Flash Points: Dr. Magoo


Welcome to Flash Points (see? I stopped saying “new”). Every Monday we stick one of the previous Friday’s entries under a sparklyscope (made of jewels and discarded scales, obviously) 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: Sculpture of three monks

Word limit: 150

Today’s chosen flash piece:  “Untitled,” by Dr. Magoo

Pure. Uncorrupt. Clean.

If the Monks were after you, you had done something wrong. And you would be caught.

Pure. Anonymous. Clean.

The cowls of their robes hid their faces from the world, protected them from dangers seen and unseen. But they did not hide the world from the Monks.

Clean. Pure. Sterile.

From the ruins of a great age they came, the scions of the legacy of the great one. After the war, the world became unmoored, and much that had been known became twisted, mutated, new.

The Monks preached no dogma, except the coming of the one who would right the most grievous wrongs. The one who would protect the innocent and return humanity to a path toward the light.

Uncorrupt. Pure. Clean.

For in the coming of the age of the Adrian, all would be seen. All would be known. All would be safe.

Clean. Sterile. Joyous.

What works:

Dr. Magoo did a couple of particularly awesome things with his Flash! Friday entry this week–risky, mind you, but in this case they paid off, and I’m so giddy about them I couldn’t resist highlighting them here.

First is his innovation. He’s got a three-word refrain of sorts appearing five times, both framing the story on the outside and interspersed throughout. He tells a story, yes, but in a way that feels like poetry or Scripture. I love this echoing structure for a couple of reasons.

  1. The unique format sets this story apart.
  2. This format isn’t just a clever schtick. It works for this story: the undulating refrain echoes monks’ chants. It’s like watching the monks move through the city, perhaps, chanting softly in unison, while the world watches them, lost, bewildered, and in desperate need of hope. The refrain helps us hear the monks ourselves.
  3. The refrain itself changes and grows as an integral part of the story.  “Clean” is the only word that appears each time, with sterility and purity underscoring it. Beyond that, we move from anonymity at the beginning to joy at the end. The “joyful” here is jarring and fascinating.

Dr. Magoo’s story also bursts with interesting language. On one hand we have the refrain’s emphasis on sterility and uncorruption (is that a word?); but the story itself uses harshly contrasting terms: unmoored, twisted, mutated, grievous. Some of the phrasing is wonderful too:

From the ruins of a great age they came, the scions of the legacy of the great one.

For a fantasy buff like me, that’s a five-course dinner right there. It refers to destruction, prophecy, and hope, all in a single phrase. There’s a rich epic beyond the piece we read here, and it’s an epic I want to read.

Now talk to me:

Do you agree? What grabs you about this story, and what do you take away from it? What else makes this story work?


One thought on “Flash Points: Dr. Magoo

  1. To me, a good piece of flash fiction should always leave you wanting more, and offer a glimpse into a bigger world and story that you want to be a part of. This piece delivers on that front.

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