Howdy, y’all!!! and welcome to Results Day, which I think ought to be celebrated with a global TimTam SLAM. (For you novices, this requires biting the ends off a TimTam and using it for a straw in, preferably, a hot cup of coffee. This creates a sloppy, caramelly mess which will keep you happy for days.)
COME BACK TOMORROW for an interview with the celebrated Writer’s Digest expert, professional editor, former publisher, and novelist Jeff Gerke. His interview’s a riot, and in conjunction with his visit, Flash! Friday is giving away to one random commenter a FREE 2 PAGE OR QUERY LETTER EDIT by Jeff. Don’t miss it!
Then please remember next is Warmup Wednesday, then Thursday’s Sixty Seconds interview with today’s winner. And then Flash! Friday’s back all over again!
Dragon Captains Tamara Shoemaker/Mark King say: From stone-cold, lovelorn buildings to evil queens disguised in gingham dresses, the girls-next-door took on all possible forms this week, and you brilliant writers broke all the boundaries of creativity. I don’t think I’ll ever see the girls in my neighborhood the same ever again. 😉 You all did an excellent job of casting aside the box this week, which pleased us mightily, and it was a pleasure to soak ourselves in your glorious imaginations. Once again, you did not make our job easy, but you did make it quite fulfilling. Without further ado, here are our choices below.
Image Ronin (Dragon Captain!), “The Sins of Our Fathers.”- Special Mention for wonderful use of visual imagery
Nancy Chenier, “Modularity.” – Special Mention for an attention grabbing opening and product placement in a holo-marquee (other sports brands are available)
Jessica Franken, “Ikiryō.” – Special Mention for most mischievous poltergeist since Peeves
TS – Apparently, someone has picked up on my love of peanut butter sandwiches. Although I have never tried peanut butter and marshmallow crème. I’ll put it on the list for my next meal.
I love this piece. The division into three separate parts works well for building the relationship between the protagonists, first neighbors, then friends, then partners. I love how the writer describes each relationship in stepping stones, delving the reader into intensity as the piece goes on.
The separate points of view caught me off-guard at first, but as I read it over again, I enjoyed getting both perspectives. Then at the end, when the two PoV’s sat right next to each other, opposite sides of a mirror, it gutted me. Really enjoyed it. Well done!
MK – I too picked up on the PB sandwich reference, however, I have to keep reminding Tamara that Jif is/was a creamy bleach in England, you know the sort you might clean a kitchen sink with (yum).
The PoV changes were different and it’s a challenge to get them right in such a small piece.
The strength of the relationship is what stood out and I loved this “focusing as the worm crossed-curved-looped and laced around the barb and the point just right—stretched perfectly so he wriggled just enough to catch the bluegill’s interest”.
TS – This piece is beautifully written, lyrical and flowing. It reads almost like music. The social barriers between success and “a life behind checkouts” is well-illustrated in phrases like: “We stream into school like reluctant anti-matter, trapped in the pull of a black hole.” The girl-next-door provides the narrator with an illusory dream, and the piece lifts with hope at the last line: “Why don’t you come too?”
Fluid and gorgeous. Lovely.
MK – Now this is how to start a story! Wonderful beginning that is poetic yet blunt with feeling. The feel of the entire story is aching with unfulfilled aspirations and dreams that may never come. This was an example of the bluntness “Truth is, in ten years time, she’ll be fighting off a STD and serving pizza.”, which was neatly contrasted with the hope, “…but her, this girl next door, she dares to dream; longs to shed this second-hand living, run past the gates and inhale freedom”.
TS – The concept of this piece is at once horrifying and mesmerizing. Using dolls as the main characters in this take illustrates so clearly the brittle smiles that often cover the deepest pain. The contrast between the horror of what is actually happening and the bright colorful innocence of a dollhouse scene carves an intense impact. The simplicity of the last line, like something you’d hear a young girl tell her friend, ‘Don’t tell. Don’t tell,’ underscores the whole piece. Brilliant idea. Well done.
MK – This is a deeply disturbing story, yet it is one that is sensitively told. The use of the house image as a doll’s house is a very interesting take and yet it is one that fits well with the story. Dolls are occasionally used by professionals and police when investigating cases and this story could be one that is played by disassociation out as it happens, or one that is reliving the events for the authorities. Traumatic and harrowing.
THIRD RUNNER UP
TS – Exquisite imagery in this piece. I love the skillfully drawn correlations between a cold stone building and a woman ignored and unappreciated. I see the growth in this piece, and it strengthens it as it goes along. At the beginning, the woman waits for the man; he’s “all I can think about.” He’s a fantasy; she sees herself as a wallflower. By the end of the piece, she gains a sense of self, “a lonely edifice… serving others.” The gutting final line drives a spear through the piece, a backbone of support for all the imagery leading up to the final point: “I am so much more than stone.” What a great work of self-discovery! Beautiful.
MK – The prompt and story element were hard this week and standing out from the crowd took something unique. The clues were there from the start “…there are so many barriers in our way. Physical, emotional, social”, “The fences between us are mighty.”
I also like the fact that this longing is the ‘girl’ next door and not the house he lives in. “They can’t stay away. But they can’t approach, either.” and “If only I were free. I’d make myself approachable. I’d welcome him in with doors wide open.” Clever work, dear dragon.
SECOND RUNNER UP
TS – As a fan enamored with dark fantasy, this piece spoke right into my obsession. With hints of charm and darker magic reminiscent of Grimm brother fairy tales, the piece had such a satisfying ending with the reflection-queen in the fountain. “She wears a crown of burned love-letters, a corset made of flesh, and a necklace of skulls.” Shudder.
