Tuesday, 17 December 2013

The Yellow Room 500 Word Flash Competition Winners

Flash Fiction Helps You Write Better says the caption on the image I've selected for this post. I certainly believe that's true. I think the essence of a great piece of fiction is what you don't say. Allow your reader to work it out for themselves and that way your reader will gain much more satisfaction from the story. Nowhere demonstrates this more completely than the Flash Fiction piece. There are so few words, there isn't room for background detail, lots of dialogue, character development or plot. The writer is aiming for a snapshot of a moment in time. The reader is left wondering, What's really going on here? It's what isn't said that's the most important thing.

Nothing demonstrates this more perfectly than the first three prizewinning stories, Brain Freeze by Freya Morris, Missing by Carol Warham and About Life by Amanda Huggins.

It took me a long time to judge this competition. You'd have thought it would have taken me less time, as the stories were less than 500 words each. However, I had to allow them to stew a while. Brain Freeze didn't grab me as much as some of the other entries on the first reading. Then I couldn't get the images out of my head and I wondered why. On re-reading, I noticed so much more was going on than I first realised. I then began to dwell more on the central character and what his life was like. At first glance it is a story about a man sitting on a bench eating an ice cream. Then we learn that he should be at work. He is a schoolmaster and should have been taking assembly that morning. So what has happened to make this usually responsible and upstanding man neglect his duties in this way? I'll let you read the story so that you can make up your own mind. Each time I read this story I gained more insight. A superb piece of writing. So simple, yet so effective.

Missing was another slow-burner. The first time I read this story, I wasn't sure what was going on. I almost completely missed the point. It was that last line: 'In the middle of the playground lies a small shiny, red buckle shoe, forgotten, lost.' that grabbed my attention. I couldn't get the image out of my head. On re-reading this story, I noticed more and more detail. In fact, it was the attention to detail that had me hooked. This is a highly atmospheric piece and there are several powerful images. The way the writer personifies the elements such as the breeze made this particular reader sit up and take note. Stylistically, this is a difficult one to pull off, but Carol did so, effortlessly. This story has great resonance and tugs strongly on the reader's emotions.

About Life drew me in the first time I read it. That first line: 'The fields are crouched low in the winter sunlight' is wonderful. I knew from the outset that this writer has a wonderful feel for language; something I always look for in a winning story. Her characters leap off the page and we immediately empathise with both of them. Again, this writer pays great attention to detail. Every gesture; every word; every action has significance. Amanda Huggins doesn't have to tell us how these characters feel about the tragedy in their lives or how they'll cope in the future, she shows us with unflinching honesty. The ending could have been clich├ęd, but Amanda shies away from the easy option and creates a more believable character as a result.

Tantric Twister by Tracy Fells deserves a special mention, because it has an excellent twist.  Again, both the characters and the situation are real and true. The story also raises a smile and brings hope. Recklessness, fun and sex aren't just for the young, but also for the young at heart. I also love the title!

Judging this competition has taught me so much about Flash Fiction and has made me eager to write more Flash pieces myself. Thank you to all who took part.



Monday, 9 December 2013

The Yellow Room Flash Competition Shortlist

I've now drawn up a shortlist from the twenty-eight longlisted Flash pieces entered in The Yellow Room 500 Word Flash Competition:

About Life
Ball
Black Soles
Brain Freeze
Carrying a Torch
He Brought Me Orchids
Identity Crisis
Journey
Missing
Talking About Horses
Tantric Twister
Traces
Underneath Her Clothes
Where There's Life

I have also been a guest on two blogs this past week. Susan Howe kindly asked me to write an article about the WriteOnSite Competition, which you can read here. I was also delighted to be interviewed by Vanessa Gebbie for her blog. Both helped to give sales of my short story collection, Twisted Sheets, a bit of a boost over the weekend.

I hope to be able to announce the Flash Competition winners by the end of this week.

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

The Yellow Room Flash Competition Longlist

Better late than never... Here are the 28 longlisted stories in The Yellow Room Autumn Flash Competition:
Journey 
Traces
Underneath Her Clothes
The Box
Baobab
Where There's Life
Black Soles
Brain Freeze 
After The Event 
The Bridge
Ball
About Life
Missing
Closing The Door
Carrying A Torch
Awake
The Tooth
Sugar and Spice
Lost and Found
Cuts
Tolling
Mine
He Brought Me Orchids
Granny Smith
Talking About Horses
Penny For The Guy
Identity Crisis
Tantric Twister


I hope to have the shortlist drawn up by tomorrow.

In other news.... I've just received my first 5 star review on Amazon for my short story collection, Twisted Sheets.