Margin Notes

Craft Studio: After the Shot Drops by Randy Ribay


What I Was Reading

After the Shot Drops by Randy Ribay introduces us, through alternating perspectives, to Bunny Thompson, a basketball star who has accepted a scholarship to a prestigious prep school, and Nasir Blake, the best friend and teammate Bunny left behind when he switched schools. As Bunny navigates feelings of guilt over the opportunity he has received and questions whether he has made the right decision, Nas is harbouring feelings of resentment about Bunny leaving without giving him any advance warning and of worry for his cousin Wallace who is being evicted from the apartment where he lives with his grandmother.

Early on, Bunny returns to the neighbourhood court where he has played ball his whole life:

“It’s not as nice as St. Sebastian’s gym, but this is my home court. This is where I started really playing ball with Nasir once we graduated from the low-hanging crate nailed to a telephone pole on our block. I know every crack and dip like the back of my hand. I know if the shot’s going to drop by the sound of the clang when it hits the steel rim. I know the lights click off at ten but you can still see enough to keep shooting if the moon is bright.

This is where I’ve lost and won a thousand games. Where I drained that half-court shot as a sixth-grader to beat the high school kids. Where I broke my nose catching an elbow on a drive and didn’t get the foul shots. Where I dunked for the first time and nobody was around to see—except Nasir.

This is my home court. Our home court.”

What Moves I Notice the Writer Making

* The use of repetition makes the first two paragraphs read like lists. In the first paragraph, the repetition of “I know” highlights the intimacy of Bunny’s relationship with the court, implying the hours and hours spent there, even after the lights are turned off. In the second paragraph, the repetition of “where” reveal experiences he had on that court that have shaped him as a player.

* In the first paragraph, the details activate a number of senses and describe the court using the small details that only someone who knows it “like the back of my hand” can. The point about being able to play after the lights go off at ten also reveal an important aspect of Bunny’s character: his dedication to being the best he can be.

* In the second paragraph the details reveal the impact the play on this court has had on Bunny. They show us what kind of player he is: a tough and skilled player who has grown up playing on a court where you can get your nose broken and not expect foul shots.

* The em dash placed before “except Nasir” slows the sentence down and gives the impression that Bunny pauses as he comes to the realization that he has grown up as a player on this court and Nasir was with him through it all. His memories of basketball and his relationship with Nasir are interconnected.

* A number of compound adjectives are creating by using hyphens: low-hanging crate and half-court shot. These add a sense of precision to the description.

* At the end of the passage Bunny circles back to the beginning by repeating, “This is my home court” and then adding “Our home court” after the reflections remind him that Nasir was there with him.

Possibilities for Writers

* Describe a place you know intimately using an approximation of the “I know” and “This is where” format.

* Create a location and describe it in a similar way, through the experience of someone closely connected with it.

* Revisit a draft in your notebook where you have described a location. Revise it by sharing the details through a character’s experiences,

* Experiment with using the em dash and compound adjectives. Be on the lookout for examples of them in your reading.

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