Archive | May 2013

Sixty Seconds with: The Imaginator

Ten answers to ten questions in 20 words or fewer. That’s less time than it takes to burn a match*.

(*Depending on the length of the match and your tolerance for burned fingers, obviously)


Our newest Flash! Friday winner is The Imaginator.  Read his winning story here, then take one minute to get to know him better.

1) What about the prompt inspired you to write your winning piece? I wondered who was behind the camera, and took it from there.

2) How long have you been writing flash? Since the beginning of January 2013; it was one of my New Year’s Resolutions!

3) What do you like about flash? I like the challenges the writing prompts present, and I like where they take me.

4) What flash advice would you give other writers? Try out lots of different challenges. Also, when you have that scene in your head–start typing.

5) Who is a writer we should follow, and why? Ah, so many to choose from! Take a look at Hypothetically Writing; his Volcano Rain series is good.

6) Do you participate in other flash contests, and which? Trifecta, Visual Dare, Sunday Scribblings, Monday Mixer, Five Sentence Fiction, For the Promptless, Thursday Threads, and Friday Fictioneers.

7) What other forms do you write (novels, poetry, articles, etc)? Haiku and occasionally other forms of poetry. I’ve yet to write a novel; maybe I’ll start with a novella first. 🙂

8) What is/are your favorite genre(s) to write, and why? Fantasy. It’s fun to write because it allows for lots of other genre conventions to be used.  

9) Tell us about a WIP. I’ve started a series of flash stories called “Shrouded City,” which I plan to expand into a novella.

10) How do you feel about dragons? They’re awesome. I’ve been hooked on them since I watched The Flight of Dragons as a kid.

Flash Points: SJ O’Hart


Welcome to Flash Points. Every Monday we stick one of the previous Friday’s entries under a sparklyscope (which is like a rifle scope except no one gets hurt) and talk about it right in front of its face, dragon style. What makes writing “good”? Specifically, what makes great flash? Let the discussion begin!

Prompt: Cowboy

Word limit:  250 exactly

Today’s chosen flash piece:  Standoff, by SJ O’Hart

‘Amelia!’ he roared. ‘Come on out here, now!’

She’d seen him coming, but not in time. No chance to get Baby out of her crib, bundled up and ready to run. She’d hesitated too long, and now he was outside her house, stalking back and forth like an angry bear. She couldn’t see his gun, but she knew it was there, not far from his hungry hands.

‘Amelia! I’m not gon’ wait much longer!’

Her breaths quickened, and thoughts began to pile up as her panic grew. How’d he even found them? She’d done so much to cover her tracks. Hadn’t she? Laid a trail to suggest she’d gone to Kansas City… Left clues she’d married, even. She must’ve made a mistake, somewhere along the line.

She could smell that old liquor stench. The moist heat of his breath, smothering her. The pressure in her chest almost grew too much.

Then, her burning eyes fell on her father’s old shotgun, lying in the corner.

‘I know you’re in there, woman! You and that brat both!’ He spat, sudden as a slap. ‘I’m comin’ in, Amelia. See if I don’t!’

Daddy’s gun was unloaded, she knew. She couldn’t reach the bullets, on top of the tallboy, without being seen through the window. Baby stirred, moaning in her sleep.

Fast and quick, Amelia slid towards the gun, cold and heavy in her hands. Two short breaths, and she pulled open the door. Stepping out, she levelled the empty weapon at his heart.

What works

This is one of those open-ended pieces like we squabbled over last week. Does a flash story need to tell a complete story, or can the piece still be effective if the plot does not fully resolve? I wanted to explore that question again this week, because I’m rather waffling on the issue myself.

Wonderful example: SJ’s “Standoff” stops in the middle of the action; we are not told whether Amelia’s dramatic display of bravado will be enough to save her life. Perhaps it is; perhaps it isn’t. Maybe the unnamed brute will fall dead of a heart attack. Or maybe his cruelty will triumph and the story will end in unjust tragedy. But since we don’t know, we ourselves have to suffer in frustrated ignorance.


Here’s why I think this piece still works. The plot does not resolve. However, the character arc does. We journey with Amelia through her panicked rehashing of her personal history: her abuse at her attacker’s hands; her frantic flight and the myriad ways she attempted to disappear. Until now she has been defensive, reactive, on the run. As the tension rises, we watch her reach deep within to find Alamo-style heroism: stepping out to face the enemy armed with nothing more than courage. Instead of cowering, she acts, and in that action she displays strength that her enemy’s “hungry hands” could never hope to match. There is a great deal of satisfaction in seeing her character growth with our own eyes. In that respect, she has already won, regardless of what happens next plot-wise.

