Tag Archive | Kat Lewis

Flash Points: Full Circle

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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

Let’s chat!

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.

— Daylight, by Betsy Streeter. Perfect (almost chiastic) opposition.

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!

Your turn:

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?

Flash! Friday Vol 2 – 33: WINNERS!

Thank you for coming to the winners’ party! It’s always a good time here at Flash! Friday, despite this week’s tempests and shipwrecks (maybe because of them??), and I’m so grateful for your generosity in sharing your time and talents with this community. 

Thanks also to the over 900 of you who have voted so far at the #DogDays contest. You’ve got a little over 24h left (until 11:59pm Monday, DC time). Be sure to read the stories & vote for your favorite if you haven’t already. We’ve got some strong leaders, but a lot can happen in 24 hours! If your favorite is short votes, be sure to tweet/ Facebook/ megaphone for votes on their behalf. 

Find the Dog Days voting page here and in the sidebar. Winners will post at 7:30am Tuesday morning. 

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Judge Phil Coltrane says: My experience with the Flash! Friday community is that it’s an amazingly talented group with a wide variety of writing styles and genre preferences. I already knew that judging the contest would be a challenge.

Imagine my trepidation to learn that the prompt for my first judging experience was a painting based on Shakespeare’s The Tempest. I’ve made no secret that my childhood interests were space and science fiction, not sailing ships and Shakespeare. {Editor’s Note: Caliban made me do it.}

Many of your stories were enjoyable reads on their own that excelled in certain areas — so many that it almost seems unfair to nominate a winner. But judging is a solemn and important duty, and failure to do so carries penalty of dragonfire. So, without further rambling, here are this week’s winners.

 

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HONORABLE MENTIONS

H.L. Pauff, Untitled. We join this romance already in progress: a plan gone awry, and a heroine whose hopes are literally sinking before her eyes. Between her two contrasting choices: “the Baron’s bedchamber” vs. “the icy water”, she chooses an almost certain death as a free woman. An impressive use of genre conventions to hint at a backstory too large for the word limit.

David Shakes, “The Rising Tide.” A rallying cry set to common meter: this stiff-upper-lip commander makes no illusion: “The worst is yet to come…” The following stanzas hammer home the hopelessness of this growing metaphorical tempest, yet there is still hope for the greater cause of freedom, and a future “absolved of all our sin.” Beautifully written to fit the rhythm of the poem.

Kat Lewis, “What You Smell Before Death.” From its pulp horror title to its graphic imagery of the Kraken, this story is pure horror. All we see of the protagonist is his powerlessness: imprisoned on a ship, unable even to raise alarm about their oncoming doom. We see a snapshot of his three last moments: of imprisonment, of horrifying freedom, and of his life. The imagery builds a Lovecraftian atmosphere with a limited word count. 

THIRD RUNNER UP

Eliza Archer, “Secrets.” Here we see a fascinating study of the interplay between freedom and control, love and hate, that draws the reader into this retelling of The Tempest. Although Prospero retains the illusion of control, his magic appears limited — to hatred, to secrecy, and to harm. It is Miranda’s own spells that “bridge the gaps” to provide the love and care needed to secure their freedom. Yet Miranda’s “spell cast out to net true love” again imposes control, securing her freedom and future by ensnaring her Prince.

Far from being a pawn in Prospero’s plans, this Miranda is much more in command of her own destiny, though possibly not so different from her secret-keeping father as she might like to think. As a whole, this reinterpretation provides us a better developed characterization of Miranda that is more relatable to modern readers.

SECOND RUNNER UP

Laura Carroll Butler, “Away.” “Every picture she drew was a masterpiece, anything she wrote was Shakespeare.” The parallelism of this line drew me into the story. These are the lies we tell our children, but reality will always have more burger flippers than Bards. Nor is this father perfect: although he promises his daughter the world, we see him pass out “with the smell of whiskey on his breath.” Yet he is not a bad father: the story’s central theme is the contrast between the clear-cut lines and neat happy endings of fantasy and the harsher truths of the real world.

Her father was not a perfect man, and she is not a princess in waiting, but “the best of many lessons her father taught her” is that gift of reading. It is that gift that carries her through the daily humdrum of her mundane reality by enabling her, for brief times, to get away. These are flawed, human characters to whom we can relate, and a powerful idea that we readers implicitly understand. 

FIRST RUNNER UP

SJ O’Hart, “Ariel.” From beginning to end, this story makes a plaything of language, to good effect. Phrases such as “logic forbid” and “Newton’s own English” help paint a picture of a rigid, logical society. The anastrophe at the end, “universe entire,” is reminiscent of Shakespeare, both tying this logical world together with the references to The Tempest, and signaling a reversal in the protagonist’s fortunes.

