Flash! Friday Vol 2 – 33: WINNERS!

Thank you for coming to the winners’ party! It’s always a good time here at Flash! Friday, despite this week’s tempests and shipwrecks (maybe because of them??), and I’m so grateful for your generosity in sharing your time and talents with this community. 

Thanks also to the over 900 of you who have voted so far at the #DogDays contest. You’ve got a little over 24h left (until 11:59pm Monday, DC time). Be sure to read the stories & vote for your favorite if you haven’t already. We’ve got some strong leaders, but a lot can happen in 24 hours! If your favorite is short votes, be sure to tweet/ Facebook/ megaphone for votes on their behalf. 

Find the Dog Days voting page here and in the sidebar. Winners will post at 7:30am Tuesday morning. 

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Judge Phil Coltrane says: My experience with the Flash! Friday community is that it’s an amazingly talented group with a wide variety of writing styles and genre preferences. I already knew that judging the contest would be a challenge.

Imagine my trepidation to learn that the prompt for my first judging experience was a painting based on Shakespeare’s The Tempest. I’ve made no secret that my childhood interests were space and science fiction, not sailing ships and Shakespeare. {Editor’s Note: Caliban made me do it.}

Many of your stories were enjoyable reads on their own that excelled in certain areas — so many that it almost seems unfair to nominate a winner. But judging is a solemn and important duty, and failure to do so carries penalty of dragonfire. So, without further rambling, here are this week’s winners.

 

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HONORABLE MENTIONS

H.L. Pauff, Untitled. We join this romance already in progress: a plan gone awry, and a heroine whose hopes are literally sinking before her eyes. Between her two contrasting choices: “the Baron’s bedchamber” vs. “the icy water”, she chooses an almost certain death as a free woman. An impressive use of genre conventions to hint at a backstory too large for the word limit.

David Shakes, “The Rising Tide.” A rallying cry set to common meter: this stiff-upper-lip commander makes no illusion: “The worst is yet to come…” The following stanzas hammer home the hopelessness of this growing metaphorical tempest, yet there is still hope for the greater cause of freedom, and a future “absolved of all our sin.” Beautifully written to fit the rhythm of the poem.

Kat Lewis, “What You Smell Before Death.” From its pulp horror title to its graphic imagery of the Kraken, this story is pure horror. All we see of the protagonist is his powerlessness: imprisoned on a ship, unable even to raise alarm about their oncoming doom. We see a snapshot of his three last moments: of imprisonment, of horrifying freedom, and of his life. The imagery builds a Lovecraftian atmosphere with a limited word count. 

THIRD RUNNER UP

Eliza Archer, “Secrets.” Here we see a fascinating study of the interplay between freedom and control, love and hate, that draws the reader into this retelling of The Tempest. Although Prospero retains the illusion of control, his magic appears limited — to hatred, to secrecy, and to harm. It is Miranda’s own spells that “bridge the gaps” to provide the love and care needed to secure their freedom. Yet Miranda’s “spell cast out to net true love” again imposes control, securing her freedom and future by ensnaring her Prince.

Far from being a pawn in Prospero’s plans, this Miranda is much more in command of her own destiny, though possibly not so different from her secret-keeping father as she might like to think. As a whole, this reinterpretation provides us a better developed characterization of Miranda that is more relatable to modern readers.

SECOND RUNNER UP

Laura Carroll Butler, “Away.” “Every picture she drew was a masterpiece, anything she wrote was Shakespeare.” The parallelism of this line drew me into the story. These are the lies we tell our children, but reality will always have more burger flippers than Bards. Nor is this father perfect: although he promises his daughter the world, we see him pass out “with the smell of whiskey on his breath.” Yet he is not a bad father: the story’s central theme is the contrast between the clear-cut lines and neat happy endings of fantasy and the harsher truths of the real world.

Her father was not a perfect man, and she is not a princess in waiting, but “the best of many lessons her father taught her” is that gift of reading. It is that gift that carries her through the daily humdrum of her mundane reality by enabling her, for brief times, to get away. These are flawed, human characters to whom we can relate, and a powerful idea that we readers implicitly understand. 

