WELCOME to results day!!! So. Much. Fun. Thanks to all of you for your patience, your praise of each other’s stories, and above all, writing stories so marvelously strong that you give our brave dragon captains conniptions. :cough cough: Assuming dragon captains could have conniptions, obv.
We had nearly 80 entries this week; don’t forget to keep track of your own participation, as battling at Flash! Friday three times in a month will earn you the Ring of Fire badge. This week, that’s just about 80 of you dragons already a third of the way there! (The first round of eligibility will include February 6.)
Dragon Captains Carlos Orozco/Eric Martell say: What fun it was judging this week. We had a difficult time trying to narrow it down to the final ten, and finding an order to those ten was even more difficult. This week team three only had two similar picks, but after some rereading, re-ranking, and a very intricate point system (it’s actually not that intricate), we managed to siphon out winners.
But before we get to that, we would like to share some thoughts on this week’s stories:
- Many of the stories were understandably similar. It’s difficult trying to think of something unique when many of the elements have already been chosen for you, but because of that, it is more important than ever to try and stand out. You will all be better writers for it.
- This week’s required story element was setting. We would recommend focusing on the story element (no matter how you interpret beach). Bonus points were given to stories with strong settings.
Best Use of Structure: Mark A. King, “Mirror/Mirror.” The structure to this was very creative and well executed. Mark used structure to his advantage.
Maximizing Setting: Natalie Bowers, “A Tangled Web.” It took place on a movie set, but (as with all good movies) the lines blurred and we forgot where we were.
Best use of a historical figure who was really a monster as a foil for an old woman who had earth in her poppy seeds: Clive Tern, “Uncle Joe and the Babushka.”
Funny Reads: Reg Wulff, “The Danger Zone.” For some (all) men, a pretty face can always get us to be just a bit stupid, can’t it?; and Rasha Tayaket, “Among Us.” Two aliens and one beach. This one should be read aloud.
Tinman, “Strands of Memory.” Another story that masterfully works the required story element. With one line, “The sunrise was a thin pink line of icing on the purple-green sea”, we are immediately thrust into the character’s world. The hints of comedy are genuine, which really helps bring the character to life.*side note: The Hoff vs Godzilla would have been spectacular.
Brian S. Creek, “Waiting.” This story shared a similar theme with many of the others, but the open ending really sets it apart. Is Edith going crazy, is her husband really coming back after being gone so long, or is death finally coming to reunite her in the afterlife with her husband? This piece does a great job of storytelling with the negative spaces, letting the reader fill in all the blanks.
Laura Carroll Butler, “Nonna.” A lot of the stories this week were sad, seeing endings in the lines of a face of a weatherbeaten old woman, but this story put us in the shoes (or bare feet) of some young people sharing her beach. College students, expecting one kind of spring break and then finding another, learning lessons that they didn’t know they were seeking. The kind of story that brings an infectious smile to your face, not by being silly, but by warming places deep within.
Michael Seese, “The Boy With the Hazel Eyes.” Are monsters born, or are they made? What happens when someone we love changes into someone we recognize, but only on the surface? A well-told story about change and war, love and loss. In another contest, we probably would have ranked it higher, but the beach wasn’t as central to this story as some.
THIRD RUNNER UP
Megan Besing, “Drifting Memories.” Our minds sometimes get cracked as we get older, but cracked isn’t entirely destroyed, and sometimes a glimpse of the person that was sneaks out from the person that is. We can’t always imagine our parents or grandparents as young people, but just like us, they were young once, their lives filled with stories. This tale weaves both of these themes into a powerful tale, and speaks to humanity and love hidden from plain sight.
SECOND RUNNER UP
Annika Keswick, “New Tires.” This one snuck up on us (like good flash fiction does). The first time through we think the old lady is being described, but then we get hit by that Eureka moment. Reading the second time through is just as satisfying (if not slightly more satisfying) because we can now see the obvious. The ending is very uplifting, stating a universal truth without trying to force it on us.
FIRST RUNNER UP
Phil Coltrane, “The Last Pilgrimage.” This is a great example of presenting the required story element in a unique way. We have a beach in this story, but the impending apocalypse really changes the scenery. The tone in this piece also made it stand out. While many of this round’s stories had a character missing or wanting something, Gretchen is accepting of the end. She becomes passive entity whose story comes to an end with a “Close parenthesis”. It is a fitting last line for this type of apocalypse.
“Under the Pier, Where Lives Are Made”
Flash stories don’t come a lot more powerful than this, cramming a ton of story into 201 words. Using the old woman’s visit to the beach as mismatched bookends to the story provided a wonderful intro and outro – at the beginning, she could be reflecting on happy memories, but at the end, we know differently. Set in a time both distant and familiar, we feel her love and her loss, both for her man and for her bairn. You don’t have to have suffered a loss like hers to feel the power of her story, but if you have, it resonates strongly. The last line was haunting. Very well done.
Congratulations, Dave! Below is a haunting, powerful winner’s badge for the wall(s) of your choosing. Here is also your brand new winner’s page and your winning tale on the winners’ wall. Please contact me asap here so I can interview you for this week’s #SixtySeconds feature. And now, here is your winning story!
Under the Pier, Where Lives are Made
She returns each day to the place her son was started. She shackles her bondi-blue foldaway to the railing, and lets the salt-wind rustle her memories.
Under Saltburn Pier it was, in 1941. Billy Hurles was her man, and he was going off to fight Hitler.
“Give me something so I don’t forget you,” he said.
“A lock of hair?”
So they crept under the pier to be alone. But other couples were there, and she saw her own distaste reflected in the eyes of other girls. It was over quickly. She kissed him sweetly, and told herself she’d done her bit for the war.
She knew she couldn’t keep the bairn. She’d accept, in time, that he’d be better with a proper family; without the shame. Perhaps one day she’d see him again. But the bairn was born blue; quiet, tiny and unmoving. A priest came into the room that was already crowded with men.
“Shall I bless the child? Help him find his way to the Lord.”
“You shall not,” her father said.
She returns each day to the place her son was started and prays he is at peace: some days she looks up, some days down.