Welcome to Flash Points, a totally non-intimidating feature highlighting a writer who, at the most recent Flash! Friday, committed awesomeness. Said writer is then praised and generally Made Much Of.
Prompt: River door
Word limit: 140 – 160 words
Today’s chosen flash piece: Assorted; see below
Today instead of highlighting a lot of elements from a single story, I thought I’d take a single element and showcase the writers who executed it beautifully. And what better place to start than with the opening/closing lines?
Some writers approach a tale by plotting it all out first — yes, even a flash piece — while others jump in and follow the story where it goes. Regardless of a writer’s approach, however, the story itself needs to be thoughtfully constructed. The reader follows the story because the writer compels her to do so, carefully leading her from paragraph to paragraph. Nothing in a story should be throwaway or accidental, especially in a flash piece: every plot point, every word of dialogue, must serve a purpose.
For me one of the most effective story structures is the frame (sometimes called circle), where the story’s closing echoes or touches back to its beginning in some way. Doing so brings a great sense of satisfaction: the original question has been answered, the story finished, the writer’s promise fulfilled. Let’s take a look at some who do this beautifully! Please find here their first line // last line.
Freedom. The word washed through his head. // He smiled. The water was warm.
— Swimming Against the Tide, Pam J Plumb. The water moves; now he does.
She knew the words of the song well, almost as well as she knew the feel of the shackles around her ankles and wrists. // She couldn’t swim…. it was her key to freedom.
— Wade in the Water, by Joidianne4eva. Imprisonment balanced by freedom.
Little Sara smiled and hugged her arms to her chest as fast flowing water hurried freely across her toes. // Papa said Mama had passed to the other side, but it didn’t matter to little Sara that the floodgate was dirty, cracked and falling apart, it was still a gate, pearly or not, and when Mama was ready to come back, it was here…and she’d be waiting.
— The Other Side, by Lisa Shambrook. We learn what little Sara is waiting for.
“All this over tea?” said the Queen as her newly self-freed servants pushed her along. // And she buoyed down the river like a steeping tea bag in a kettle. “Well I wasn’t expecting that,” said another servant.
— Steeping the Queen, by Rasha Tayaket. Precise reversal of power.
Sarah longed for freedom. // “I’ll run north and then I’ll truly be free!” And she was.
— Going Free, by Crystal Alden. Sarah’s wish is granted.
“God will deliver us,” Mama murmured, a salty tear streaking down her bruised cheek. // Deliverance had come swiftly, and we were free already.
— Forgotten Gate, by John Mark Miller. The hope of deliverance fulfilled.
The hooded man thawked his mallet against the gong, a single note rippling over the crowd. // Death looped around my neck, I met the gaze of every curious onlooker, ready to keep time myself.
— The Noose Metronome, by Kat Lewis. Echoed musical theme.
It was the first thing I saw when I arrived. A portal into darkness. // It was the last thing I saw when I left. A portal back into a vibrant world.
Each of these stories begins and ends differently. Some use dialogue, others action, others contemplation. Each of them, however, raises a question which is then answered at the end. No gaps here! And “complete” doesn’t mean “happy” — it merely means the writer has done what he said he would. (If only such a thing could be said of more of us, eh??)
Great job, everybody!
How do you approach a story (do you outline or jump right in)? Do you consider the first line when writing the last? Which of this week’s Flash! Friday stories do you feel accomplished the frame especially well?