February 2018 – Flash fiction – 300 Words

JUDGE’S REPORT: FLASH FICTION, FEBRUARY 2018

I’ve read and re-read these entries and FINALLY narrowed them down to the three top stories and a highly commended. So difficult! The story We Belong was excellent apart from the final sentence which was a bit mangled and made it read as though the wrong person fired the gun. Otherwise it would have been a definite place.

In a couple of them I couldn’t resist suggesting changes – hope the writers don’t  take that amiss. My choices are:

  1. Buckle Up, by Candice Wedermann
  2. A Bitter Pill to Swallow, by Julia McInnes
  3. The Mangled Valentine’s Day Heart, by Lynne Savy
    Highly Commended: We Belong, by Anne Harbinson

General remarks

When you give sixteen writers three hundred words to play with, they certainly come up with an interesting miscellany of stories.

The three elements of a taxi, an old enemy and Valentine’s Day  produced some really inventive and varied pieces. Without exception, these all made for good reads. Choosing only three winners was almost impossible, so many were nearly there.

Surprisingly, the word Valentine’s Day triggered several murders or attempted murders, and revenge. In fact, the three winning stories, as well as the Highly Commended, all included a sticky end of some sort, inspired by the mention of an old enemy, I suppose. And drama is always fun to write and makes for a sharp story.

But there were some with romantic themes:  Picture Perfect; My Valentine; A Valentine Moment; A Taxi, an old enemy and Valentine’s Day. These all hinted at love and romance to follow.

There was a journey into the future with sci-fi (Destiny’s Taxi) and back in time to Hitler’s bunker (A Bitter Pill to Swallow). There was a good twist (Any day can be Valentine’s Day) and a fantasy (The Trevi Excursion). All interesting and original developments of the theme.

Although every one kept to the strict 300 word count, I was struck by how so many included superfluous words and phrases which could have been omitted, freeing up space to add layers to the characterisation or background. This wouldn’t mean that it read as though it had been written in shorthand… words could still flow well but leave out the fluff!

On the other hand, some of these stories would expand well and turn into 1000 word stories which could be subbed for financial reward to magazines – always a good thing – or to websites which accept short stories. Although there is no pay with most of these, there is great satisfaction in seeing your work up there for thousands to read, and many of them have useful and constructive feedback from readers. (I’m thinking http://www.shortbreadstories.co.uk or http://www.eastoftheweb.com although there are hundreds more).
GINNY SWART
SA WRITERS’ COLLEGE, CAPE TOWN

SAWC FEBRUARY 2018 FLASH FICTION COMPETITION: 1st PLACE

Buckle Up
By
August Baxter (Candice Wedermann)
300 words

“Eric,” I sound surprised.

“Shit! Klary? Since when do you take cabs?” his tone is accusatory.

“Since some asshole wrote off my car with a half-naked chick in the passenger seat,” I say smoothly, just how I have rehearsed.

“Right,” he pauses. “Look, I’ll get out, you take the cab,” he says turning to open the door.

“No,” I say too forcefully, “No, its really fine. We can share,” I say it more politely, seductively even.

As he clicks in his seat belt he mumbles about how if I don’t mind that would be great, that he is running late to meet someone. At least he has the respect not to tell me what he is running late for. I already know where he is going: Valentine’s dinner at a posh restaurant with the half-naked girl from the front seat of my car. Too bad her body didn’t get mangled when he hit that pole and the car spun into the harbour.

‘They have both made it out without a scratch,’ the paramedic had said.

‘Both?’ I had asked. It was a tough way to find out that your fiancé prefers blondes.

We take the route along the coastline. Eric doesn’t notice; he is typing furiously on his cellphone. After a few minutes he attempts to make small talk. I’m not interested.

The car doesn’t spin out, no squeal of brakes. We drive smoothly through the fragile barrier into the cold ocean with a heavy splash.

Eric’s eyes become wild with panic, I like to think he knows what is happening. His hands manically press to release his seat belt, unfortunately for him it wont budge; the release button is broken.

Neatly I undo my seat belt.

Charlie turns around from the front seat, “Ready to go, baby?”

 

GINNY SWART

SA WRITERS’ COLLEGE