FIRST RUNNER UP

SJ O’Hart, “Ariel.” From beginning to end, this story makes a plaything of language, to good effect. Phrases such as “logic forbid” and “Newton’s own English” help paint a picture of a rigid, logical society. The anastrophe at the end, “universe entire,” is reminiscent of Shakespeare, both tying this logical world together with the references to The Tempest, and signaling a reversal in the protagonist’s fortunes.

The story veers from the expected by comparing the father-daughter relationship to Ariel and Sycorax. In fact, the more obvious Miranda and Prospero comparison initially seems more fitting: his strict discipline keeps his daughter under his own control, shielded from “frivolous” knowledge, for his own ends.

It is only through her plotting and manipulation that she becomes Ariel, a spirited force of nature, and gains her own freedom. In the end, although she escapes from a prison imposed by her father and by society at large, her drastic actions in doing so force us to wonder: what force has been unleashed upon an unsuspecting universe? Overall, the author’s masterful use of language builds the setting, and lends a sense of unity to the story.

And now: for her very first time (woohoo!), it’s Flash! Friday

DRAGON WINNER

TARYN NOELLE KLOEDEN!!!

for

“Siren Song”

From the beginning, this story takes the unforeseen path of interpreting the prompt as Greek mythology rather than Shakespeare. In mythology, we often encounter murderous monsters whose motives remain a mystery. Perhaps no monster could be less sympathetic than the Siren, a creature in the guise of a femme fatale, whose sole purpose in life is to lure sailors to their watery graves with their alluring song. At first glance, writing a first-person character piece about such a monster seems an odd choice.

The Siren’s thoughts are completely preoccupied with her victims. She knows nothing of who they are, nor how she appears to them, but only that they are “nothing more than slaves” to her song. Yet she wonders (habitually) whether they deserve such a fate. She even engages in rationalization — “[p]erhaps they were vicious mercenaries” — and briefly entertains the thought of setting them free.

The plain language of the Siren’s thoughts conveys that she is not a cackling witch, a mindless creature, or a being of pure evil. Her motivations in luring her victims have nothing to do with the victims. This Siren is philosophical about these sailors, almost to the point of showing compassion.

I liked that the story manages to hint at the prompt’s obvious themes of romance, heartbreak, loneliness, and death, without actually being about any of those things. It’s a quiet, introspective piece — set against the events of a grisly shipwreck at the hands of a mythological monster. In the end, the Siren of this story is a creature free to speculate to herself as much as she wishes, but just as the doomed sailors were enslaved by their own appetites (whether pure or prurient), this Siren is also a slave to her own very literal appetites.

For its original take on the prompt, its creative exploration of the thoughts of a maligned mythological creature, and the ending revelation of the Siren’s true motives, “Siren Song” is this week’s winning entry.

 

Congratulations, Taryn! Below beckons your compellingly new winner’s badge for your wall. Here also is your rapacious, starving winner’s page and your winning tale on the winners’ wall. Please contact me here ASAP so I can interview you for this week’s #SixtySeconds feature. And here is your winning story:

Siren Song

Dulcet tones carry across the restless waves, whispering promises of a love doomed to never be. I pace along my rocky hunting grounds and wonder what the doomed men see me as today. Do the loyal sailors see their wives stranded alone? Or am I a long-lost love, or a beautiful red-headed fantasy? Whatever mirage my song has thrust into their minds, it is working. Soon their ship, and their bodies, would be broken on the rocks at my feet.

As the men, now nothing more than slaves to my call, force their vessel ever closer, I wonder, not for the first time, if they truly deserve such a bloody end. Who were these sailors I had ensnared? Perhaps they were vicious mercenaries, or simply trying to provide for their families. Ought I grant these unfortunate souls their freedom? But as the ship and her crew shatter and drown, I know it matters not.

Because I am so hungry.

