The fourth in our series of prompts from David Swann, winner of the 2021 Novella in Flash Award. Our 20th single flash award, judged this round by Karen Jones, closes tomorrow, Sunday 6th February at midnight GMT. There’s a prize pot of £1460 and an opportunity to be published in our year-end festival anthology if you reach the longlist of 50. If you want inspiration for a last minute flash, look at David’s idea below. He gives an example about how he used Ekphrasis in his novella in flash, Season of Bright Sorrow.
Ekphrasis is one of the oldest tricks in the book, used by Homer in The Iliad. It’s when one art form responds to another, e.g. you write a poem about a painting. In Season of Bright Sorrow, on p. 79, I connected the wandering boy Archie to an ancient artwork in a church, and incorporated a description of the prop, as ekphrasis usually does.
Archie spotted the stone as he trotted home at last, past the open door of the church. It was a hogsback, the sign said –a curved grey oblong that the Vikings had cut to resemble a wild boar. It had lain exposed for centuries in the graveyard on the headland before being dragged indoors. There was another plaque explaining something about the stone’s purpose, probably to guard an important grave, but Archie was entranced by the object, and never had time to absorb the words. He used one finger to trace a stag and a wolf. There were trees too, and what felt to his finger like birds, but it was the snake that held him, a braiding of stone that formed the frame for the carvings. Its scales made the hogsback scary and reptilian, as if a fossilised crocodile had washed up. What Archie liked most of all was the giant human figure
which had braced itself beneath the serpent and raised both arms as if in celebration of a goal. The figure’s outstretched arms looked like they were supporting the full weight of the snake. Archie smiled. The figure was going to hoy that massive creature into the sea.
‘Can I help you, young lad?’
No, Archie never had the time. He loved an old church until someone in a collar or a uniform turned up, the vicar or the sexton. Then that was that for Archie – he was offski.He was fast, true. He ran like a hare. What he missed was some muscle. Maybe if he trained, he’d end up like that Viking giant, lift his enemies in the air and throw them in the sea.
Attempt the same — take a wandering character and connect them in some way to an artwork that fascinates you.
You’ll find interesting examples of ekphrasis here:
Guest Blog: 10 Examples of Ekphrasis in Contemporary Literature by Patrick Smith.