Tuesday, October 27, 2009

New Beginning 697

Daren sped across the basketball court as Carson High’s bulky players charged in his direction. He hesitated, his head spinning from the series of leaps and turns he’d employed to lead them across the court, and loosened his grip on the ball, as if defeated. Then he jumped.

The ball soared through the air. The crowd rose. Every breath stilled, lingering on the border between lungs and lips, as the seconds on the stop-clock flipped from two to one. Hitting the side of the rim, the ball bounced erratically, and whooshed into the net.

The crowd screamed, the third quarter buzzer sounded, and a hand slapped Daren across the back, rattling his ribs.

“Dude,” said Brad Dickson, “Did you not see me waving my arms?”

“I saw you.” Daren strolled to the water table, careful to avoid the corner where Marla Perkins and her fellow cheerleaders were launching into a series of acrobatic jumps. He could see her clearly in his mind, tan legs flashing below a purple and white skirt. Warm brown eyes. He tried not to think about the sound of her voice, and the fact
that their nightly conversations would soon be replaced by inescapable, crushing silence.

It always came to that. His mind wandered away from her and he fell to thinking of tan legs flashing below purple and white basketball shorts, and then to picturing those tan, muscular legs minus the shorts, then minus everything.

"Dude," he said, strolling back to Brad Dickson. "Screw the fourth quarter; let's hit the showers."


Opening: Chelsea.....Continuation: Paul Penna

16 comments:

Evil Editor said...

P1. It would be hard to speed while also doing a series of leaps. I'm not sure why a person dribbling a basketball would want to do a series of leaps anyway.

I don't see the opponents letting down their guard just because the player with the ball loosens his grip. I doubt they'd even pay attention to the tightness of his grip.

P2. I'm used to it being called the game clock, not the stop-clock.

Might as well have the clock go to zero, as the shot will still count.

The time "flips"? Surely the clock would be electronic.

P3: Kind of a letdown that the big shot merely ends the third quarter.

Dave F. said...

Why do you take us from what seems to be Daren grandstanding a winning shot to his problem with the cheerleader?

Matthew said...

When I read "stop-clock" a little part of me died.

You're referring to the shot clock. When the game clock falls below 24 seconds (and there's been a change in possession), the shot clock is turned off.

Bulky players are like pylons. What's really intimidating is a tall, long-armed player.

When shooting, having a relaxed grip is better than a tight grip. The strength of a shot comes from your legs and the release--a flick of the wrist--should be feathery soft. That's especially true if the ball bounces around before it goes in. Only high-arcing, soft shots with good spin get the shooter's bounce.

The season starts tonight!

blogless troll said...

Also, there may be one player charging in Daren's direction (which is called closing out), but if all of them are running at him then the other guys on Daren's team are open. Unless that was Brad Dickson's point, in which case Carson High's defensive scheme blows.


The season starts tonight!

Magic win it all.

Anonymous said...

The latter paragraphs are better than the bball part. It just doesn't sound...right. I'm more caught up in the effort to wade through the description than actually picturing what is happening. You especially lost me with the whole "lingering on the border between lungs and lips"--first of all, yuck, second of all wouldn't that border be comprised of many things, like the trachea,the epiglottis, the tongue...

Okay third, is that the train of thought you want the reader to have?

But seriously, I think part of the problem is with POV--we are, apparently, in Daren's POV. Would he think something like "every breath stilled, lingering on the border..." I know voice and POV are not the same, but this just doesn't sound...right.

Dave F. said...

wouldn't that border be comprised of many things, like the trachea,the epiglottis, the tongue

Wow! I thought I was too literal... How about adding the teeth, tonsils, vocal cords and soft palate?

Eric P. said...

I'm afraid the game scene reminded me terminally of the cliche-filled ending of a worn-out sports movie. (Which movie? All of them.) Except that it's inexplicably the third quarter... is this a satire? Oh, I hope so! Can you make them lose the big game at the end by one point? Please?

I was a bit puzzled by the many anatomical references-- his head spinning, lungs and lips, rattling ribs, waving arms, tan legs.... Not bad, necessarily, but perhaps on the wrong side of quirky.

Why are the cheerleaders doing their leaps in a corner? Won't they get hurt that way?

If your story is about the relationship between Daren and Marla, you might want to consider a more direct opening that establishes the characters up front. All we know about Daren so far is that he can shoot a basket and has the hots for a cheerleader.

chelsea said...

Crap! Looks like I'm out on a technicality. Several, in fact. Sorry the word "stop" murdered a part of you, Matthew. Hopefully it can be resurrected with some careful editing.

You're right, EE, about leaps. Sounds a little ballet-ish, come to think of it. Perfect, if this were a Nutcracker basketball infusion. But, alas . .

Dave, Daren is going to, in the space of an hour, be bullied by Brad into cheating in the game, break up with Cheerleader Marla, and meet a faerie in the school park. Hence the reference to the cheering (foreshadowing!) and his inability to truly enjoy the successful shot.

As for the start of the season: you've all got nothing on the Blazers :)

Sarah from Hawthorne said...

