Tag Archive | Pam J. Plumb

Flash! Friday Vol 2 – 43: WINNERS!

Howdy, folks! ‘Twas another rip-roaring storyfest here at the ol’ Flash! Friday ranch, and I’m guessing more than a passel of y’all are plum tuckered out. (Yeah. Um. You think that’s bad, you should hear me try accents in real life.) What a MAGNIFICENT commenting turnout–thanks to everyone for pouring yourselves so beautifully into each other. You just wait. A hundred years from now they’ll be looking back at this time going, How on earth did writers then know how to write so well? And won’t we be all mysterious and things? Like Shakespeare. And her brother. 😀         

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Judge Margaret Lockestrong of heart and judging constitution, says:  You know, this judging gig ain’t half bad. Sure, I’m reading an immense number of stories in a very short period of time (and worrying what people will think of my choices), but here’s the catch (ha ha): I GET to read an immense number of amazing stories in a very short period of time (and worry about what people will think of my choices).

Y’all never disappoint. It boggles my mind how one picture and one word can generate so many different tales. But what a blast it’s been to wade through (ha ha) all 84 stories this week. Here are the ones for which I fell, hook, line, and sinker.

Here are this week’s Special Mentions:

Michael Seese, “Finding Peace.” This story was actually on my short list, so I was devastated to discover it was actually two words over the 160 word limit (I counted by hand, I counted by computer). I mention it here to highlight the unique take, that of comparing fishing with negotiating peace. Excellent writing, and I loved the line, “The universe never rewards inertia.”

Great line: Voima Oy, “Next Wave.” Great line! I loved the creative use of the familiar phrase “We are all in the same boat.” 

Opening line: AJ Walker, “The Fisher King.” “The politician was not a religious man, but he was sure this freezing hour was ungodly.” “The Fish Were Biting Good That Day”Voima Oy – “The fish were biting good that day when it fell out of the sky.”

Most Creative Use of Dragon’s Bidding:  Pam J. Plumb, “Polly and Titan.” Absolutely loved how this author chose to incorporate the politician. Or not. 

Characterization: Brian S. Creek, “Needle in a Haystack.” “You tell me a lot of things, Frank. It’s all just white noise.” These two sentences instantly told me a lot about these two characters and their relationship with each other. So much revealed in so few words.

TitleI love a good title. So many of you found clever ways to work fishing terminology into your titles, and let me tell you, this judge appreciated it. “Catch of the Day,” “Fishing for Votes,” “Fishing for Lost Time,” “The Old Man on the Sea,” “Bated Breath,” “Making Waves,” “The Post-Election Drag.” My favorite title, however, was definitely “Be Careful What You Kiss For.” I wonder if David Borrowdale would let me use that for the title of one of my future books?

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HONORABLE MENTIONS

Emily June Street, “Hourly Arithmetic.” I found this to be a moving, unique take on the prompt, and thought the weaving of the politicians in from a completely different angle – that of background accompaniment to a horrific situation—was fantastic; their external blathering echoing her own internal feelings. The jarring matter-of-fact manner of the officer, especially when he rattles off “case resolution decreases by fifty percent,” to me underscored the awfulness of it all.

Carlos Orozco, “Death Reversed.” This was a delightfully different take, a marvelous way of interweaving the sea in a different way. That the men are “familiar” to him makes one wonder what is going on; the answer is only revealed as the story builds. When he says the Death card “means an end, for you at least,” sinister shivers sneaked down my back.

Dreaded Thought, Untitled. The rhythm of this piece actually made me feel as if I were in a boat, rocking back and forth along with the words. I enjoyed the repetition in the middle paragraph, emphasizing what had been before versus what is now. The imagery in the second and fourth paragraphs was particularly well expressed.

Luccia Gray, “Silent Voters.” This was a tale of retribution against a politician/politicians, which was an understandably common theme this week, but I felt the statements contrasting the fisher’s life versus that of the politician’s flowed well, highlighting the fisher’s anger and leading us to the wonderfully disturbing line “Ask them to vote for you, when you join them at the bottom of the sea.” The title underscores the creepy ending perfectly.

