Round 24: Winners

Posted: June 17, 2014 in Winners
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Greetings, friends. Many thanks to all the writers,  and special thanks to Jacki Donnellan for judging this group of stories. There was the usual outpouring of excellent work and Jacki has comments for everybody. Here we go…

What an honour to be sitting in the judge’s seat again! And once I took a peek at this week’s photo prompt, I couldn’t wait to see what stories those empty chairs would inspire. As always, there was a fantastic array of interpretations, and everyone made truly admirable use of the prompt.

Inevitably with this photo, themes of order and emptiness emerged, but in very different ways and to different effect in each story. In Stella’s story, “Tears of Fears”, the empty chairs are the irrational phobia of the protagonist, and we are so cleverly drawn in to focus on this (loved the line “I was gently lowered on to one of my fears”) that we don’t actually realize where we’re being led. Sadie is not about to abandon her principles in quite the way we first assume!

I really enjoyed the way in which Voima Oy’s “Midsummer at the Midland” employed the rows of chairs as a wonderful (and embarrassingly accurate) metaphor for college life- “a romantic comedy of musical chairs”- as well as the actual setting for the story: a midsummer wedding where the Shakespearian muddle is also played out, with an unexpected Queen of the Fairies emerging from the spare-chair cupboard.

The empty chairs were used to (literally) haunting effect by Karl A Russell in his story, “The Custodian”. I was really absorbed in the description of the rows of chairs as the carefully arranged representations of those who were to sit in them: “Here’s a seat for the weird kid…” And yet the story that we are actually reading is not revealed until the final paragraphs, when we realize that all those children have now been made equal in the most horrifying way, and the emptiness of the seats in the photo means much more than we initially think.

The chairs are at once empty and full in C Connolly’s story, “Only Words.” This story is the beautiful and skilful capturing of a moment. In speaking at a funeral, the seats in front of the speaker Ally seem empty and devoid of “those who know her, who she knows, of anyone at all” until after Ally has invested the moment with meaning by her words, which bring to life the person who has died and the way in which she will live on, so that the seats- and the hearts and minds of those listening- finally become “fully occupied.”

Beth Deitchman’s story “Order” is a beautifully layered piece. The writing in and of itself was enough to completely draw me in- I adored the description of Ephram sitting on one of those empty chairs, “feet dangling, back straight” and the abundance of lovely phrasing, “the ceiling boomed with boys’ feet” to name but one. But what I really loved about this story was how much was implied but never said, and the way Beth uses a one word title to tell the largest part of the story- that even the apparently fearless bullies cower beneath their school’s strict regime, which the victimised Ephram is clever enough to know.

In lossforwords360’s story, “No Time Like Showtime,” the chairs are never anything other than empty throughout the story, but we have no idea of that until the end. This is a classic and oft-used scene from so many movies-the daydreams of the humble cleaner which we as the viewer (or reader in this case) are able to enjoy. And yet Allie’s moment is so simply and charmingly described, I didn’t even see the twist coming!

In AJWalkers’s story, “History”, the perfect, precise order of the chairs is the final pattern on the pressure of life that “weigh{s} heavily on Iain’s shoulders, crushing him”. The description of Iain laying out the chairs in his church makes us feel increasingly uncomfortable, with its obsessive references to perfection, precision, tension, order. Iain’s eventual buckling is powerfully described in his sudden destruction of the order that he created, and we know from the last line that his troubles are far from over.

Such a wonderful collection of tales. I thoroughly enjoyed reading them all! But, hard though it is, I am charged to pick winners. So here goes:

Second Runner Up goes to Karl A Russell. The strength of Karl’s writing makes it impossible not to engage with this story.

First Runner Up goes to lossforwords360. Sometimes, a good piece of flash need be no more than the kind of heartwarming tale that we all love to read, told well and told simply. A delight!

And your Round 24 Flash Master is…

FLASH MASTER

Beth Deitchman

“Order”

This was, for me, a brilliant example of a story told both by the words that are used and the unwritten words lying beneath them; just the kind of story that a Flashmaster would write.

Congratulations Beth! Your story will be featured tomorrow as the HumpDay Quickie!

Next weekend the lovely and talented Voima Oy will be judging. It’s her first time, so be sure to show up with your best work! See you all on Saturday! 🙂

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