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Explosive First Lines in Recent Flash

November 2, 2013


I love it when a flash starts with a bang. The hook should explode me and all my reading habits, reducing me to the confetti of my own need for more–to know more, to savor more, to explode some more.

As a fan and a practitioner, I want an opening so piquant it makes those who place weirdly unnecessary demands on flash–that it be more story than poem– to just sit down and shut up.

By the way, you never ever hear the demand that flash contain all the elements of a short story only in compressed form,  stated so intensely the other way around, that for every sentence in your flash that doesn’t emphasize poetry you lose a finger…

“Mine or yours?” asks Chevy Chase in Spies Like Us. “Yours” replies the evil poetry-as-flash extremist.

It’s rare for those who staunchly boost the fiction underlying flash to be told upon announcing their politics to “use the back door when you come around here,” or “What, you kill babies, too?,” or else “I’m glad you told me. We’re breaking up.”

None of those apocalyptic scenarios would matter if these were the flash pieces in question. Because their first lines would blow up all the hubbub to smithereens, where most hubbub belongs, bub.

Here are ten from some of the best venues for flash. They’ve been ringing my ears and stinking up the place with pungent sulfur:

Escape Craft” by Bridget Dooley from Word Riot

Shit starts to go down because it’s the end of the world and, long story, the two of you steal his uncle’s escape craft.



Useless Animals” by Nathan Goldman from Word Riot

“By the time we woke, Kyla was gone, along with ten cans of peaches and a steak knife.”



An Accent Like Grief” by Michael Schmeltzer from Pank

From early on I’ve learned to hear accents like auditory Braille, bumps in language forming landscapes.



Night Swimming, July 4th 2012” by Alex Streiff from Pank

After midnight, when the smell of sulfur is strong in the air but most of the explosions have stopped, they climb a neighbor’s fence and greedily pull each other’s clothes off as they creep to the steps at the shallow end of the pool.



Kim Kardashian Considers Her Insomnia” by Steve Almond from SmokeLong Quarterly

Some nights, mostly when she was alone, but also when she was with a boy, if he was asleep, or if he was just somewhere else, lost in a television show or in some part of her body that no longer interested her, the feeling would come.



Shadow” by Joseph Michaels from SmokeLong Quarterly

The daughter after all—beyond roads, cars, white plain hospitals, and parents: blankets that scratch, the notion of speed, one’s first sensation of a color as being separate from light.



For Valerie, Who Is, In Fact, A Bitch” by Sarah Carson from decomP

You come from a place where one girl can still grab another by the breast, push her up against a construction barrier and hold her breath there in her throat until her tears (or something worse) belie her panic, but this, unfortunately, is not that place.



Birds” by Aimee Bender from Vestal Review

After dropping down dresses for Cinderella’s ball, and discovering the stepsisters’ feet mutilation, and some active eye-pecking at the wedding, the birds are listless.




We Two Alone Will Sing” by Sheena Sauls from Journal of Compressed Creative Arts

The gulls flew south into the valley that fall, gossamer fog tied to their tails, and were caught up in the walnut trees like the memory of some destructive force—the ash that turned everything concrete when the mountains caught fire, or pools of condensation left by half-empty bottles after a fight.



Mattress Buying” by Meredith Harper from Citron Review

In the grey, hollow warehouse, the industrial lights, shaded in aluminum cones, droop like stalactitic pendants over the man and the woman who weave through the rows, past the snowy BeautyRests, past the beige quilted Sertas, to the rear of the inventory, where the mattresses are brown and blue and floral.

From → writing tips

  1. Liana permalink

    It’s a rainy Saturday morning, I’ve got MIchael Alexander’s blog on stereo…his blog burning warm in the fireplace…his blog in a mug of extra dark Kenyan blend…then his blog says lets go on safari for rare words and off we go without spilling a drop…

  2. Great to see one of our writers received recognition here – Thanks so much!

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  1. To Be of Use | Nathan Goldman
  2. ‘Explosive First Lines in Recent Flash’ | Important Things

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