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THIRD RUNNER UP

Annika Keswick, “Dirty Money.” This piece caught my eye with its beautiful imagery – the “gnarled and graying planks of memories,” the “diamond that danced in the waves,” and the “sea of sunlit fire.” We get such an enchanting, pleasant build up of what seems to be a lovely, peaceful scene between grandparent and child. I’m waiting to hear about what I presume to be the grandparent’s happy memories. And then, BOOM, we’re dropped into the realities of politics, dirty in both a literal and figurative sense. The image of the little girl tossing a rock into dirt instead of water really hit me hard.

SECOND RUNNER UP

David Shakes, “Autobiographical Brine.” Many stories made use of fishing analogies this week. This one edged a few others out because of its wonderful word play. The references to fishing and water work beautifully throughout, without feeling over the top to me. You can see the rise and fall of this fisherman played out in language with which he was familiar, and I thoroughly enjoyed the imagery, from “sailing his desk across a sea of paperwork” to “casting out into the future.” Nicely done.

FIRST RUNNER UP

Casey Rose Frank, “Hunt(er).” I loved this from beginning to end. The succinctness of the sentences combined with the short echoes made it feel at first like song lyrics. The echoing words contrasting with the sentences preceding them highlight the point – that reality is often different from what’s believed and presented. The way his “people” work to change the story, for not only the world but also the politician himself, rang true to me with how many of us perceive political maneuverings. Well done!

And now: for his first (but inevitable!) time, it’s Flash! Friday 

DRAGON WINNER

JOSH BERTETTA!!!

for

“Hoffa”

I. Love. This. From the opening reference to Stephen King, to “The Godfather,” to the plaintive whining about 1,000 versus 160 words, this had me laughing and appreciating the wry humor the whole way through. The cheekiness, the clever references mentioned and then repealed, the conceit of referencing the contest itself, and the hilariously snarky last line’s way of incorporating the required word prompt make this a wonderful piece of flash humor. And yes, I had to look up “honorificabilitudinitatibus.” – it means “the state of being able to achieve honours.” Well, Mr. Bertetta, you certainly may call yourself that now. Well done!

Congratulations, Josh! Below is your very own glowing winner’s badge for the wall(s) of your choosing. Here are your brand new winner’s page and your winning tale on the winners’ wall. Please contact me here asap so I can interview you for Wednesday’s #SixtySeconds feature. And now, here is your story for all to laud!

Hoffa

Stephen King says writers need a toolbox. All I have is a goddamn tacklebox and as much as I’d like to reel a reader in with a lure of a title like “Hoffa,” and hook them with some memorable prose, the tacklebox’s from Wal-mart and ain’t worth the five bucks I paid for it.

All I want is to call myself honorificabilitudinitatibus. There’s a story in there right?

I haven’t read the other stories yet and I wonder if anyone will reference “The Godfather.” I won’t. Oops. I just did. And damn it, my delete button’s broken. Believe me, there’s a story in that too. A whopper of a story.

Oh, and I bought my bait at Walmart too. The worms are already dead and all I can catch is this damn cold. (That’s a true story.)

How come if a picture’s worth 1,000 words all I can write is 160?

Why waste your time?

Oh yeah, here’s the politician.

 

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Flash! Friday Vol 2 – 36: WINNERS!

How to thank you, the incredibly talented writers who return faithfully to support and challenge each other here at Flash! Friday each week? No words big or deep enough exist — believe me, I’ve looked. I hope each of you truly understands the profound impact you have on each other’s lives. Thank you.

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Judge Betsy Streeter says: This week’s prompt drew a vast array of responses from the writers – everything from world-building to bugs to gods, kings, queens, a fair number of monks and dragons {Editor’s Note: Dragons?? Yessss!} and everything in between.

