Sep 132015
 
Photo Credit: Stephen Hampshire via CC.

Photo Credit: Stephen Hampshire via CC.

Welcome to the results show. Before we get down to business, we must think this week’s judge, Brian S Creek, for sorting it all out. Here’s what he thought:

I’m a big fan of Formula 1. One of the things that’s interesting, especially this year, is how close some drivers can be on the qualifying, and still be lagging on the back row. Twenty drivers give it their best and end up being separated over just two seconds. It’s the milliseconds that decide the order that they line up on the grid for the race. And I’m talking thousandths of a second between 5th and 15th.

Which brings me to your wonderfully crafted stories.

When judging these contests, the results show you the top picks, and it can look like the remaining bunch were just left by the wayside. But, for me, that simply wasn’t the case. So many stories were hanging around the top bunch that there basically wasn’t a bottom bunch. My order changed and changed and changed; sometimes a story that I’d written off early on would suddenly jump up and challenge the podium.

Unfortunately I can’t pick 36 stories for 1st place. So below are my top 7.  For those of you not listed here, I know you’ll all be back again this Thursday to try again. See you there.

Honourable Mentions

This Thing, I Forget Its Name by A V Laidlaw

There were several mental health stories this week and this was one of my favourites. The piece stood out with some very beautiful lines early on (‘dandelion seeds blown away in the breeze’ to describe fragile memories, and ‘The sense that reality is nothing more than an early draft’).

Jacked In by FE Clark

It’s a playful piece, but darker underneath. With everything we do going digital, how long until we do too?

Teeth Like Colin’s by CR Smith

One of the stories that had me laughing out loud, I really like the use, mid story, of the two characters breathing in. And the brutal honesty of the dentist when letting our guy know that he’s a dentist, not a miracle worker.

Test Run by Colin Smith

So many stories went with words beginning with the opening bookend, that I liked this story for starting with a spelling mistake, an error that builds into the plot.

3rd place

Britopia by Marie McKay

I laughed at several stories this week, but this was the funniest. Perhaps because I’m British, trained from birth to understand the basic protocol for standing in line with a bunch of strangers. It might seem plot-lite, but the journey contained within this piece of Flash Fiction is as epic as the one taken by Frodo and Sam to Mount Doom. Our main character travels from point to point, overcoming obstacles, until he finally reaches his goal; a place in Britopia.

2nd Place

Thump by Iskandar Haggarty

A simple story, that of predator versus prey, and beautifully written. It’s feels like it’s taking too much time for a piece with a 100 word limit, but the ending is far from rushed. Despite the violence of the finale, I found the piece to be quite relaxing.

Winner

Da Capo All’Infinito by Steven O. Young Jr.

There were a couple of entries this week that went for the mental illness angle, but this one was the most subtle. I’ll be honest and say I struggled through my first reading (the thoughts within the speech confused me), but when I got to the end, it clicked.

And what an ending. I thought this was a simple story of an elderly man with fading memories and a vivid imagination, while the main character is forced to sit through tall tales. But that repetition of the opening line packs way more punch than if the author had simply wrapped the story up with a simple explanation of the older man’s ailments.

And the main character sits through it all again.

Da Capo All’Infinito

Steven O. Young Jr.

“Brithic colonizers abducted me once, you know.”

I pull a cigarette out of the pack. “You mean ‘British’?”

“No, ‘Brithic.’” I know. “You probably don’t believe me, but there’re aliens!”

“Oh yeah?” Smoke limits my words.

“They took me in my sleep one night.” You weren’t sleeping. “They experimented on my brain.” They were trying to repair the damages I’d done to your jigsawed skull. “I bet they don’t realize I remember it all.” I wish you did. Or could.

The ashes collapse as your story ends and I dread your moment of silence. Again.

“Brithic colonizers abducted me once, you know.”

I pull a cigarette out of the pack.

Micro Bookends 1.46 – Results

 Results  Comments Off on Micro Bookends 1.46 – Results
Sep 062015
 
Photo Credit: Mike Fleming via CC.

Photo Credit: Mike Fleming via CC.

