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.