Monday, August 10, 2015

The Sounds Like Trouble Sean Ferrell Flash Fiction writing contest results

There is an earlier post this morning honoring a specific entry.

The caliber of entries is so high now that entries which would have been finalists and possibly winners just a year ago, do not even make the list. 

What I find interesting is there is no consistency week to week with who is on the list of finalists. The entire lot of you are getting better. It's getting to be exactly the kind of problem I love to have.

Herewith the results.

Special recognition for the Perils of Pongo!
Lobo 8:04am

I'm not sure why I love this sentence but I do
Matthew Wuertz 8:19am
"It had been smart enough to get into the shed but dumb enough to get into the home-grown nitroglycerin."

Special recognition for a great line
KayC 9:06am
"Half is never enough."

Terri Lynn Coop 1:20pm
"I need to replevin my underwear."

Actually this may be one of the great lines of all time here
Terri Lynn Coop 1:20pm
"I was suddenly glad this robe covered my opinions."

Special recognition for an opening line that really catches the reader's attention!
Steve Cassidy 8:17pm
She was mindlessly skinning a cat in our kitchen when I walked in.

Special recognition for a great phrase
Kitty 1:20pm
"hung in the silence like a shroud"

This isn't quite a story, but I love love love the premise here
delicartoons 9:56am

Not quite a story but I love the structure
Christina Seine 10:47am

A phrase we need to use more often
Lance 11:08ak
"Thorazine Armada, stand by"

The start of what could be a very interesting story
mugandmuse 12:23pm

Not quite a story but I love love love the vivid writing
Megan V 1:29pm
Ashland 2:03pm

I love the idea of this story!
Erin Szczechowski 11:26pm

I want to join the Imperial Rogues!
CED 12:11am

A story I loved and desperately wanted to trim just a bit.
Firebeard 7:09am
“Worst. Nativity scene. Ever,” said the judge. “My eyes are numb. Mary looked like a Barbie doll, Joseph was wearing a spacesuit, and what's with the animals? There were supposed to be sheep! The Adoration of the Shepherds! NOT the Adoration of the Dinosaur-herds. Your dinosaurs look feral, anyway. That's a big no from me. Amanda?”

A female voice spoke. “No, I thought they were ghastly. Better luck next time, guys. Chin up.”

The door opened. “Bedtime.”

“But mum...”

A wry smile. “You can play Simon Cowell again tomorrow. Go to sleep.”

She put her toys back in the box.


Here are the finalists

(1) Timothy Lowe 8:02am

Scene from tomorrow:
No Chance Lake. Flaming fiberglass on the water.
Eyes of the crowd melting in numb denial. Eddie’s singed hair awry, fireproof suit not so fireproof.
Engine split in rotiferal defeat.

Scene from today:
Slim Chance Lake. Sprinting hull racing water.
Numberless eyes wide in denial. Eddie wearing his wry smile like a trump suit. Beneath, fauna scatter in poriferal terror, whispering “Neptune’s loose!”

Scene from yesterday:
Big Chance Lake. Marie tinkers beneath the hood, feral eyes narrow on each gear. Suitors galore have numbed her hard heart and Eddie should have kept his eyes on the dowry.

Things to notice here: obviously the reverse chronology. The name of lake changes each day. "rotiferal" and "poriferal"
And holy smokes, just read this out loud.
And then there's this: "fauna scatter in poriferal terror, whispering “Neptune’s loose!”

That sentence is sublime. It says everything about speed and noise without saying anything about volume or velocity. In other words: gorgeous subtle writing.

(2) Amanda Capper 8:03am

The scene: Office of feral numbskull foxy lawyer in wrinkled suit discussing first chipmunk’s dowry.

(First chipmunk): But

(Lawyer): no buts about it, sweetcakes, it’s all gone.

(Second chipmunk): Then our marriage is annulled.

(First): No!

Lawyer: The nuts market dropped. The oak forest crashed. Later, Dudes. (Turns to leave. Shot rings out, lawyer drops dead)

Second: Duck!

First: No! Skunk!

(Skunk saunters out, smoking pistol in paw)

Skunk: Your nuts are safe. Foxy squirrelled them away for his own winter hoard.

