Here we go! And before we jump into this week’s comments & results, let me remind you that the first quarter of Year Two is coming to an end awfully fast–which means it’s time for you to sign up to judge in the second quarter (April – June). Application deadline is February 15; find details here. Don’t miss out! (And thanks to those who’ve already thrown your hats in the ring!)
Judge Nillu Nasser Stelter says: What a thrill it has been judging your stories this week! The truth is out from the lips of Her Dragonyness Rebekah that I like to push you hard. There I was, channeling a stern schoolmistress, wearing a pencil skirt and peering over my spectacles with a red pen in hand, when I realised that it is no use. There is such a high standard of writing in this competition that I am putty in your hands.
This week I short-listed a third of you for a second reading. I found myself enthralled by stories of time-travelers, wizards, fairy godmothers, businessmen, criminals and even a televangelist. There were poignant stories, creepy ones and some that made me laugh out loud. What I loved most about this week was how the Dragon’s Bidding encouraged you to throw in more dialogue than usual, and boy, was it good. Your characters came alive in their speech; they sizzled with period vocabulary and different dialects. There was no fluff. How can there be in 150 words? Instead, this week you gave me a master class in lean, illuminating dialogue.
Before we get to the podium places, first some special mentions for the writers who went that extra mile to infuse their speech with period detail. Maggie Duncan characterized the father in her story ‘You Can’t Phone Home Again’ brilliantly using inventive language – ‘she might near fainted ‘cause she figured you been kilt’ – to reveal his anxious excitement. Bravo Tom Britz for the compelling voice in your story ‘Busted Flat in Harlem’ and your use of vocabulary such as ‘peepers’ and ‘fine gams’, which suited the prompt. Well done also to Marie McKay for her beautiful phrasing – ‘Old stories were spun like fine threads and sewn into the afternoon’s tapestry’, ‘a carousel of pink and yellow delights’ – in her piece ‘Auld Lang Syne.’
Now onto the winners! Are you ready?
Karl A Russell, “Without Sin.” This story had a wonderfully original premise, with an accident from the past coming back to haunt the main characters. There was room for poignancy in this story but the author surprises instead with a sinister tone – ‘I held the pillow over his face, just to be sure, while I gave my blessing’ – and a clever use of language – ‘long dead friends stared gravely back at us, our own cherub faces amongst them.’
Eric Martell, Untitled. With fantastic use of period detail, this was one of the rare pieces this week which did not use dialogue. It did, however, have a strong conversational tone – ‘She did hit ol’ Tom Coston’s gravestone, but that was the least-gossiped about part of the day’ – that worked well. I really enjoyed the matter of fact tone of the closing line.
Tinman, “Two Wheels Bad.” This was a fabulous take on the Bonnie and Clyde story with a dash of humour, portraying Bonnie as a woman who sometimes followed the letter of the law – ‘Bonnie was trapped by her seat-belt which she always wore because that was the law’ – and plagued by sexism ‘Bonnie had no choice but to smile sweetly at them, having left her machine-gun in the trunk.’ There was also a neat use of the prompt right at the end of the story.
SECOND RUNNER UP
Alissa Leonard, “Family Ties.” This was the final entry I read, and as the last one of nearing fifty entries, it didn’t disappoint with excellent characterisation of the central character and an original premise. It deals with the birth of a baby – ‘It’s a boy, but he’s gone’ – and has a real sense of joy and anxiety mingled together, much like a real birth! The story is full of suspense and has elements of the detective genre. It was like some of my favourite things mixed into one story: a baby, a hover charm and action. As the reader, I felt a sense of urgency while reading, and the chosen ending, with its comeuppance for the kidnapper, was satisfying.
FIRST RUNNER UP
Sinead O’Hart, “Overdue Justice.” This piece about time travel and a missing son drew me in from the start with the relationship between the protagonists, and its themes of love and loss. The stakes are clear from the outset and the dialogue was well done – ‘ “He’s smirkin’ like he knows somethin’ we don’t.” ’ There was a surprising twist at the end of the story that filled me with sadness. I’m a sucker for a female heroine and outside of this piece of flash, I wondered what Jen would do next. Bravo!
And now: drumroll, please! it’s first time (in a regular week)
With a clever title and magical sounding names – Madame Marrygold and Angelica – in this story, the author takes the reader away from the realism of a car accident and into a world of fantasy. With such a small world count, the author did a marvelous job of world-building. While she uses the prompt, she convinces the reader that what we saw in the prompt is in fact an illusion. Brilliant stuff. This story had a mood like no other. It was fresh and perfectly pitched and made me smile – ‘A motorized vehicle cannot safely disenchant at midnight, and will not revert to vegetable matter.’ There were fantastic descriptions – ‘Angelica’s blushes matched her cherry-pink gown’ – and good characterisation of the teacher figure in particular, who came across as self-assured and tart. Congratulations, Jacki!
AWESOME job, Jacki! After your amazing Flashversary win, it’s a pleasure seeing you seize a win in a regular week as well. Here is your updated winner’s page–and below is the Flash! Friday ebadge for you to claim. Please watch your inbox for interview questions for Wednesday’s #SixtySeconds feature. And here is your winning story:
Madame Marrygold tapped the photo with her wand.
“So. Can you identify what Angelica did wrong? Yes, Philowisha?”
“Took the photo in plain sight, Madame?”
Marrygold hesitated. “Well, yes,” she said, “but that’s not quite what I meant.” She turned to Angelica. “Although you evidently aroused curiosity, appearing openly in your uniform like that.”
Angelica’s blushes matched her cherry-pink gown.
Marrygold pointed at the car. “This,” she explained, “is an example of a highly inappropriate and inevitably unsuccessful attempt to apply the Cinderella Formula. A motorised vehicle cannot safely disenchant at midnight, and will not revert to vegetable matter. Furthermore, a loose wheel left lying in the gutter is never an acceptable substitute for a lost shoe.”
She turned to her students. “What is our aim in every Intervention?”
“Happily ever after!” chorused the Advanced Class for Fairy Godmothers.
“Quite. And how did this Intervention end, for this particular goddaughter, Angelica?”
“Somebody called an ambulance, Madame,” mumbled Angelica, meekly.