Finally: it’s a bit off-topic, but I wanted to add how cool it is that Amelia is the only character named. This tactic forces us further into her POV by helping us identify with her (and distance ourselves from him) and by exacerbating our connection to the terror of the situation: she can’t see him, but she can hear him, an experience SJ masterfully mirrors for us, the readers. Scary. And wonderfully effective.

Your turn!  

Flash fiction is unique not only because of its diminutive size (generally understood as <1000 words). Flash is famous for its tight construction, vivid word choices, sharp dialogue, and (often, though not always) twists at the end which turn the story on its head. And we have such high expectations for that tiny space!

In your view, should a flash piece tell a complete story? How important is the “twist”? When a story ends on a cliffhanger, if other elements are strong, can the piece still work?

Flash! Friday # 24 — WINNERS!

YEEEEHAW, and yippee yi yay! You all WENT TO TOWN with the cowboy this week. What a romp it was, start to finish. Dark in places, bright in others, and clever all through. Really great job, everybody! Thanks for coming out to shoot a round with Flash! Friday. Thanks too to our own gunslinger/judge Dan Radmacher, for another fine bit o’ work.

As ever, be sure to check back Monday to see which of your stories will star at Flash Points; and join me Tuesday for Dragon Munchies. Wednesday will feature an interview with today’s winner. And new stories keep popping up throughout the week; they just won’t stay in the corral, no matter how mean the cowboy. Be sure to check back!


Judge Dan Radmacher says, As usual, a really good collection of stories all around. I like the different directions people went with the prompt. It led to some very interesting tales, making it hard to pick a winner.
Still, several stood out:



Crystal Alden“The Cowboys.” Great humor and dialogue. I would never have guessed an 8-year-old wrote this. Terrific ending! 


Kay Sully“Standoff.” What a great, little story. The writing brings the scene and the emotions to life. “His mustache was something to aspire to.” Really wonderful. 


S.J. O’Hart, “Standoff.” Great tension and descriptive writing. Wonderful cliffhanger of an ending. 


J.M. Mendur“Jake and Clem.” This was a fun read with a great surprise ending. Centaurs … and talking horses? Fantastic.

COMMENT ON THE TOP TWODeciding between the first runner-up and the winner was agonizing. Both of these stories were captivating and descriptive. Both deserve to win, but, alas, only one can.


Suzanne Purkis, “Blood and Honey.” I just loved this one. Great decision, taking it from Honey’s perspective. The description of the shadow riders was eerie. Well done.  

And our Flash! Friday first time winner (think twice before hiring him for your wedding)



for “Photo Shoot.”  The dialogue sings in this tight, well-constructed story. “Shot?” The one word gives us the tiniest taste of foreshadowing of the very satisfying conclusion.

Great story, with much more hinted at.

Congratulations, Imaginator! Here are your Winner’s Page, your super duper eBadge, and your winning Tale.  Please contact me asap (here) with your email address so I can interview you for Wednesday’s Sixty Seconds feature.

Photo Shoot

“This ok for ya?”

“Yeah that’s it, that’s great! Just stay still like that for me.”

“How much longer do I gotta stay like this?”

“Nearly there” said Jake as he poked his head out from underneath his photographer’s cowl, squinted at the man sat on the horse.

“Alright, now look down at your nose at me, and frown a bit – that’s it! Look mean!” he said, then ducked under the cowl again.

Eli put on his best scowl. “Say, you done taken pitchers of any of ma friends?”

“Like who?”

“Clayton McGraw, or Lantry Dawson?”

“Sure, in fact I think I shot one of ‘em just last week”

Eli wrinkled up his nose and squinted at the camera. “Shot?”

“Here we go!”

Flash, bang – the horse reared and Eli fell to the ground.

Jake ducked out from under the cowl, looked over at Eli’s still body as the horse bolted.

Frowning slightly, Jake walked over to where Eli lay face down in the dirt then stood looking down at him for a few moments, biting his bottom lip. Couching down next to him, Jake took a hold of Eli’s shoulder and turned him onto his back.

Eli’s head lolled to one side, blood dribbling out of the corner of his cracked lips and blossoming through the breast of his shirt.

“Yup, I shot that bastard alright; just like I’ll shoot the rest of your gang for what you did to my mother and father when you raided our ranch last year.”