The story veers from the expected by comparing the father-daughter relationship to Ariel and Sycorax. In fact, the more obvious Miranda and Prospero comparison initially seems more fitting: his strict discipline keeps his daughter under his own control, shielded from “frivolous” knowledge, for his own ends.

It is only through her plotting and manipulation that she becomes Ariel, a spirited force of nature, and gains her own freedom. In the end, although she escapes from a prison imposed by her father and by society at large, her drastic actions in doing so force us to wonder: what force has been unleashed upon an unsuspecting universe? Overall, the author’s masterful use of language builds the setting, and lends a sense of unity to the story.

And now: for her very first time (woohoo!), it’s Flash! Friday

DRAGON WINNER

TARYN NOELLE KLOEDEN!!!

for

“Siren Song”

From the beginning, this story takes the unforeseen path of interpreting the prompt as Greek mythology rather than Shakespeare. In mythology, we often encounter murderous monsters whose motives remain a mystery. Perhaps no monster could be less sympathetic than the Siren, a creature in the guise of a femme fatale, whose sole purpose in life is to lure sailors to their watery graves with their alluring song. At first glance, writing a first-person character piece about such a monster seems an odd choice.

The Siren’s thoughts are completely preoccupied with her victims. She knows nothing of who they are, nor how she appears to them, but only that they are “nothing more than slaves” to her song. Yet she wonders (habitually) whether they deserve such a fate. She even engages in rationalization — “[p]erhaps they were vicious mercenaries” — and briefly entertains the thought of setting them free.

The plain language of the Siren’s thoughts conveys that she is not a cackling witch, a mindless creature, or a being of pure evil. Her motivations in luring her victims have nothing to do with the victims. This Siren is philosophical about these sailors, almost to the point of showing compassion.

I liked that the story manages to hint at the prompt’s obvious themes of romance, heartbreak, loneliness, and death, without actually being about any of those things. It’s a quiet, introspective piece — set against the events of a grisly shipwreck at the hands of a mythological monster. In the end, the Siren of this story is a creature free to speculate to herself as much as she wishes, but just as the doomed sailors were enslaved by their own appetites (whether pure or prurient), this Siren is also a slave to her own very literal appetites.

For its original take on the prompt, its creative exploration of the thoughts of a maligned mythological creature, and the ending revelation of the Siren’s true motives, “Siren Song” is this week’s winning entry.

 

Congratulations, Taryn! Below beckons your compellingly new winner’s badge for your wall. Here also is your rapacious, starving winner’s page and your winning tale on the winners’ wall. Please contact me here ASAP so I can interview you for this week’s #SixtySeconds feature. And here is your winning story:

Siren Song

Dulcet tones carry across the restless waves, whispering promises of a love doomed to never be. I pace along my rocky hunting grounds and wonder what the doomed men see me as today. Do the loyal sailors see their wives stranded alone? Or am I a long-lost love, or a beautiful red-headed fantasy? Whatever mirage my song has thrust into their minds, it is working. Soon their ship, and their bodies, would be broken on the rocks at my feet.

As the men, now nothing more than slaves to my call, force their vessel ever closer, I wonder, not for the first time, if they truly deserve such a bloody end. Who were these sailors I had ensnared? Perhaps they were vicious mercenaries, or simply trying to provide for their families. Ought I grant these unfortunate souls their freedom? But as the ship and her crew shatter and drown, I know it matters not.

Because I am so hungry.

 

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Flash! Friday Vol 2 – 28: WINNERS!

Welcome back! This week’s Victorian prompt was such fun; royal salutes to each of you brave writers for tackling it and giving us heavily bejewelled tales of cunning, humor, and lots and lots and lots of prideful pride. 

DON’T FORGET! Flash Points is back on Mondays (will your story be chosen for dragony critique??); there are often fresh stories for the readin’ on Tuesdays & Thursdays; and Wednesdays brings us #SixtySeconds‘ awesome interview with today’s winner. Loads of reasons to keep coming back & commenting!

Hopefully you saw Friday’s announcement of the new judge panel for the 3rd quarter–if not, check them out here & scope out their bios! Never to early to start strategizing a win.

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Judge Jess West says: The prompt this week inspired many tales of, well, Queens and arrogance, which was to be expected. But the writers of the Flash! Friday community had a few tricks up their sleeves, many taking the prompts into dark corners and some taking it somewhere else entirely. One thing that really would have stood out this week that I didn’t see was a dragon, but I guess even dragons need a break. 😉 { EDITOR’S NOTE: That’s a stinking rotten rumor. } Still, I found gems in every story. Once again, you guys have raised the bar. One more week and then I get to rejoin you on the battlefield. I have to say, I’m a little nervous, but definitely looking forward to a little friendly competition. Cheers! 