The stories that stood out to me conveyed a world or a point of view, along with a story, in the limited space. This is tough – too much action and you haven’t described the situation adequately, too much description and nothing happens or the action seems incomplete. Some were metaphorical, others went all the way into fantasy. But the ones mentioned here committed fully and made each word serve their purpose. That’s not easy to do. Congratulations to all!

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HONORABLE MENTIONS

Dody Chapman, “The Taming.” For a terrific range of language, sentences filled with color and texture. Also, a very nice and compelling conflict right from the first sentence. Can I say how much I love that first sentence: “The City of Granite lives to spite the lofty City of Lightning.”

Pam Plumb, “The Visionary.” For far-reaching implications in very few words. It made me want to know the story that comes between the first and second paragraphs. Loved the sentence: “She knew she would revisit the city, make it proud to have sired her.” There’s a relationship to past and future there that intrigues.

Mark A. King, “Acceptance.” Another story that brings its world into focus very quickly with phrases like “bleached bone frameworks jut, jostle and gape at obscene angles within the ceilings.” My other favorite here is “I run my bony fingers over my legs, full of disease” – this conveys a deep sickness that I can really see and feel.

Liz Hedgecock, “Troglodyte.” For use of point of view to tell the story. First from the inside, and then from the outside. The switch is quick, but well-punctuated. This story reminds me of a George Saunders short story I read a while back. Makes me feel for the poor creatures.

THIRD RUNNER UP

Elisa Average Advocate, “Wormwood.” For conjuring a whole world in a few words, introducing us to a series of races, and outlining a conflict as old as time: the rulers versus the oppressed. Great phrases like “non-toxic to society,” and “could be forgotten and eat dust in peace.” It’s not easy to cover this much ground so quickly.

SECOND RUNNER UP

Image Ronin, “Le Chateau do Tromperie.” Many stories made use of the punctuation provided by a storm, but this one did it particularly well. I loved phrases like “polished stones and glistening metal marking our certainty.” Also, “built knowingly upon treacherous sands” is all you have to read to know this relationship was flawed from the beginning. And finally, the ring hitting the table brings it all together.

FIRST RUNNER UP

FCFL Railway, “Memory Garden.” This story, again, is so efficient in how it opens up situations and worlds for the reader. First you are with a child, who is describing a fanciful imagination used to cover over ugly reality. That’s great. But then you read, “And now you ask me for the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth” and you know exactly where you are – and why. Brilliant.

And now: appearing for his first time at the top (I’m so crazy about first-timers!!), it’s Flash! Friday

DRAGON WINNER

MICHAEL SEESE!!!

for

“The Farm”

This story does a masterful job of moving between two realities while flipping them on their heads. At first, it’s just an anxious band of humans. And, I love the sentence, “False hope is cruelty.” But then, you pull out to see an insect and the whole description shifts to a new language. Clicking mandibles, hatchday. And you realize, the humans are the scurrying, terrified bugs, and the bugs are amusing themselves without a care. The statement, “They are so cool!” conveys just how the bugs see the humans. Which is just the way humans see bugs. This is a great one to look at for examples of how simple word choice draws such a vivid picture – and how vocabulary can also create contrast. Congratulations!

 

Congratulations, Michael! Below is the extremely sparkly winner’s badge for your wall. Here also are your 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 interview. And here is your winning story:

The Farm

The clap of thunder sent them scrambling for safety. Up, down they hurried, scurried, traversing the steps carved into the unforgiving rock face.

Fear creased their weary eyes as they huddled in the remote recesses of the caves. The parents hugged their children, hushed them, reassured them that everything would be fine.

But would it? Had they made the gods angry? Would the earthquakes return?

Nights, after the children had gone to sleep, the parents would gather and talk quietly.

Of escape.

Of freedom.

Of a life beyond.

They never spoke these words in front of the children. False hope is cruelty.

On the other side of the glass, Worker 1421 clicked his mandibles excitedly.

“They are so cool!” he said to his fellow drone. “I’m going to ask the Queen for a People Farm for my hatchday.”

“They are fun to watch. And so industrious. Still, I think I’ll shake it up and make them start all over again.”

 

FFwinner-Web

 

 

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?