Second: Bastard! (Turns to first) Wonderful! Our marriage is saved!

First: You’re nuts. (First embraces Skunk. Curtain drops)

Totally hilarious. The "Duck! No! Skunk" pairing is perfect.

And dare I hope that "Later, Dudes" means this is a same-sex chipmunk marriage? 
Plus: all the prompt words in that first sentence!

(3) SiSi 9:23am
1. My night job is cleaning sweets at the hotel.

    I think you mean “suites” here— big rooms? “Sweets” are candy, cakes, etc. Watch your spelling :)

2. Sometimes plans go a wry.

    “Awry” is one word. Remember to check your vocabulary list!

3. His body got number when he couldn’t breathe.

    “more numb” is generally clearer-- what do you mean by this sentence?

4. The feral held the wire noose together.


5. I scene what you did.

    “Saw” or “have seen”

Come by my office later today. Let’s make sure you get everything you want from this class.

I always love finding new words that really fit the story. Here it was ferrule. And this made me laugh on the initial read, then when I read it again, I gasped with delight.

For those of you who've mentioned you don't understand subtle or nuance when I make reference to it in a story, this is a good example this week.

On the first read, it's clearly a teacher correcting an essay or list of vocabulary words a student is using in sentences.

On the second read, the student may be misusing the words, but s/he's actually telling the teacher s/he saw what the teacher did at hotel in the suite, using a garrote to kill someone. And the final sentence sets up what I think is a perfect ending: the teacher is telling the student to come to his/her office" and "get what she wants."  It's exquisitely unclear if this is a bribe or a threat.

And I always love it when words are used incorrectly but demonstrate character or illuminate plot in their error.

(4) Dena Pawling 11:44am
Evolution of a relationship:

First date, Outback:

Her, staring at the book on the table: “You reading Numb?”

Me: “Yeah. Supposed to be an awesome book by some feral author who wears an empty suit.”

Her, eyes wide: “Like, he lives in the subway tunnels or some such scene?

Me, with wry smile: “Something like that.”

Fourth date, Denny's:

Her, incredulous: “Why do you always have a book?”

Me, disappointed: “Why do you never have a book?”

Last date, McDonald's:

Her: “Sorry. I... I just... can't see this working.”

Me: “Why not?”

Her: “That... that author... he doesn't like koalas!”

Well, who wouldn't love this? It's all of Sean's novels, although how you know about the unpublished one ["e lives in the subway tunnels"] I do not know.

The only thing I'd change here is leaving off the title. It telegraphs the story too early.

And I love that there's no sense of how many dates pass between #4 and The Last. That's a lovely subtle touch.

(5) Donnaeve 1:31pm
April 2014, the diagnosis is delivered. Soon, we know. Small town news travels fast.

Nerve cells gone awry, the feral consumption of muscles and abilities begins. A slow process, one you’re not suited for.

Time passes. Physical abilities wane.

No more ten miler Saturdays or fishing trips. No walking. Talking.

We try and do our part, accepting the challenge time and again.
Scenes capture dozens of us dumping ice water over our heads, as if to numb ourselves.

June 2015, ventilation is necessary. Facebook updates go silent.
Memories comfort, strengthen.

They’re what’s left.

Along with inevitable knowledge.

And the waiting.

Ok, so I can hear you asking "what makes this a story and not some of the others?" This has a beginning (the first line); it has a middle ("we try and do our part") and it has an end (June 15)

There's change in the story (no more walking. Talking)

but what makes this story stand out is the rhythm. Look at how the sentences get shorter, as do the lines as though the narrator no longer has breath or strength. 

And the line that makes this heartbreaking "as if to numb ourselves"

This evoked intense emotion and is beautifully written.

(6) Just Jan 8:53pm

"Free association," my shrink says.

I nod. We've played before.


Damned thing came out of nowhere. "Feral."


I look suitably ashamed. "Inebriated."


Planted by my great-great-granddaddy. "Unscathed."


My brother's pissed. "Totaled."


They're angry, too. "Numb."


So I got arrested. Does he have to harp on it? "Embarrassing."


