Welcome to Flash Points. Every (ish) Monday we stick one of the previous Friday’s entries under a sparklyscope and tear it to pieces (in a good way). What makes writing “good”? Specifically, what makes great flash? Let the discussion begin!
Prompt: Cable car
Word limit: 70 – 80
Today’s chosen flash piece: Above the Cloud, by Allison K. Garcia
Giovanni breathed in deeply, filling his lungs with crisp, mountain air. A certain calm silence surrounded him. The only sound was the wind. It whipped around him, mingling the thin air with Ana’s perfume. He smiled and reached out for her arm, his boots crunching the snow as he turned.
“Oh, Giovanni,” Ana sighed. “It’s amazing up here. I have never seen anything so wonderful in my life.”
He didn’t need to see to know how beautiful this place was.
Allison’s hit two homeruns in a row in the past few days, first with Round 33’s “Hot and Cold,” followed by this round’s “Above the Cloud,” which garnered her the well-deserved win.
This piece does all the right sorts of things the best flash stories do: vivid yet economized descriptions; a plot/storyline aptly suited for the required wordcount; a memorable, powerful punch at the end. No cumbersome backstory! No excessive worldbuilding! In fact, “Above the Cloud” shows us even less than a complete story: it’s only a single scene, a infinitesimal moment. But ohhh, the world contained in that tiny moment!
The story’s opening bursts with sensory details. We’ve got the feel of the wind in Giovanni’s lungs, the smell of Ana’s perfume, the crunching sound of boots in the snow. Allison devoted a hefty fifty words to bringing this scene to life, making it almost tangible for the reader. While not all flash pieces can afford to spend such a large percentage of the story on description, Allison has done so deliberately, and her descriptions are lovely and alive.
The twist too is a clever one. Giovanni is blind, and the painting of the gorgeous mountaintop scene is carefully worked to make his unique, heartfelt appreciation of its beauty a true surprise to the reader. You know how at the end of a detective story, you sometimes can’t help skimming back through the novel for missed clues? “Above the Cloud” did that for me; after the surprise of the final line, I had to read back through, and only then did I begin to grasp how delicately and intentionally the groundwork had been laid.
I’m also completely amazed (again) by Allison’s skill at layering the story. While she doesn’t attempt to cram too much plot into her 80 words, she still manages to hint at more than can be caught in a first reading. We glimpse in a single sentence, for example, the deep love Giovanni feels for Ana. Further: the first paragraph’s description of the mountaintop is given to us from Giovanni’s point of view. It’s an almost invisible rending of the fourth wall, actually, as we experience the mountaintop in the same way the blind man does. After all, as readers we can only see the writer’s world as the writer gives it to us (at first, at least, until our imaginations seize the world and burst into flame on our own), and in this scene we are “shown” physical beauty by a man unable to see it directly himself.
Stories like Allison’s remind me that though I may not be able to smell Ana’s perfume or feel the cold mountain wind against my skin, an entire world may be brought alive in front of me within the barest minimum of words, and just like Giovanni, I too may drink in its beauty.
Yep. I love this story. How about you?