Welcome to the results show. It’s a corker today, with the same writer taking second and first place! But first, a huge thanks to this week’s judge, @dazmb. Here’s what he thought of it all:

Before we get started, take a moment and give yourselves a pat on the back. You are all sorcerers of your craft. This week’s stories gave me hours of reading pleasure before I had to knuckle down to the intimidating task of putting them in a semblance of order.

In the parlance of my young teenage son (and would be skater boi) your sick skilz transported me away from the skate park to courtrooms, outerspace, treasure hunts, A&E, classrooms, railway tracks, office parties, Mount Olympus and all the way to the delivery room.

A tour de force of entries and an education too…Xu, xenogamy, xenogenesis, xerophytic, xenolithic and xi…who knew?

Thank you for allowing me the opportunity and honour of extending the following thoughts on my favourite entries. It was an incredibly difficult task to order the final list of winners and I look forward to rejoining the fray and fun of sharing our stories together next week!

Honourable Mentions

Skater Boy by C R Smith

Out of all the entries this one made me smile the most, hence its inclusion in the final run-down.

I thought the angle taken on the ‘skate park’ setting was original and the phrase ‘fresh eyes and false memories’ inspired.

The contrast between the narrator’s amazement that he indeed was able to ‘carve frontside performing a 360’ versus his hapless accident made me snort out loud.

But what really sealed it for me was the last line.

‘Skater Boy’s back in the game!’

He thinks he’s got it, the reader knows he doesn’t and as a consequence a difference in perspective is established for ongoing comedy…I’d love to read about his further exploits.

I bet he’s a dad dancer extraordinaire!

Cnsl Fr Th Prsctn by Karl A Russell

So at first, my brain crawled out of my ear when I read this. But when I finally worked through the story I loved it.

The technique of removing the vowels has been done before I think, but its use here served a genuine purpose, suited the ‘graffiti’ photo prompt, and made for an altogether original entry.

It’s a light hearted story, but I felt it made an interesting point about how language evolves; something that should concern us all as writers.

Technology continues to radically alter our means and methods of communication. We live in an age, where generations communicate by emojis and emoticons and think nothing of incorporating twitter acronyms such as btw, wtf, b4 and fwiw into their everyday writing.

How do we respond to this? Like the magistrate, a member of the establishment, raging against the light, railing against the (brilliant) reduction of ‘T b r nt t b’? Or, indeed do we embrace the revolution of a world without vowels?

A piece that wore the questions it raised very lightly. Thought provoking and fun. A winning combination.

Porlock by A V Laidlaw

‘Xanadu in concrete…’ This was my favourite opening out of all the entries. A vivid contrast that grabbed my interest straight away and has stuck in my mind ever since.

I will also put my hand up and admit to a little subjective bias. I live in London and took a keen interest in what I assume this story relates to…the graffiti ridden skate park on the Southbank and ‘graffiti alley’ in Waterloo and the risk they face from gentrification and development.

But aside from the factual relevance what stood out for me in this story was how it reduced the mythical: ‘Xanadu’, ‘Sacred Thames’ to the mundane: the ‘dismal school days’ and ‘the stink of the gym’.

All at the hands of a jaded jobsworth who cannot see the wood for the trees, whose being is consumed with the petty idea of getting his own back, excellently portrayed in the phrase “he puckers a tiny smile”.

Mr Porlock hates games. I don’t think much of him either.

4th Place

X-Games by asgardana

A rite of passage story given a thoroughly modern makeover.

At the core of this story is a friendship between Carla and Kyle, both coming terms with the inevitable changes of adolescence.

There is an honesty and openness in their relationship that shines through the tricky subject matter.

Kyle’s curious to know more. Carla’s secure enough to start coming to terms with who she might be: strong enough to do so on her terms, rather than Kyle’s, but forgiving enough not to completely cut him out when he realises the mistake he’s made.

Carla’s a great character – I’d like to know more about her.

In today’s age, where x-rated material is so freely available to skew impressionable minds, it was reassuring to read a story that touches on this subject matter, but ultimately is about a boy and a girl getting to know each other as friends, rather than objects.

So while this piece of flash fiction stands by itself, it has the potential to withstand being fleshed out into something more substantial and longer. That’s why it made my top four.

3rd Place

Skater Girl by F. E. Clark

Oh, I did like this in your face character mea culpa. Setting out its uncompromising stall in a compelling first sentence the piece doesn’t stop until that dismissive last line.