This is supposed to be the scene where I let him undress me, and he keeps me out of juvy for another week. But today I go awry. "Rapist."


He's faster than I. Our eyes lock as he plunges the needle into my arm. "Murder."

I like the lean elegance of this; the fast pace. There are no wasted words. The story is revealed elliptically, which is the purpose of free association of course, but the story that's revealed isn't the one you think it is at the start.

(7) allierat 9:29pm
“Help! My wool suit’s gone feral!” Neal yelled from above.
I raced upstairs to a messy scene. Tatters of silk, strips of linen, and bits of cotton layered the bedroom floor. The suit had attacked my special wry neck pillow; the pillow had vomited its feathers in fear. I felt numb with terror.
His hands bloody, Neal wrestled with the herringbone tweed. “Get scissors!” he screamed.
Instead, I grabbed Neal’s hunting knife from the closet and hacked the suit into pieces. It finally went limp.
“That does it!” I panted, surveying the carnage. “From now on, only polyester!”

the concept of a suit gone feral is just too wonderful not to recognize.

(8) Pharosian 2:33am
When I rolled up, Ortega's unit had already arrived. I climbed out of my cruiser and ducked under the yellow crime scene tape.

"What's the scoop?" I asked.

Ortega gestured to a man sitting on the curb wrapped in a blanket, bare legs sticking out.

Numbnuts over there decided to parade around the women's auxiliary club in his birthday suit."

"So, who's the D. B.?"

Ortega flashed a
wry smile. "Seems two of the ladies fought like feral hyenas and one of them stabbed the other."

"Fought about. . .?"

"Whether to call the police or invite him in."

there's just nothing like a good story with a great punch line.
This made me laugh out loud.

This week's winner is the first finalist: 
Timothy Lowe 8:02am. 

Timothy if you'll send me your mailing address, and the kind of books you like to read, we'll get you something delicious in the mail.

Congrats to all the finalists, and thanks to everyone who took the time to write an entry. It's a pleasure to read your work, and it's an increasing challenge to pick finalists, let alone a winner.


Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Good job guys.

AJ Blythe said...

WooHoo - first (I think).

Congrats to everyone on Janet's list, especially Timothy for topping the list. What you guys can do in 100 words astounds me!

AJ Blythe said...

Aww, you beat me 2Ns =)

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Oh my God I was first? Ha. I'm on vacation, watch out early risers. As usual great entries, awesome winner.

Janet, from the bottom of this humble heart, a thousand thank yous.

Anonymous said...

Strike a light! And people wonder why I have an inferiority complex! I mostly resign myself to mediocrity when there are entries like these :D

Having said that, there's an awful lot to learn from you guys, so thanks for the schooling :D

angie Brooksby-Arcangioli said...

I loved these entries. Participating and seeing who Janet chooses and why is a great learning experience. Thank you for the comments in blue.

Congrats to all mentioned. Timothy, hurrah.

SiSi's sublte meaning was lost on me but I knew there was something there. After Janet pointed it out, wow.

BTW Janet, there are two "i"s in the second "getting". I wouldn't point it out but you said you were on a typo kick. And if there is anyone who is typo queen it's me.

Kitty said...

I can see how it's getting more and more difficult for Janet to judge these contests. These are incredible! CONGRATS to Timothy for the winning entry!

I write regular stories and many of the reiders write exquisite stories ... in just 100 words! I suppose I should be pea-green with envy, but I'm not. I'm just grateful I can write regular stories which occasionally get recognition, because there was a time when I couldn't even write a regular story. Thank you, Janet Reid.

Donnaeve said...

First, I want to say I wrote FOUR entries. Every one of them a different genre. One about Appalachia. One about a hot summer with a silly twist. One of them about a mother and daughter after a father's death. And the one I entered. I wrote four b/c I realized how GOOD everyone is getting. Then I struggled to choose.

Obviously I'm very happy the one I did enter is a finalist. It's written to honor my running buddy David Fitchett. I wrote it for him because there's nothing I, or my husband, or anyone else of us can do. Every mile I run is to honor him, and for those who struggle with this life ending disease.

Thank you again Ms. Janet for your recognition and to Timothy Lowe for the win!!!

Julie said...

