Flash Fiction February 2020 – “No Rhyme, Or Reason”

I’m honored to have done the illustrations for this year’s Flash Fiction February 2020 at Fictive Dream, an online fiction magazine featuring short stories. How about twenty-nine days of flash fiction, one story a day? For the event, I created a small abstract painting for each selection – in fact, I did more than one painting per story, and this year, I will show you all the images, day by day, throughout February.

I’ll also give you a short write-up as to how I went about turning the authors’ words into pictorial representations. I hope you’ll take a look at my art, then go to Fictive Dream, see which image editor Laura Black chose for the magazine, and read the story that inspired my illustrations.

I’d like to say thank you to Laura for her faith in my work and to the authors for such wonderful material to work with.

Today’s story is:

No Rhyme, Or Reason by Jude Higgins. Read it here at Fictive Dream.

Here are the artworks on their own:

and here they are with the banner.


This story draws from many well-known fairy tales to construct a portrait of a woman in despair and not coping well with loss. There are humorous elements to it, but overall it’s a sad story with lots of human conflict and disappointment presented in somewhat surreal terms of what are thought of as simple stories told to amuse children.

Image 39 – In this image I took the popular idea of fairy stories as being a children’s genre and used bright colors for the illustration. The story is full of elements from the various tales, but the baby in the cradle hung from the tree is the dominant motif. I decided to focus on this aspect and set the baby in a carrier (inspired by those of Native Americans) hanging from a pink tree.

Image 40 – In this image I focused on the darker side of the story and used black as the background for a selection of elements mentioned in the text– the peeled onion (crying); the pickle jar needing a label (repetitive tasks to help with coping); the stairs (almost the scene of another death); and the baby hanging in a cradle from the tree branch to symbolize either of the two babies in the story.

Read the story at Fictive Dream.

7 thoughts on “Flash Fiction February 2020 – “No Rhyme, Or Reason”

  1. Fictive Dream

    Either image would have worked with this No Rhyme, Or Reason by Jude Higgins but I decided to go with image 39 because it reflects the nursery rhyme aspect of the story. And I love the bright colours that are reminiscent of childhood. I didn’t particularly want to give away the darker side of this piece which unfolds as the reader progresses. Beautiful artwork for the opening story. Thank you, Claudia.

    1. Claudia McGill Post author

      Thank you. This story had a lot of imagery to it and it was hard to decide what to extract from it – I did not want to overlay my own memories of fairy tales on the text. I decided to present two versions that were quite different due to the background color, but with similar bright colors and high contrast – for me, the story was unsettling right from the beginning – possibly how each paragraph ended in worry and sadness that could not be reassured away? I wanted to give Laura two choices – the dark one being more obvious as to how the story works out, though it’s not apparent at the beginning, or the lighter one reflecting the veneer under which the darker feelings lay and are revealed. I enjoyed this story very much, especially since I have always been a big fan of fairy tales.

  2. Laura (PA Pict)

    The chosen image seems the most apt to me. I think the confectionary colours speak to the facade of the innocent nursery rhymes but that movement of the cradle beneath the bough of the tree is suggestive of that undercurrent of risk and danger and potential tragedy.

    As someone who has endured the loss of a stillborn son, I perhaps brought an additional perspective to the story. When I experienced that tragedy, part of the grief was a feeling of being dislocated from the rest of the world. It feels as if everyone else is full of joy and contentment and perfection while your own life has gone awry and oppressively bleak. Therefore, the frothier, candy colours of the chosen image seemed to me to highlight that “othering” feeling that the narrator may be experiencing as she navigates her grief.

    1. Claudia McGill Post author

      That is an interesting perspective, the feeling that the rest of the world is perfectly happy and all is going along ok while the main character is not, and I think it’s very true in this story and in life.

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