It spoke to who we project ourselves to be versus how we see our ‘real’ interior selves and how we continue to reconcile the two as time passes.

So our skater girl is now a city girl? (“I hit the 180” is a great, double layered meaning of a flash fic sentence). Is she a sell out? Is she looking for your opinion goofyfoot? Judge away, she’s walking on by in her Jimmy Choo’s.

But then again, can she really be a skater girl, down to her core? Is she simply kidding herself?

Telling yourself a thing doesn’t necessarily make it so.

And then… there is the perspective of age and the question she has yet to ask herself or understand…how long does your past define you? Before it fades over the horizon and you forget who you really were all those long years ago?

But for now, she’ll keep it hidden, be as ‘cold as stone’. Tell herself ‘It’s all a game’ and not worry about any future reckoning.

Tough, sassy and full of the certainty of youth. All good stuff.

I love stories that get me thinking, that ask questions of myself, that raise more questions the more I think about them. This one certainly did. I have probably returned to this story and thought about it more than any other. That’s why it made my top three.

2nd Place

A World Divided by X by Brian S Creek

This is just an absolutely top notch, piece of writing.

I wasn’t sure whether the author had read my bio, with its passing reference to science, but as soon as I read the opening sentence, I hunkered down, certain that I was in for a treat.

And what a treat. 100 odd words and the author has established context, backstory, place, motive, the outline of a plot and developed the main character. Phew

“I eat when I can, sleep when I can. The rest of the time I hunt the bastards down” is an awesome bit of writing. It’s simple, short, punchy and at the end I really felt like I know this women, understand what makes her tick, who she is…

The bookends were seamless and the writing beguilingly effortless. Every word serves a purpose and as soon as I’d finished reading it, I read it right the way through again, muttering to myself ‘blimey, I wish I’d written this.’

It is a lean, mean, absolute masterclass in flashfic.

Forget about the MC being on top of her game.  There’s only one person on top of their game here, and that’s the author. Brilliant stuff.

Winner

When the Student Becomes the Master by Brian S Creek

X.

Y.

Z.

I have to be honest and say I wasn’t entirely sure where this was going to start with, but what unfolded was a quietly heartbreaking tale of a dyslexic father helping one son with his homework while playing with his other.

The photo prompt was incorporated in an original way, and I liked the way the author, title aside, kept the reader on their toes and the story unobvious until the teacher /pupil relationship was inverted in the middle of the passage.

The sentence ‘I struggled with it back in the day and it ain’t no easier now’ has a lovely forward momentum that segues into the MC’s building sense of resignation and failure that ‘Frank down the road doesn’t let it beat him down’ before finally boiling over into a sense of frustration that his child’s toy is mocking him.

And then, suddenly, the story ends, with a simple question:

‘Would you like to play a game?’

I found the juxtaposition between the simplicity of the question, the patience of one son and the unquestioning love of another, eager to play with his father, versus the father’s pent up emotions, certain that he is failing one child and will fail another, incredibly powerful and moving.

What will he do? Lash out or absorb his frustration, his anger? The question is left open, but the irony that the story allows the reader to see what a loving and capable father the MC is, even if he cannot fully appreciate it himself, only heightens the emotional impact of the ending.

It was incredibly difficult to choose between this and the second placed story. The latter won my head over, but this truly deft and skilful piece of writing won my heart. And in the end that’s what I went with – the poetry of the final question – it snagged my heart – and shone a light on the emotional core of a father’s relationship with his sons.

Congratulations to all you flashfic genies, and to this author in particular!

When the Student Becomes the Master

Brian S Creek

X.

Y.

Z.

How about W, for ‘who gives a crap’. Pythagoras, fractions, algebra; it’s all gibberish.

Graffiti on the page.

My son looks up with patient eyes. I’m supposed to be helping him with his homework but he’s the one teaching me.

I struggled with it back in the day and it ain’t no easier now. I used to blame the dyslexia but Frank down the road doesn’t let it beat him down.

My three-year-old walks over to me holding his new favourite toy, a second-hand Mr Spell. Damned thing is probably smarter than me too. It mocks me.

“Would you like to play a game?”