Congratulations everyone, esp first timers and Timothy for an awesome piece!

Lisa Bodenheim said...

Family reunion weekend so no chance to participate or savor the readings throughout the day.

For today's mentionables and the top 8--congrats. And to Timothy. Wow.

I have to say--I truly, truly appreciate Janet's school here. Yes, I'm another person who does not always get subtlety. How do some of you think like this?! I need to sharpen my brain and get studying. So I appreciate Janet's comments in blue and all of the talent here in this pool that teaches. It's not just about a wild imagination but requires skill and craft in the use of words and story structure. Turns my world upside down. And it's great.

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

Congratulations, everyone!

And Janet's mini-critiques of each finalist's story is such a great bonus.

Lance said...

Congratulations to Timothy. Great story. Congrats to the finalists. What a tough field. And to all the mentionables, great writing. Thank you, Ms. Janet, for your time and consideration for running these great contests -- and for the mention. I particularly benefit from the notes.

Where do we go from here, french sojourn? Are we out of poker terms? Great story.

Anonymous said...

Wow. I wrote the words down and managed to glance at them a couple times, but never had the chance to actually write anything. Probably a good thing, since I don't think I could have matched the caliber of the entries posted.

Congratulations to Timothy! Very well done. :)

Colin Smith said...

Congratulations finalists! And well done, Timothy--wow! Great story. You can tell how tough the competition's getting--I was sure I'd get at least a Special Mention for throwing a koala into my story! :) The caliber of writing's getting so high, I think the next contest should be called "The Don't Bother with a Query Letter Just Send Me Your Completed Manuscript Flash Fiction Contest"! ;)

Anonymous said...

Congratulations to Timothy. Good job indeed. Also congratulations to all those listed.

Janet's right. It's getting really tough.

Laura Mary said...

I always feel like something in my brain is improving when the same stories I go 'ooh' over are named as finalists. Sisi, Carolynn, Donna and Timothy - you all had me this week (Sisi, I still feel a horrible chill over 'I scene what you did...')
Not only are these contest making us better writers, I think they're making me a better reader too.

Unknown said...

Congratulations Timothy! Well done.

And also SiSi, what a diabolical imagination you have!

They were all wonderful, I'm honoured to be among the finalists.

Unknown said...

Wow, after rereading these finalists I must say I'm very humbled to have been chosen from them. SiSi - after another read I must say I would have picked yours for subtlety but also the chill effect. Donnaeve, when I first read yours I was awed with the amount of emotion and power it conveyed. It's the first time I've seen a 100 word entry do that. Sometimes there's something to be said for a piece of writing packing that much power into that all-important first read (we all know as writers, most times the first read is the only read).

I'm also glad Janet picked Amanda's as finalist. How many ways can you play on the word 'nuts'? Brilliant.

I've learned a ton from doing these. I wouldn't have written anything like this a few months ago. So thanks again, Janet, for allowing us all to learn from each other, and for your generous comments.

french sojourn said...

Congrats to Timothy, semifinalists, and all those that dipped their quills in blood. Extremely well done.

Lance, I think I'm going commando next along the beach unemcumbered without dragging 5 sets of prompts. Well done, I tip my hat to you it was a fun experiment. Exercise. burden...ooof!

Have a great vacation, happy chumming even.

Cheers Hank

CynthiaMc said...

Awesome job, y'all, especially Timothy.

Marc P said...

Well done everyone - I have to say it is a real pleasure reading these entries. Some lovely and some scary minds visit these parts, but all weaving a tale. I have to read them at different times so as to appreciate each in it's own right rather than purely to see how the 'words ' have fitted in. If life is like a box of chocolates - then there is a very big box of multicoloured candied delights always on offer here. And Janet's critiquing is always a marvel to read - above and beyond. :)

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

Congrats everyone; this is stiff competition!

Donnaeve: I know what you mean. I started with one, tried to change it to something else, then went back to my original because the switch felt disingenuous.

CED said...

Congrats to all the finalists and to Timothy for a great winning entry.

Thanks to all the entrants, because every story teaches me something. And thank you, Janet, for running the contests and putting on a mini writing clinic with the results.