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SPECIAL MENTIONS

For catchy titles that tell a story of their ownBrian Creek, Kat LewisClaudsy.

Killer first line, starting the piece with action right out of the gate: Mark Morris, “The Crown”: 

Tegan sheathed the blade in the Queen’s chest, following through and pushing her to the ground.

For a unique take on the prompt, reaching past cliche: Marie McKay, “The Immortal”

HONORABLE MENTIONS

Tinman, “Heart’s Desire.” For the humor delivered, “Heart’s Desire” deserves an honorable mention. My favorite part is the very realistic exchange between the wizard and his customer: 

“It must be wonderful,” said Mrs Aladdin. “You can lay your hand instantly on anything.”

“Er, yes,” said Djisraeli. “You’d think, wouldn’t you?”

StellakateT, “The Jewel.” This twisted Cinderella tale gave me no small amount of satisfaction at the end, when the writer reveals that the “homely” sister is the jewel of the family. I don’t know if she’s happy with her lot, but I felt as though she at least had some measure of retribution with the match.

Craig Anderson, “Crowning Around.” It’s hard to write two different POVs in a flash fiction piece, especially one so short as 150 words. Craig pulls it off, with just enough characterization to bring both the arrogant ambassador and the cunning Queen to life. 

THIRD RUNNER UP

Emily Karn, “Freedom of the Press.” Emily uses little more than dialogue to really bring these characters to life. The Prime Minister has his hands full, trying to ensure that the Queen is satisfied and keeping her subjects loyal at the same time. As for the Queen, well, the arrogant cartoonist is just a shade beyond tolerable, but she is wise enough to seek the council of the Prime Minister in dealing with him.  There’s a whole world behind such few words as these, and that in itself never fails to impress me. 

SECOND RUNNER UP

Bart Van Goethem, “Queen.” My first impression of this story was that it was a cute tale of a boy with great ambition, and by the end I was sure he would, in fact, go on to rule the world. The combination of hints – the time frame, the title, glimpses of the child’s appearance and his personality – made me curious to find out if this Farrokh Bulsara was a real person. When I Googled the name, I was delighted to find out who he was, and impressed with the subtle twist by a writer who turned out to be Bart Van Goethem. Well done, sir!

FIRST RUNNER UP

Carin Marais, “To Kill a Fly.” This is another of those stories that appeals to my dark side, a tale of justice delivered in a satisfactory manner – by the victim herself. Carin does a great job making me hate John enough to want him dead, including just enough details to show me how he feels about Mary and how he treats her. Details woven in throughout the dialogue help to clue me in to the time frame of this piece without loading it down with inessential elements. Dating a piece is easy when you include a cell phone or a chamber pot, but I’m particularly impressed with Carin’s ability to draw on the state of affairs at a specific moment in history to put the reader in the correct frame of mind.

And now: what a thrill to welcome back to the dais second time Flash! Friday

DRAGON WINNER

JOIDIANNE4EVA!!!

for

“God Save the Queen”

I have this dark streak buried deep within me – well, maybe not buried so much as seething just beneath the surface – that enjoys a good revenge tale. “God Save the Queen” definitely delivers a sharp dose of deadly vengeance. That last line strikes a discordant chord within, ending the piece on a deep, dark note. What makes it hit so hard is the distance (internal thought, immediately present) and that this thought feels completely natural to the narrator. From a reader’s perspective, it seems as though this story were told through the writer, as opposed to having been written by the writer. I’m really impressed with writing when it’s crisp, clean, and powerful, and yet appears so effortless.  This story is one that sticks with you, with its subtle, dark tone and perfectly written and conveyed themes. Congratulations! 

Congratulations, Joidianne4eva! Your regally supreme winner’s badge awaits you below. Here is your crowning achievement-ed, updated winner’s page and your winning tale on the winners’ wall. Please contact me ASAP so I can interview you for this week’s #SixtySeconds feature. And here is your winning story:

God Save the Queen

When Disraeli approached Aasha in his quest to make a crown befitting of India’s new queen, she accepted.

She did not speak of her nights spent waiting on the dirty streets as her mother vanished into dark rooms with strange men, only to come back with barely enough to feed her family.

Aasha did not ask where this queen had been when their children were dying from hunger and disease.

She simply did what she was told.

She mixed her blood into the gold that coated its frame and whispered ancient prayers while she wove the fabric that would rest upon the queen’s head.

Aasha poured her heart into her work and when Disraeli handed it to the queen who accepted her offering with an arrogant nod, she smiled.

Aasha’s heart was a black and twisted thing that brought death to all who touched it… just like the poison with which she’d laced the crown.

No God would save this queen.

 

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