Yeah, I'm with anon 1:32. There's just something odd about this, especially in the emotional beats.

P1: What purpose would a basketball player have in pretending to be defeated? As long as he's holding the ball, the opposing players aren't going to slow down because he suddenly looks confused - they're going to move in even faster to take advantage of that confusion.

P4: I'm afraid I don't understand what's going on in this exchange between Brad and Daren. Is Brad teasing a friend, whining at the popular kid, or is he confronting a showboating teammate?

P5: This may be more of a matter of opinion, but would Daren really "stroll" off the court? Basketball players jump, bounce, and jog constantly to keep their energy up. Yes the buzzer rang, but Daren just made a basket. He should be pumped up and full of energy.
... And why is he picturing Marla in his mind's eye when you've just established that she's doing acrobatics less than fifteen feet away? Why doesn't this kid turn his head and look?

It's... there's... I ... Maybe it's just a Tuesday afternoon funk, but I'm afraid I'm not getting this.

chelsea said...

Btw, the continuation was hilarious.

Anonymous said...

I disagree with everyone, though I can see why they feel the way they do. This blog likes a certain flavor of writing. This isn't that flavor.

But that doesn't mean the writing is bad. In fact this writing has teeth. It made me stop what I was doing and pay attention.

I do think the first para can go.

I love the way you worked his relationship in- doing it like that takes skill.

The between lungs and lips did stopped me reading because I had to think what it meant, but I decided I loved it.

Xiexie said...

This worked for me for the most part. I agree that the scene comes off cliche but that was a bit saved by it being 3rd quarter.

My major nit is here He hesitated, his head spinning from the series of leaps and turns he’d employed to lead them across the court, and loosened his grip on the ball, as if defeated.

I feel like the clause (in bold) stops the action. Tweak that a bit, and I think it sings.

Dave F. said...

Minor surgery:
Daren sped across the basketball court as Carson High’s pointguard players charged [1]. He hesitated, [2] loosened his grip on the ball, as if defeated. Then he jumped.

The ball soared through the air. The crowd rose. As the seconds on the stop-clock flipped from two to one, every breath stilled and lingered on the border between lungs and lips [3]. The ball hit the side of the rim, bounced [4], and whooshed into the net.

The crowd screamed, the third quarter buzzer sounded, and a hand slapped Daren across the back, rattling his ribs.

“Dude,” said Brad Dickson, “Did you not see me waving my arms?”

“I saw you.” Daren strolled to the water table, careful to avoid the corner where Marla Perkins and her fellow cheerleaders were launching into a series of acrobatic jumps. He could see her clearly in his mind, tan legs flashing below a purple and white skirt. Warm brown eyes. He tried not to think about the sound of her voice, and the fact
that their nightly conversations would soon be replaced by [inescapable, crushing][5] silence.


1. I grew up in a time where Bball players were skinny, scrawny geeky kids with too long arms and too long legs. I once saw a charity game between the Pittsburgh Steelers Steel Curtain play basketball with college kids. It reminded me of bowling balls crashing through ten pins. Today, the players are behemoths.

2. Nobody likes that clause and me, the man who hates Bball can't imagine that set of movements. It is a pirouette on a pirogi or a split on the balance beam.

3. I think flipping the clauses in these two sentences reads better. I like your word choice, just not the order. The clock is the reason everyone holds their breath as the ball flies through the air.

4. I took out the adverb. You don't need it. If you want more there, say the ball bounced against the backboard and then whooshed into the net. The ball won't be erratic if Daren is really, really good.

5. To tell the truth, I'd drop the words inescapable and crushing. In any affair, SILENCE is always those two words. It goes without saying. That's also the reason I cut out the adverb. It's also the reason I cut out the "in his direction." Where else would they charge?

That keeps most of your words intact along with the ideas you want the reader to understand...

Robin S. said...

Hi Chelsea,

I don't know one squatting thing about basketball, other than I liked it better when the shorts were shorter, because it least it was more fun to watch, even though I had only an inkling of what was going on, other than baskets.

Anyway, maybe it's because I don't know squat (and care even less) about basketball that I really like your opening. My point is, I don't know which bits are technically, basketball-y wrong.

I just think it's well written.

I really liked the phrase Every breath stilled, lingering on the border between lungs and lips.

I agree with Anon 10:02 pm, in large part.

Also interested that the protag is gonna meet a faerie out in the parking lot.


Good continuation as well!

chelsea said...

Hello again, and thank you so much to everything who commented. Robin, Xiexie, later Anon, thank you for your kind words. Constructive criticism helps to make things tighter, but it's always nice to hear what did work for people.

Dave, seriously, can I just hire you now? Your cuts are always excellent, although I will continue to fight for "inescapable, crushing silence" for a while. I would argue that silence can be a pleasant thing, a much desired thing for some people, but for Daren it absolutely is not. However, I love all the points you made. And thank you to everyone else. Great comments. Great help!

batgirl said...

A really minor point - what about the breath being caught or trapped between lung and lips? Maybe you're liking the alliteration, but 'lingering' is kind of lackadaisical when the moment should call for tension.