Now I'm off to write some Tales of the Imperial Rogues... :)

Donnaeve said...

Thank you all again for seeing David's story for what it is.

I have to say, it was gut wrenching writing that piece. I guess you all could see that. I used to run four days a week with him, and those ten miler Saturday's seem like a dream now.

It was cathartic for me to write the story.

Theresa said...

Great, great Monday morning reading.

Anonymous said...

Great job, everybody! Congrats, Timothy!

Donna, David is very lucky to have a friend like you. And you are lucky to have a friend like him. Even if this time is painful for you and for him, you have made each other's life better.


Matthew Wuertz said...

Good job, everyone! I love these contests. It's a chance to take some prompts and try to craft a story in 100 words or less - a story format I don't use outside of the contests. It's a good exercise for being concise yet still trying to tell a good tale. Personally, I find the exercise is applicable to short stories and novels as well, and I think (or hope) it's helping me improve in those longer forms. This kind of tight, focused writing can pull people along through any story, regardless of the overall length.

Beyond writing an entry, the other fun part is looking at what others submit. I like seeing stories like Timothy's entry, where I'm thinking, "Wait. What? How did you just do that in 100 words?"

Marc P said...

It's a good point Matthew, I used to be (Still am I guess) a scriptwriter before turning to novels, poetry helped me in being one of those and the economy of expression and whittling to the bone is useful for these exercises I guess and the turning of a phrase - and the turning of a reader's expectation - sometimes hopefully doing both - is kinda essential in both the short and the long form. And fun of course.

Dena Pawling said...

Mwahahaha *rubs hands together*

How did Dena know? This mere mortal. How did she know the unknowable? The unpublished masterpiece among the published masterpieces.

Well, the girl commented on the book her date was reading. He, trying to be funny, gave her an "inside joke" answer with feral for Ferrell and mentioned a reference to another of his books. And she, not getting the joke in the least, had no clue how to respond. So I sat and thought -- what would a "feral author in an empty suit" bring to mind if you didn't get the joke.

The subway of course.

I'd love to keep Ms. Janet guessing forever, that does sound devilishly fun. But I will fess up. I had no idea! That's just the response that my brain came up with.

But surely this means it's an awesome title for his next book =)

So I'm an accidental finalist lol

Happy Monday and congrats to all the mentions and Timothy for the win!

LynnRodz said...

Congrats to Timothy, finalists and mentions!

Firebeard, I think we were on the same wavelength. On my first try, I ended my story with Simon Cowell and then submitted my second story instead. (Maybe I should've gone with the first.... Nah, it wouldn't have changed anything. Lol.)

Madeline Mora-Summonte and Michael Seese, I loved both your stories, as well.

Janet, your notes in blue are a great addition; they teach us a lot. Thank you.

(Boy, am I full of stupid mistakes today! Sorry, Janet.)

Anonymous said...

Cograts to Timothy and all the other mentions. Great work!

Janice L. Grinyer said...

I just spent the morning reading all the entries - Good reading! And Timothy, congrats :) along with the finalists and mentionables and everyone.

Janet, its always wonderful to read your "dissections" of these pieces so that we can say "I see what you did there" to the Authors! Having items pointed out to me that I may have missed really has helped me become a better reader, and writer.

And unfortunately or fortunately, im still in a basement in Bismarck. I might let myself out tomorrow as I have wrestled that damned chapter to the underground. That and we are running out of spinach dip and blue tortilla chips.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations Timothy, great job! Way to go finalists and mentions!

I don't envy Janet having to judge these contests. It takes the eye a shark to narrow down the awesome entries to just a select few! Congratulations everyone for raising the bar, good job.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

This writing family is a wonder for sure.

Those who journey with words travel an amazing communication highway. The bits of us tossed from our passenger side window litter lives in a good way I think.

Today I am so glad this rest stop exists.
Thanks Janet for directing the traffic, Colin for setting up the detour signs and driving the big-ass SUV we’re crammed in, Donna for her sense of direction and Julie for the stories from the back seat that keep us kids entertained. I want to name you all but I don’t think I can. You know who you are - the readers, writers, lurkers, contest enterers and those who want to enter, want to comment, want to reply but, for whatever reason, are hesitant to do so. I know it’s been said before, but for me today is proof positive that what we have here is special.

