Competition Six Judges Report by Martha Lane

Firstly, congratulations to anybody who entered this competition. Flash is a tricky beast, 300 words to tell a complete tale, 300 words to take the reader (and your characters) on a journey. 300 words to wow. It’s no mean feat. So, anybody who put pen to paper (fingers to a keyboard) should feel proud of themselves.

I love reading flash fiction – dare I say it, the poetry of the prose world. These stories pack such emotional punch, allow for lyricism and unusual perspectives. The breadth of topics covered in the longlisted stories was staggering, I was transported through themes of ghosts, home, migration, love, moths. You name it. I feel the best flash fictions have knock-out first lines and endings that linger. And I hope you agree that the selected five stories do just that.

The shortlisted ‘Light Romance’ offered a very different perspective indeed, and while I enjoyed this moth’s need to be loved, I felt it said just as much about the human condition as it did the insect! ‘Palimpsest’ was another story from an unusual perspective, one from beyond this Earthly realm. The significance placed on the every-day was an effective way to scrutinise loss.

The highly commended, ‘The Price of Love’ was funny and fun. I so enjoyed this hopeful, hopeless romantic. I love how the writer builds cliché upon cliché leading the reader in one direction to have the last line, full of humour (and perhaps a little melancholy depending on your persuasion) land us somewhere completely different. ‘The End’, my second highly commended story, with its superb opening line, sets a very different tone indeed. Some of the language used in this piece was just beautiful, ‘The sun was back and it covered you in gold leaf’ and re-reads kept offering new meanings to this tale of growing up and moving on.

My winner ‘Fight, Flight and Freeze’ (and if I am honest, I knew this story was my winner from the very first read) struck me with its unique format as well as its turns of phrase ‘the fat, wet snowflakes are effortless liars.’ Yes please. With so much left unsaid the story, or possible story, bubbles under the surface leaving it open to interpretation. It is a brilliant how-to of show don’t tell storytelling.