Tag Archive | J.M. Mendur

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!

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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:

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SPECIAL HONORABLE MENTION

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

HONORABLE MENTION

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. 

THIRD RUNNER UP

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

SECOND RUNNER UP

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.

FIRST RUNNER UP

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)

 DRAGON WINNER IS….

THE IMAGINATOR!

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.”

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Flash Points: J.M. Mendur

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Welcome to Flash Points. Every Monday we stick one of the previous Friday’s entries under a sparklyscope (which is extra sparkly on April Fool’s) and talk about it right in front of its face, dragon style. What makes writing “good”? Specifically, what makes great flash? What about this particular piece really works? Let the discussion begin!

Prompt: cathedral graveyard

Word limit: 190 – 210

Today’s chosen flash piece:  “One More Night,” by J.M. Mendur

The dark clouds began rolling in. Brother John hastened his steps as much as an eighty-year-old monk could. He visited each of the thirty-six gravestones in the ancient cemetery. The rain began to fall as he finished number thirty-six and moved to the place with no gravestone at all.

“Heavenly Lord,” he repeated for the thirty-seventh time, ignoring the rain. “Protect the final tower of your house and keep the evil of this world bound for one more night. Amen.”

The Archbishop was waiting for him when he turned. “You have been forbidden that heretical prayer, Brother John.”

“Yes, Your Excellency,” Brother John said, “but I must say it, to protect the world.”

The Archbishop frowned at the contrariness of the old monk. “It is time you retired. You will come with me, tonight. Tomorrow, a young monk will be appointed to take your place as caretaker.”

“Yes, Your Excellency. I will teach him the prayer.”

“You will not,” the Archbishop said. “In fact, I think a penance is in order, Brother John. Silence, for one year.”

Brother John bowed his head in acquiescence, silently begging God’s forgiveness.

Beneath thirty-six gravestones and the place with no gravestone, as the lightning and thunder crashed, they waited for one more night.

What works:

Ohhh, this little story does a lot of things right, gets me all giddy. Let’s kick off with its tidy structure. I love a story with a proper frame, an ending that echoes its beginning. Check out how the first line starts with ominous weather:

The dark clouds began rolling in

and finishes with the fulfillment of the opening line’s promise:

as the lightning and thunder crashed.

Of course normally one isn’t supposed to begin a story with weather, but on rare and important occasions this rule (like many other writing rules!) can be broken. The thing about “One More Night” is there is clearly a much larger danger looming, one Brother John fights to prevent in the face of pressure and unbelief, and in this case the weather serves as a metaphor for that unknown menace. As a result, framing the piece with weather not only brings the scene full circle, it sets the stage and raises the stakes.

Another thing J.M. pulls off here is choosing the right amount of story for the allotted space. He doesn’t attempt to cram too much story into his 200 words. No; he keeps a tight and narrow focus on a single character, the elderly Brother John, and his solitary nightly ritual. The events of the scene are simple: against orders, an old man prays his way around a graveyard and suffers the consequences. Even the movements within the story are small: the old man’s shuffling feet, the falling of the rain, the Archbishop’s chiding, the small bowing of the old man’s head in quiet resignation. Oh, but there’s more–

Within the tiny frame of this scene, J.M. nevertheless delicately weaves dark hints of a much larger world and conflict. We learn this place is the “final” tower (i.e. there were others before it that have fallen or failed), that his prayers are all that is keeping evil at bay. And as the scene closes, we are told they are waiting for one more night (who? who?). Without detracting from the story itself, these hints serve to draw us in further and make us want to know more.

Finally, I love how J.M. leaves that larger conflict open-ended (who are they, and does Brother John actually intend to yield, or is his request for forgiveness because he intends to disobey?) and yet closes the scene, creating a complete story. The larger conflict isn’t resolved (which is all right here, since that is not the focus), but the smaller conflict, the monk’s prayerful faithfulness, is. Brother John “bows his head in acquiescence,” and the storm moves in. The monk’s nightly ritual concludes, as does the scene. Nicely done.

Your turn:

Do you agree? What grabs you about this story, and what do you take away from it? What else makes this story work?