Love the contrast between the reflection-queen and the beautiful maid, and especially the girl’s description: “fresh-faced, milk-fed, sun-kissed,” the perfect girl-next-door in gingham and freckles. Nice use of the character. I want to read a fleshed-out book with this piece as the guiding inspiration. Homework for the author. 😉
MK – The writer has given us a teaser with the title. All the way through we’re pondering what is the reflection and how it comes into play. We proceed knowing that everything is highly unlikely to be as it seems (a great lesson in the power of a title). The initial part of the story plays out like the girl could be a girl next door, or even an incredible life-like statue “She never moves from her perch beside the fountain.”, “No one has ever seen her enter the house.”
Like the most beautiful of sirens, she calls to the desires of the flesh from the “neighborhood boys”, and like a mythical siren she hides her true self. As Tamara has already mentioned, I also loved the reflected images description.
FIRST RUNNER UP
TS – What a setting! A sanitarium (at least, that’s what I assumed it to be) gated and locked; it’s like something right out of Shutter Island, and I got just as many chills and thrills from reading this as from watching the movie trailer. There’s some really fantastic word pictures in this: “Autumn leaves rust the water like the blood of the drowned.” “I fold notebook paper into boats for beetles and send them to their water-logged dooms.” What incredible description! The insanity of the narrator bleeds through in incrementally increasing steps as she watches from outside the gates, and then finds herself INSIDE the gates, and then finally at the end, sees herself in the rusty water (it was at this point that I had to run lock the door and close the blinds against the staring dark outside). Freaky, skillful, and riveting. Nicely done!
MK – This is breathtaking. The take on the photo is so clever that it took me a while to recover from it. Like Tamara mentioned, I had images of Shutter Island running through my terrified mind (in my opinion it is both a stunning book and wonderful film). The words also conjured the most vivid and disturbing images of place such as Arkham Asylum (and I congratulate the writer for this feat as this is a truly terrifying place).
The start is fantastic “…Mummy says they don’t commit children to places like that. Unless they’ve perpetuated adult-grade evil.” Eek.
These are some of my favourite lines on FFF, ever, “Autumn leaves rust the water like the blood of the drowned” and “I fold notebook paper into boats for beetles and send them to their water-logged dooms.” Such brutal beauty – amazing.
By the end, this story played like the mind of someone who is suffering from fear, grief, guilt, paranoia and hallucinations. Simply sublime.
Jordan Louie (Jorbi K.)!!!
“Middle Class Martyrdom”
TS – What a powerful message woven through this! The girl-next-door in the role of terrorist-in-waiting. The piece etches quite skillfully the social hierarchy between the upper class and the bourgeoisie. The narrator is a strong character; she shows a lot of agency in phrases like “I’ll make a name for myself, and inspire others to do the same. I’ll put martyrs back to the top of the worshiped hierarchy. I’ll show that anyone can have their name spread…” The point comes across that the blood of the rich/famous/important is just as red as the blood of the normal girl with “no family trouble, no religion, no politics, no mental instability.”
Some stunning use of color pervades this piece, too. “The stretch of green, white houses, black suits, insides as red, ivory towers.” The stark colors paint my mind with brilliant imagery, and it matches the vivid strength of the narrator.
Extremely well done! Fantastic job.
MK – A truly compelling and contemporary story. Someone who walks ours streets unseen. Someone who smiles at us in the coffee shop. Someone who is, in every way, the perfect ‘girl next door’.
Yet, she plots and hides. She dilutes her anti-capitalist terrorist-in-waiting ideals, for now is not her time. The house in the story is used to drive the power of the injustice the narrator is feeling; acting as an example of the greed and everything else that she sees as wrong. It is distant, unreachable, guarded and divisive. It is a perfect metaphor for her view of society.
The voice is strong and consistent. The power is ramped up to eleven and boosted with conviction and intent.
“..their black suits- a more accurate reflection of their insides” – the heartless cold of those with money and power.
“But I’ll show their insides are just as red” – terrifying.
For most of us, this idea of the smiling sleeper terrorist living as just another unseen face in the crowd is truly scary. Congratulations on the fantastic story and powerful character.
Congratulations, Jorbi! We are thrilled that you joined us this week and even more thrilled that you did so dramatically! Please find here your very own winner’s page and your winning tale on the winners’ wall. Please contact me here ASAP so I can interview you for this Thursday’s #SixtySeconds feature. And now, here is your winning story!
Middle Class Martyrdom
I’m tired of looking at them through twisted iron gates: their façade of exclusivity made tangible. Blocked off from hundreds of yards- miles away: the stretch of green in between me and them gives them their status. They stay nestled up in their white houses that contrast with their black suits- a more accurate reflection of their insides.
But I’ll show their insides are just as red as anyone else’s, and that their ivory towers are stolen from a much less endangered bourgeoisie. I’ll make a name for myself, and inspire others to do the same. I’ll put martyrs back to the top of the worshipped hierarchy. I’ll show that anyone can have their name spread across the world; it’s not as hard as they’d like you to think, and many times not for good deeds.
They’ll talk about me for years. My name will be on a list; our own working-class Walk of Fame. I’ll be researched, written about, analyzed, and posted up on every channel. They’ll keep me famous for a long time, because they won’t be able to figure me out. No family trouble, no religion, no politics, no mental instability. I’m just the girl next door.