Tag Archive | Lisa Shambrook

Flash Points: Full Circle

FlashPoints3

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?

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Flash! Friday Vol 2 – 32: WINNERS!

Happy Sunday, and welcome back for our newest contest results! Tragedy and woe played large roles in your themes, which feels especially fitting given this week’s headlines. Thank you for taking the time to share your worlds and skills with us. Come on back tomorrow, if you’re in the mood, to get an up-close-and-personal look at one of your fantastic tales at #FlashPoints.

One last reminder (waaaah!) for the #DogDays contest, whose deadline is this Tuesday, July 22, at 11:59pm Washington DC time. Lots of stories already elbowing their way to the top — be sure to add yours!!! Link here and in the sidebar.

♦♦♦♦♦

Judge Aria Glazki says: The creativity and diversity of this week’s stories are simply astounding. Not only did you have allusions to different cultures and religions, showcasing the assortment of backgrounds within this community, but you also addressed the full range of relationships, from the truly disturbing to the heartbreakingly self-sacrificing. Like in the Olympic arena, we went from one impressive performance straight to the next. I almost wish there was a code of points for flash fiction — my job would have been much easier! Many lines caught my attention, and ranking stories meant making unbelievably tough choices. So well done, all around!

♦♦♦♦♦

SPECIAL MENTIONS

Flawless imagery: Mark A. King, “The Weight.” “A sound. The splatter of colour.”; Marie McKay, “Balance.” “My image sits in little glass cages mounted on living room walls” (oh the layers!).

Maggie Duncan, “In A Distant Voice.” Wonderful growth to the character aided by the subtlety of what spurs it. A lesson she could only learn for herself and yet probably wishes she hadn’t.

Michael Seese, “Big Sister.” Such strong use of perspectives with the quoted lines and of time passing. Unexpected horror growing so naturally from a sibling relationship we had assumed was adorable and entirely normal.

HONORABLE MENTIONS

ifemmanuel, Untitled. “Left foot, right foot” — four simple words, and yet they give this story such a solid sense of rhythm, while also underscoring the character’s feeling of being trapped: as herself, in the background, in this world of gymnastics.

Rasha, “Redeem.” A short moment but with so much weight behind it. The use of numbers was subtle yet perfectly methodical, just like a winning gymnast, allowing the last line, “Ten. Ten. Ten.” to have immense impact

Lisa Shambrook, “Balance.” This story tells us everything we need to know in its first line, even though we can’t understand it yet. So it takes us through a lifetime of hurt, leaving us with a powerful yet understated image and filling out the bookended first line with all of that emotion.  Very well done. 

Nicholas Stearns, “Way to Salvation.” The first sentence here immediately grounds us in the world of the story — “Excited howls from hounds and men echoed through the dense forest.” We’re dropped straight into Anna’s emotions, trapped between an internal fear and an external threat, in a unique story that’s at once entirely unrelated to gymnastics and yet perfectly suited to the prompt. 

THIRD RUNNER UP

Amy Wood, “A Star is Made.” This story is unexpected in a wonderful way. The initial, potentially off-putting pride of the mother — comparing the other gymnasts to “workhorses” — is flipped with the context, becoming sympathetic defiance — “So I’d sold my soul to get her healthy, what of it?” What would a mother do for her sick, dying child? Absolutely anything, and don’t you dare tell her she can’t.

SECOND RUNNER UP

Brett Milam, “Tumble.” I kind of hate that my position this week meant I had to read this story multiple times, because it is just so incredibly horrifying (and I don’t do well with horror). Such vivid descriptions, and the line, “She was perfect, once.” is so simple on its own, but becomes, in this story, absolutely haunting. And to top it off, we get a thought-provoking commentary on the world behind the perfection and smiles. 

FIRST RUNNER UP

Image Ronin, “The Champ.” I love how this story lets our own preconceptions from the image lead us astray, then strengthens those preconceptions with the flash back moments, then turns it all on its head. The lights? Not a spotlight, but a cop car. The audience? Not thousands of fans but a cop. The inevitable, promised day? Not the shining Olympic moment but the low point on a self-destructive path.  Each of those moments draws us down the wrong path and yet entirely holds up even when we know where the story’s going while rereading.

And now: joining the sparkly group of three-timers, it’s Flash! Friday

DRAGON WINNER

KARL A. RUSSELL!!!

for

“The Routine”

What a journey for this character. The disappointment and shame all still there, all still driving her, and yet taking a back seat to the fun twist of her new life, and of coming into herself.  “Diamonds sparkled like tear-filled eyes” sums it up perfectly. Once, she’d been considered subpar, with tear-filled eyes, denied even a trip to the museum, and now her gymnastics opens every world for her, even those denied others, sparkling like diamonds and there for the taking. This triumph is even stronger with the juxtaposition of the discipline and submission to rules her gymnastics teacher must have wanted to instill, and the life Cherry built with those skills. “In your face…and thank you.” A wonderful balance (no pun intended!). Editor’s Note: The Flash! Friday dragons love this story too but would like to make it clear their personal hoard of diamonds, should such a thing exist, is off-limits.

Congratulations, Karl! Here’s another brilliant winner’s badge for your wall! Here also is your gold medal updated winner’s page and your winning tale on the winners’ wall. Please stand by so I can interview you yet AGAIN, lucky dragon, for this week’s #SixtySeconds feature. And here is your winning story:

The Routine

Cherry stepped into the deserted gallery and paused. The silence was heavy, expectant, like the moment before the tape clicked in, everyone waiting to see what she could do. Hopefully no one was watching her now.

Bending low, moving to a rhythm heard only in her heart, Cherry began to dance. She kicked and leapt, one graceful step after another, seeing not the museum but the gym floor. In her curiously doubled vision, she saw Miss Rushworth and her team even as she saw the glass cases and display boards. She had never been to the museum before, denied that treat when her clumsy dismount cost them the final, and the ancient shame reddened her cheeks as she made her final leap.

With a perfect dismount, she cleared the last alarm beam and took the glass cutters from her belt. Inside the case, the diamonds sparkled like tear-filled eyes.

“In your face, Miss Rushworth…”

She reached inside.

“And thank you.”

 

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