable to perform to her full ability in a competition or test situation?

    Do they get frustrated with having to abort jumps or program runthroughs in practice because of traffic patterns from other skaters on the ice? Maybe one of your skaters especially blames her sister for constantly cutting her off (which may or may not really be happening, or may be coincidental and unintentional if it is).

    Thanks for doing the research and asking intelligent questions. Good luck with your story.
    Last edited by gkelly; 05-16-2014 at 02:57 PM.

  5. #5
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    I'm primarily still in the research stages, but I do have a few hundred words written to give myself the feel for how the story is going to begin, and there is an exchange between the 12-year-old and her twin brother about her triple toe loop. I put that particular jump in as a placeholder, but I'm thinking it's going to stay now. Basically, he asked her how her practice was, an she made a comment about how she'll never land the triple toe loop. Her brother said, "you and I both know that you're going to pull it off sooner or later," to which she agreed. She stated that trying to learn a new jump can just be a little frustrating. The way the character seems to be developing, I get the feeling that she's very confident, but that she really pushes herself, which leads to frustration at times.

    I could see the 9-year-old dealing with more nerves. I think she sees herself as living in her sister's shadow (and even her brother's to a degree) and I could see that putting added pressure on her during competitions or tests. If that be the case, how might that manifest itself in a competition setting? The 12-year-old wouldn't actually do anything to cut her sister off, but I could still see her blaming her older sister.

    As far as strengths and weaknesses, I'm looking for anything, and I think the questions you asked gave me some stuff to think about. I may follow up on that later on.

    I may be overthinking this, but I'd much rather have more knowledge than I need than not enough.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by ScottM84 View Post

    I could see the 9-year-old dealing with more nerves. I think she sees herself as living in her sister's shadow (and even her brother's to a degree) and I could see that putting added pressure on her during competitions or tests. If that be the case, how might that manifest itself in a competition setting? The 12-year-old wouldn't actually do anything to cut her sister off, but I could still see her blaming her older sister.
    I don't have siblings, so I don't have experience with that. I'm just wondering if a 9-year-old would actually actively blame someone or if it would be more of an underlying resentment. If the 9-year-old were a teenager, I'd say there would be aggressiveness, resentment as in comments that her sister is so perfect and can't do anything right, stuff like that but a 9-year-old, I'm not sure.

    The question you also have to ask yourself is whether or not the 9-year-old is already feeling like she's living in her sister's shadow or, if it is everyone else who considers her living in her sister's shadow and if the sister herself is maybe still looking up to her 12-year-old sister. Why did the 9-year-old start skating? Because of her sister? Who started skating first? The older one or the younger one or did they maybe start at the same time?
    Also, does the older sister help her younger sister as in try to give her confidence or is the older sister wrapped up in herself and the younger sister tries to get her to help her and is disappointed when she's not being helped? This would probably hurt especially if the younger sister is looking up to the older and could create an interesting point of conflict.
    What is the relationship between the twins? Would the younger sister already feel like an outsider because she's the younger one and her sibling are twins and would that add to her frustration?
    All of this makes a difference to the original question, how it would manifest itself in a competition setting because it changes how the 9-year-old reacts to her environment and the support she has.

    Do you already know where you want the characters to go?

    I may be overthinking this, but I'd much rather have more knowledge than I need than not enough.
    Do whatever you feel like doing. You'll realize later what you need and what you don't need and it's part of the experience. Don't stress about that at this point.

  7. #7

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    One thing - you mentioned that she was working on the triple toe or salcow. Most skaters find that either toe jumps or edge jumps are easier for them. When learning her first triple she would be working on the one that is more natural for her. So you need to pick one or the other & then be consistent.

    Toe jumps - toe (T), flip (F), lutz (LZ)
    Edge jumps - salcow (S), loop (LO) (or Rittberger (R)), axel (A) (The axel jump has an extra half rotation, so the 2A is 2 1/2 revolutions.)

    Of course, this isn't a hard & fast rule. For example, Michelle Kwan got her 2A very early but the 3R was one of the last jumps she got consistent.

    Is this too much information? I don't know how much you know about skating

  8. #8
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    The younger sister feels like she's living in her sister's shadow because she's always hearing about how good Paige is. Thus, she feels like she has to live up to the same standard. It's not something that her older sister antagonizes her with, though. I'm beginning to think that it's likely going to play out that due to a situation the twins are going to get themselves into the younger sister realizes how much she actually cares about them and opens up to her sister more about her feelings, thus giving some resolution to it.

    The older sister started skating before the younger sister. All of the kids in the family started skating almost as soon as they could walk (including an older brother that I haven't mentioned previously as he's not really relevant to the figure skating portion). I've read that age 5 or 6 is when figure skaters might begin to develop technique, so that's what I have in mind for when they started taking formal figure skating lessons. Btw, if anyone disagrees with that as a starting age, I'm open to suggestion.

    I think I'm going to stick with the triple axel as the jump she's currently working on. I added a little more to the dialog between the twins about how her practice went, and the brother made a comment about how she struggled with the double axel, but still managed to master it. The lists of jumps was not too much information. While I knew the names, I didn't know the categories of jumps, so with the added comment about the double axel, that helps give that conversation some legitimacy.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by ScottM84 View Post
    The younger sister feels like she's living in her sister's shadow because she's always hearing about how good Paige is. Thus, she feels like she has to live up to the same standard.
    In other words, the younger sister puts the pressure on herself. Which would give you the opportunity to make the nerves she shows at competitions/tests a result of that. So, she's sort of standing her own way of achieving what she could achieve. One way of showing that would be that she messes up things in competitions she's actually never having troubles with in training and/or aggressiveness (as in being very competitive and maybe wrongly ambitious) towards fellow training mates/competitors.