So what is that I hear from the rowdy yahoos jam-packed in the way-back, the ones on the torn bench seat knee deep in chip bags, chicken bones and beer bottles, “...are we there yet?”
Almost my friends, almost.

Thanks guys. I can’t think of anyone I’d want to be on this trip with than all of you.

Terri Lynn Coop said...

As usual, a superb crop of finalists and Timothy's winner was delicious.

Congrats to the shout-outs and I'm proud to be in your company.

[And my own personal kudos to whoever wrote the tale about the babysitter being seduced, that one was a delightful slow burn.]


Kate Larkindale said...

What a great bunch of stories! Congrats to Timothy and all the finalists.

Amy Schaefer said...

Amazing entries, as always. This place is a reader's paradise.

Just Al said...

Congratulations Timothy, the finalists and the mentions.

And thank you, Janet. Your comments are very helpful.

Just Jan said...

As always, so much fun, both to write and to read. Congratulations to Timothy and to the other finalists and mentions! And, Janet, thank you so much for the effort you put into judging these contests. I feel like I've participated in a really intense masterclass after reading your comments.

Cindy C said...

Congratulations to Timothy and the other finalists and mentions--and everyone who enters. I love reading all the entries, and like others have said I learn more about good writing every week! Especially now that Janet is sharing her thoughts.

I'm thrilled to be a finalist, and thrilled that my story was clear enough to understand. Of course I worried that it was too subtle!

With September and the start of school looming, my mind got stuck on "oh no, I have to grade soon," so I decided to write what I know.

The grading, I mean, not the murder in a hotel room.

Anonymous said...

SiSi: Well, you know what they say: Write what you know... :P

(Which I always figured should be shifted around to: Learn everything you can to make your characters and settings real.)

Unknown said...

Congrats to Tim (great entry) and all of the finalists! The talent never ceases to amaze me!

John Frain said...

OH my gosh, what great entries. Timothy, Sisi, LynnRodz, 2Ns, so many others. Wow.

This is why I don't allow myself to read any until I've entered. If I had seen the very first freakin' entry, I woulda just allowed myself to go start the weekend.

I tried to join Lance and Hank, but instead of using previous prompt words I used first lines from novels (including Mr. Ferrell). But as Lance & Hank have likely discovered, it's just a way to take something so difficult (the contest) and make it virtually impossible (adding additional rules!). I don't know how you guys keep up. Let's pretend we're in Geneva. Sign a treaty and call it a truce, you've both mastered the art of the impossible.

Lance said...

John, I saw your entry and was intrigued by it. Well done. It has been an interesting exercise or oof, but I agree with you and french sojourn and agree to the truce. Well done, indeed.

Colin Smith said...

John: Likewise--I don't read any of the entries until after I've posted mine. Two reasons: First, like you, I don't want to be intimidated out of entering, and second, I don't want to second-guess my story because of other entries (e.g., "Ooo, John's has a really cool use of dongle--maybe I should change mine..."). :)

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Colin, put your dongle away honey. That's a good boy.
Jeez Louise, boys and their toys.

LynnRodz said...

John, thanks for the mention and for the explanation. I have enough trouble using the 5 words without adding harder rules like Hank, Lance and you have done. Bravo to all three of you.

Janice L. Grinyer said...

Carolynn with two N's please forgive me! I reread just now what I had written earlier on concerning your eloquent truth story and I did not ADD THE SECOND N.

So now I know why your moniker is "Carolynnwith2Ns". We will learn, we will! :)

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

That's okay Ja_ice, I just took one of yours :)

KayC said...

This is a very special place to visit. The banter, the encouragement, the praise, the guidance (and occasional bite) through the currents and the deep. And the stories - they are the cream on top. So much to learn, so much to enjoy, not nearly enough time!

Karen McCoy said...

Agree with John (a day late). You guys are blowing the socks off everything. Special mention for Jennifer's entry--hers was another spectacular that didn't make the list.

Panda in Chief said...

I am looking forward to being on the east coast this week, so that I will have a chance at commenting while there is still someone around to hear me.