Elisabeth's story was placed second in New Flash Fiction Review’s, Anton Chekhov Prize for Very Short Fiction. Have a read to avoid spoilers: 'She Said Her Favourite Colour Was Haddock.'
When I think of Elisabeth’s stories, I think of surprising language. I remember her winning story in TSS Publishing’s Flash Fiction 400 Competition: ‘Space Hopped,’ which uses some wonderfully unexpected combinations of words.
The title of this story: ‘She Said Her Favourite Colour Was Haddock,’ says it all. If you’re looking for a story to read — why wouldn’t you choose this one? Using ‘haddock,’ as a colour is a great example of Elisabeth’s approach to language. Such playful use of language is apparent again in the early part of her story: “I’ll just slit you up in bed she said, and we laughed at the thought of hot blood gushing down my fat belly till I died.” This slip of the tongue, combined with the vivid image to follow, stays with the reader for the rest of the story.
I really like the use of reported speech and the absence of speech marks, that somehow makes the characters' interaction more immediate. Here’s a great example of how, for me, it really works: “We’re not dead yet, she said. We need light.” (Quotation marks are mine.) We see two big ideas coming together, taking their place of opposition in the reader’s mind in a way that is never melodramatic, but very real. Because of the story’s subject matter, it would be easy to fall back on sympathy, but this story never does that. Instead, there is a dark humour and uplifting positivity throughout.
The joy in this story, for me, lies in its surprise. With almost every line, words are juxtaposed in a manner we do not expect. Take a look at this: “She cleaned and bandaged the ghost of it.” Or: “She curled her palm into the concave of my cut out spaces.” These are beautifully poetic images.
This story, like all of Elisabeth’s writing, offers space between ideas, which can be a tricky technique to pull off, always used at the risk of losing the reader. I love stories that test this tension, and this is a great example of it working. Elisabeth's story never loses contact with the reader, and like the relationship between the two characters in the story, the reader and story meet halfway, the sparks of contact firing whenever unusual and surprising language is used.
A beautiful piece of flash fiction.
Note to self: Remember to use unusual and surprising combinations of words.
Read Neil Clark's story on 'Elephants Never' to avoid spoilers: 'Aurora.'
I sometimes wonder whether I’m drawn to a particular piece of flash fiction because I can’t imagine writing it myself, or whether it’s because I can imagine writing it myself. Well, this time, with Neil Clark’s ‘Aurora,’ on Elephants Never, I know it's definitely the former.
The overall tone of this piece is a wonderful combination of wholesome flirtation and colourful metaphysics. The first line, ‘When I cook for you, your face lights up,’ offers the first indication of the characters’ loving relationship and the first reference to ‘light.’ The first person narration, who speaks to ‘you,’ invites the reader into the relationship, making us a part of the narrator's extravagant teasing.
The carelessness of matching the ‘pilot shot-for-shot,’ makes me smile, as does the thought of listening to the pilot's anecdotes before jumping out of the aeroplane as it ‘careers into the side of a cliff.’ It is at this point the romantic metaphysics kick in. There’s the wonderful image of the narrator, ‘parachuting back home through the polar light with the flames from the cliff warming my back.’ And the touch of collecting the aurora in a ‘dusty Glenmorangie bottle,’ is spot on and makes me happy.
The aurora, then, is the secret ingredient that makes the narrator’s cooking so special. And all this time I’ve been using Worcestershire Sauce to woo the ladies.
The more I read and write flash fiction, the more aware I am of last lines. Think of the acrobat who carries out her cartwheels and flips expertly, only to stumble and fall on the dismount. When I read the last line of ‘Aurora,’ I see an acrobat doing that thing with her arms above her head, and saying ‘ta-dah.’ I’m a sucker for vivid colours in description, and this last line is very well done indeed. As our characters pant their, ‘heavy mint greens and hot scarlet,’ I see the aurora streaming above the north pole.
A fantastic piece of flash fiction.
Note to self: Remember to stick the landing. (ta-dah!)