    A lot of how a character reacts and how something pans out also depends on the character's motivation. You said all children started at an early age, so I'm guessing they didn't start because they went to a recreational lesson and liked it but because their parents put them into classes. Which raises the question as to how committed are they? How much of why they skate is because they like it and how much is because they've just done it ever since they can remember?
    If you have talent, like the older sister does, you often go along with something but might actually just be doing it because it comes naturally to you and then you realize later that you actually would prefer to do something else.
    Or, if you have talent, it could pose a problem when you suddenly reach a point when things don't go as easy anymore. Which would be something the older sister has to deal with. g_kelly suggested a developing body that poses problems, which then could mean the older sister has suddenly troubles she didn't have before which could nag at her confidence.
    If you don't have as much talent, you can be more committed than a person who does have talent because things don't come naturally to you. You have to work harder thus you have to endure more which can mean that somethings means more to you.
    Or it could mean that you reach a point when you just don't want to work anymore and end up doing something else because the rewards are just not there.

    These are just possibilities, each person is different of course, and you don't have to answer any of the questions. They're just things that I think you should figure out for yourself. But once you figure out the character's motivation I think it's much easier to say how s/he will react in a certain situation because you know how something will affect the character and why it affects the character the way it affects them.

  10. #10

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    This isn't a suggestion about skating technique, but there is a well-known real-life skater from Saskatchewan named Paige (pairs skater Paige Lawrence)....maybe your character should have a different name?
    You should never write words with numbers. Unless you're seven. Or your name is Prince. - "Weird Al" Yankovic, "Word Crimes"

  11. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by ScottM84 View Post
    I think I'm going to stick with the triple axel as the jump she's currently working on.
    If she's working on triple axel at age 12, she would be getting a LOT of attention as the next Midori Ito or Mao Asada. That is just not a jump that 12-year-old girls would typically be working on. It's something to try after all the other triples have been mastered. Most people who are seriously working on getting triple axels are 15- to 20-year-old boys. Some girls have tried it in their mid-teens or a bit older, but less than 10 women ever in the history of figure skating have ever landed triple axels in competition. Of those, Asada is the only one I know of who was known to have tried it as young as 12.

    I added a little more to the dialog between the twins about how her practice went, and the brother made a comment about how she struggled with the double axel, but still managed to master it. The lists of jumps was not too much information. While I knew the names, I didn't know the categories of jumps, so with the added comment about the double axel, that helps give that conversation some legitimacy.
    Oh, did you mean double axel? Yes, that would be something the average 12-year-old competitor would be working on. It's pretty much the dividing line between serious skaters of average talent or talented skaters with elite potential, and 12 is about the age when that level of jumping ability starts to become apparent. If your character is already acknowledged as having elite potential, she has probably already been landing clean double axels -- although it might still give her problems at times, especially if she's going through a growth spurt.

    I'm not sure if your dialogue is to mean that the brother comments that his sister struggled with the double axel in practice that day but then mastered it that day, or whether that refers to a whole year's worth of work. It's a long-term process to learn these difficult jumps, and even once the skater is capable of landing them, they still take practice to maintain.

    If she already has the double axel, in addition to training to maintain and improve it, typically during the off season she would also start working on at least one and possibly two or three of the easier triples (salchow, toe loop, maybe loop). As taf2002 says, often skaters have a preference for edge jumps (axel, salchow, loop) or toe jumps (toe loop, flip, lutz). So your character might have one triple that she's close to landing and one or two others that she has started learning but isn't close to and doesn't make a priority.

    So for a talented but not legendary-level 12-year-old, she should be working on double axels and easier triples, and the double axel should be "mastered" to the point that she can rotate and land it and put it in her programs, though probably not with close to 100% consistency.

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    Actually, I meant to say triple toe loop.

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    I just noticed the comment about the dialog between the brother and sister about the double axel. He was reminding her that even though it took a lot of work for her to master the double axel, she did get it, and that she will master the triple toe loop, as well.

    As for the name, I think I'm going to keep it for now. I've kind of gotten attached to my characters' names, because I kind of had the basic idea of using them for a while before I ever started work on this or decided to set it in Saskatchewan. Assuming it stays the way it is, I'll probably put a disclaimer about any resemblance to an actual person being coincidence, which would be true.

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    Just wanted to note that skaters from Lloydminster would compete primarily in Alberta, not Saskatchewan (Lloydminster is a border city).

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    Quote Originally Posted by patinage View Post
    Just wanted to note that skaters from Lloydminster would compete primarily in Alberta, not Saskatchewan (Lloydminster is a border city).
    I can make that work with what I've already written. Certain parts of the story will take place in the Alberta side of the city. Thanks for the heads up. Is that true even for skaters that live in the Saskatchewan side of the city, or does the province of residence have anything at all to do with that?

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    Scott, I really love that you're trying to make your story as accurate as possible. That's something that long-time sports writers don't often do. If you get any of your information from skating articles it might be a good idea to check with us before you put it in your story. Some of the inaccuracies would boggle your mind.

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    I know what you mean. I can't tell you how many times I've seen a TV show or a movie that had hockey in it, and the inaccuracies just drove me crazy. I don't want to fall into that category.

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    You are going to tell us when it's printed so we can buy it, right? BTW it's going to need a Kindle/Nook version.

  19. #19
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    ScottM84, I thought you might wish to look into this, also. Since it's the off season, I signed up for Jo Ann Scneider Farris's Figure Skating 101 E-Course. I truly don't know that much about jumps and edges, and I think the e-course would definitely help me.
    Angie
    “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” ~ Thomas A. Edison

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    Looking forward to the kindle version of your book. You're asking great questions here Best of luck as you continue forward.

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