Flash Points: Curtis Perry

FlashPoints3

Welcome to Flash! Friday’s newest feature, Flash Points. Every Monday we stick one of the previous Friday’s entries under a sparklyscope and talk about it right in front of its face, dragon style. What makes writing “good”? Specifically, what makes great flash? What about this particular piece really works? Let the discussion begin!

Prompt: black & white photo of woman and diver

Word limit: 200-300

Today’s chosen flash piece:  “Untitled,” by Curtis Perry

They came from the deserts, hundreds, maybe thousands, bursting from underneath the sand. From any part of the world that was desolate, dry, and barren. They destroyed and burned cities, towns, forests, reducing them to ash quicker than anyone would think possible.

Relatively few people died in the flames. Most of us were eaten. We are apparently their favorite food. People tried to fight back, but it was useless. Bullets and grenades did nothing but annoy them and draw their attention. Missiles fired from planes would sometimes slow them down, but they were agile enough, especially while flying, that a direct hit was rare.

Those that survived the initial onslaught took to the seas, which they seemed to avoid. Ships, boats, rafts thrown together, anything that would float. We left land behind, along with all our hopes and dreams, and huddled together on the water. How long could we survive on the ocean? Would they disappear under the sands of their newly made deserts before we perished?

Except somebody on one of the naval vessels decided to see what their big guns could do.

Now they are flying toward us, already spewing their acid flames. Most of us dive into the water in a desperate attempt to escape the fire, only some of us make it. Several that do are dragged down into the depths; my light weight clothing is a blessing. A small one, but I’ll take anything I can get. Can I hold my breath and stay under until the dragons are finished? I see someone in diving gear nearby, watching me. I wonder if he’ll help me if my breath gives out before the flames.

And what if I do survive this latest attack? What will I find when my head breaks the surface of the waves?

What works:

Dragons. Oh yes, dragons. So OBVIOUSLY I’m in love straightaway. And the story followed the guidelines beautifully, which always does a heart good.

But here’s what really grabbed me: Curtis saw dragons in an underwater photo of a woman and diver. I love when flash writers take a fresh and unique look at a prompt. Underwater speaks obviously of mermaids and swimming, which means a lot of entries centered on those (and rightly so!). But Curtis looked at water and saw desert. It takes a creative eye to see beyond the obvious–in this case, a world in which humans have fled to the water to escape desert dragons.

The story’s hook draws us right inWhat burst from beneath the sand by the thousands??? I have to know! But he holds back the secret, tantalizing us paragraph by paragraph with hints. The creatures burn. They can fly. They devour humans. It’s not until the 4th sentence from the end we are told point blank: dragons. Yummy!

Another strong and effective feature I love in this story is the use of counterpoint, creating tension with opposition (characters, plot, descriptions, that kind of thing). Curtis uses this tool to great effect, balancing the violent anger of the dragons (“spewing their acid flames”) with the terrified and futile human defense (“We left land behind, along with all our hopes and dreams, and huddled together on the water”). The humans have fled land, but dragons pursue.

Now talk to me:

Do you agree? What grabs you about this story? What goes through your mind when you approach a photo prompt–do you see character first, or plot? or a world? Are you more inspired by photos or text?

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3 thoughts on “Flash Points: Curtis Perry

  1. I love this new feature! I like how you rip open the story to see whats inside.
    As far as opposites go, I look for the opposites, how they play off each other, how they’re related. I also like to try and find ways that opposites aren’t as different as you might normally think.
    I do have some issues with this story though, (and seeing as it’s my story, I won’t be shy about saying so) mostly with the ending. It leaves too many questions. It even ends in questions!
    It just doesn’t feel right leaving the character hanging between two possible deaths, either of which could happen in the minute or two. Not much of a conclusion.
    But, it was fun writing it though. Almost as much fun as reading all the other stories.

    • We always have issues with our own stories!! While I agree that a stronger ending/twist might have helped push the story over the top, the so very many things you did RIGHT made the story a pleasure to read. Thanks for sharing it.

  2. I loved the creativity in this story also, but ultimately felt it needed more. Too much felt crammed into the space. So much of it was ‘telling’ instead of ‘showing’ because you simply had to get the framework for the culture of the people and the plot wouldn’t have made sense without it. This as a slightly longer story would have been just beautiful. It’s super difficult to put something this rich in such a small space and I commend him for doing it even though it is so difficult.

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