 

FFwinner-Web

 

 

Flash! Friday–Vol 2 – 33

Welcome back to Friday! DON’T FORGET the polls are open NOW to choose your favorite Dog Days story. Bribe your friends, call Aunt Miranda, promise a week of car washing, whatever you’ve got to do to help corral votes. Find the poll here or in the Dog Days pic on the sidebar. Deadline’s 11:59pm Monday night, July 28!

Speaking of Miranda, on this day in 1609 the English ship Sea Venture wrecked (and then its voyagers settled) Bermuda. This wreck was said to have inspired Shakespeare’s The Tempestso it seems an appropriate segue to Dog Days’ mischief-making to feature Miranda as today’s prompt. In the words of the Bard:

“O, wonder!
How many goodly creatures are there here!
How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world,
That has such people in’t!”

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Bravely sauntering on stage as judge this week is three-time Flash! Friday winner Phil Coltrane. You should know he thinks a story is like a dragon’s egg, which makes me think he will be a judge of excellent taste and discernment. Read his thoughts on a good story here. Then fling your story fearlessly into the gale!  

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Awards Ceremony: Results will post Sunday. Noteworthy #SixtySeconds interviews with the previous week’s winner post Wednesdays.  I (Rebekah) post my own unbalanced writings sometimes on Tuesdays or Thursdays. And the fabulous Dog Days contest is currently taking votes until 11:59pm Monday, July 28, Washington, DC time.  

Now, grab an oar and let’s get to it!

Word limit150 word story (10-word leeway) based on the photo prompt.

HowPost your story here in the comments. Include your word count (140 – 160 words, exclusive of title) and Twitter handle if you’ve got one. If you’re new, don’t forget to check the contest guidelines.

Deadline11:59pm ET tonight (check the world clock if you need to; Flash! Friday is on Washington, DC time)

Winners: will post Sunday

Prize: The Flash! Friday e-dragon e-badge for your blog/wall, your own winner’s page here at FF, a 60-second interview next Wednesday, and your name flame-written on the Dragon Wall of Fame for posterity. 

***Today’s Dragon’s Bidding (required element to incorporate somewhere in your story; does not need to be the exact word(s) unless instructed to do so, e.g. “include the word “Caliban’”):

 Freedom

***Today’s Prompt:

Miranda -- The Tempest. Painting by John William Waterhouse, 1916. Public domain photo.

Miranda — The Tempest. Painting by John William Waterhouse, 1916. Public domain photo.

Dog Days Finalists–VOTE VOTE VOTE!

Happy Dog Days! Much gratitude to all you troublemakers who took the time to scrape up mischief for this little contest. I had such fun reading your tales, each as brightly varied and memorable as you dear writers. If you  haven’t had a chance to read through them all, let me invite you to do so here. It’s worth the time.

Of course I knew from the beginning I was in for a great ride; every week your Flash! Friday stories raise the bar of what flash fiction is and what it can be. And sure enough, once again your writing blew the top off the contest. So to choose the top ten, I looked for stories that rang especially fresh, whose voice or machinations turned the expected on its head; stories with crisp writing and snappy pacing; stories with vivid themes or characters or descriptions that simmered in my memory even after I’d moved on. Above all, I looked for stories that best embodied childhood summer mischief. 

To all of you: thank you for sharing your writing. Thank you for your useful and uplifting comments to each other. Thank you for making this place the challenging and unflaggingly supportive community it is. You inspire me every day.

And now, without further ado:

Read: Please read the top ten stories here.

Rules: Voting will be open from the moment this post goes up until 11:59pm Monday, July 28, Washington, DC time. Vote as often as you can from as many devices as you can (once per IP address). Finalists, be sure to vote for your own story! 

Winners: The top three winners will be announced first thing Tuesday morning, July 29. 

Now: VOTE! and tell everyone you know to VOTE! Tweet, retweet, reblog, whatever it takes–this is a summer mischief contest. Today you are Tom Sawyer and this is your whitewashed fence. VOTE VOTE VOTE!