Bump Drafting

Tracy Dunham
Nah, the title doesn't mean a draft manuscript filled with rough patches. Actually, it's a term that's come into use in the past five years or so to describe what happens at Talladega Speedway during the races. Yesterday's Cup chase (you all know I'm a diehard NASCAR fan, right?) was filled with terrifying wrecks and some pretty upset drivers. Those who cartwheeled down the track (Michael Waltrip and Scott Riggs, I think it was) were more calm than Elliot Sadler (a good Virginia boy if ever there was one) after Jimmie Johnson stuck his nose under Elliot's bumper and tossed him out of the pack like a broken cookie. Waltrip and Riggs were probably just grateful to be alive. I was grateful for them, and for the safety of everyone else who got caught up in the melees and lost cars. Very expensive cars.

It's said fans love Talladega because of the spectacular wrecks. Me, I love nose-to-nose racing, the kind you see when Rusty Wallace and Mark Martin are door-to-door and respectful enough to race cleanly. It's like reading a clean manuscript - I love it when art and craft mesh as they do when Rusty and Mark are on the track and having fun racing each other. No bumps needed. Some writers seem to prefer literary bumps, full-throttle-hit-the-reader-over-the-head-with-gory-stuff, as opposed to a solid, clean story. I just finished a book in which the opening chapter contains a gruesome murder. The murder, it turns out, isn't the mystery, and is, in fact, a mere "oh, by the way," solved quickly and too easily at the end of the book. I was as upset as Elliot Sadler after he was bumped out of the race yesterday. I wanted to be vested in solving the murder in the first chapter, kept hoping the clues were leading there, only to find out it was unnecessary to the mystery. Writers need to respect their readers, just as NASCAR drivers need to respect each other.

Most writers, and most drivers, do.