GENRE: Epic Fantasy
On the basketball court, Jim Thompson expected trash talk. Here in his parents' beach-side condo, not so much.
The jet-setting owner of the place next door crossed his arms over his puffed-out chest. "It's better you got cut, Jim. Now you can settle down and get a real job. Only exceptional athletes make it big in the NBA."
The verbal jab landed just north of Jim’s own uncertainties about his future, but there was no way he'd let this pompous know-it-all realize the cheap shot stung. Jim waggled his head back and forth the way his favorite wide receiver used to do after taking a ferocious hit. The burble of conversation from the other guests swirled around them, peaking with an explosion of laughter from a bunch of college kids nearby. His sister's friends, no doubt—oblivious to the real world of "produce or get cut loose."
When their voices died down, Jim parroted what he’d been telling his fans since his surgery. "I appreciate your concern, but this is only a temporary setback. I'm not done with basketball yet."
"Trust me on this, kiddo, you don't want to be one of those players bouncing around the D league, earning next to nothing. There's no future in it."
"I’ll keep that in mind." Jim flashed his photo-op smile, the best way to slam the door on the discussion. He couldn't listen to any more dreary predictions about his career. No matter what this jerk or anybody else said, Jim wasn't washed up. All he needed was a chance to prove it.
As the guy moved off, Jim checked the entryway for new arrivals. Thankfully no media, at least not yet. If the local sports reporters overheard talk about him leaving basketball, they would drop-kick him into the has-been pile before the eleven o'clock news. No telling if his career could survive that kind of bad press.
Jim stretched his tender knee. His best hope would be to give the reporters something positive to write, and for that he needed his brother's help. Eddie might be pigheaded about most things, but he was still family. Maybe Jim could corral him and wrangle a commitment about the golf tournament in time to make an announcement before the reception ended.
His older brother stood beside the food table dishing hors d'oeuvres onto a paper plate. Sidestepping through the afternoon crowd to minimize his limp, Jim made his way into the dining area. One guest after another patted him on the back and told him to hang in there. He thanked each, assuring them he'd be back on the basketball court in no time.
Confidence. That's what fans needed to see. That's what Eddie needed to see.
When he reached his brother, Jim bent toward him to keep from raising his voice. "Hey, Eddie, you have a minute?"
"It's your reception, bro. Here, have some food." Eddie pushed his plate into Jim's hand and gave him a paper cup.
I'm going to make two comments that sound contradictory. I love the idea of an epic fantasy opening with this basketball player who may or may not lose his career. If I picked this book up in the bookstore and read the first two pages excepting a fantasy, though, I'd really be wondering how many more pages I'd have to read for those fantastical elements to appear.ReplyDelete
I like that this book says fantasy and so far there's nothing fantastical about it. But then, those are often the kinds of fantasy I like. Without setting it up as a fantasy, the main source of suspense is about whether or not he'll play basketball again, so I like that it works on that level, too. I would definitely keep reading to find out where this becomes fantastical and how, and also because Jim is an interesting character to me.ReplyDelete
I echo the other comments. I want at least a flicker of a portal to the fantasy world. And the reference to a line-backer threw me off for a second. If he's a bb player maybe stick to bb similes, metaphors, references, etc. But I like the pro athlete setup for a fantasy novel. Surprising.ReplyDelete
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I personally have no issue with there not being any fantasy elements in the first two pages... I thought it was solid. Smooth language. Very readable. I wouldn't intro the neighbor in third sentence as the owner of the place next door, though. I couldn't figure out what kind of owner you meant (another condo building?) or what a jet setter would be doing at a palm beach condo. I'd expect a bald-headed senior in plaid pants named Irv. Also, I'm not clear on why there's a reception at all for this occasion--wouldn't he do a photo op announcement with a publicist present? Tho that said, I know nothing about basketball/sports in general and would not be your target audience.ReplyDelete
I completely agree re the introduction of the neighbor--it stopped me both times I read this. However, I absolutely LOVE your writing voice...it's breezy & hip without being self-important, and even though I don't read fantasy or sports stuff, I'd keep going with this just because I like your style.ReplyDelete
I could buy this as urban fantasy, but epic fantasy I think Game of Thrones. The contemporary setting really threw me.ReplyDelete
Moving beyond that, the writing itself has a nice flow. This is a great example of the character active in the scene while showing the reader backstory in a natural way. He isn't simply staring out a window recapping his life, but actively engaged with other people in a setting that shows us what he's currently going through.
It might work to add a hint of context--is this a party?--perhaps here: "The burble of conversation from the other [party] guests." I like the line how he flashed his smile as "the best way to slam the door on the discussion." Nice. For pacing, it might work to move up the dialogue with his brother to right after his brother is shown next to the table. The rest of the exposition about guests patting on the back seems a little redundant based on what's been stated already.
Strong writing, I'm just scratching my head on the epic fantasy label. I want to say it got matched to the wrong entry!
What I like most about this is that it's the story of a man who happens to be a basketball player, rather than about a basketball player. You're giving us the human elements of his life, rather the sport elements. I can relate to this man. If you had started with him playing basketball, it wouldn't have interested me at all.ReplyDelete
Like others, I wonder about the fantasy. Epic fantasy, to me, is Lord of the Rings, and not getting anything that hinted at that type of story was a bit disappointing, but I did like what was there.
On the technical side --
Jim waggled his head back and forth (the way his favorite wide receiver used to do after taking a ferocious hit.) AS The burble of conversation from the other guests swirled around them, peaking with an explosion of laughter from a bunch of college kids nearby.
I'd cut what's in parentheses and add the 'as' to connect the two sentences.
No matter what this jerk or anybody else said, Jim wasn't washed up. -- Change Jim to he.
Jim stretched his tender knee. -- change Jim to he.
Maybe Jim could corral him -- Maybe he could corral Eddie,
Since Jim is the POV character, he should be 'he' and the other character should be named.