UPDATED WITH WINNER - LitReactor's Flash Fiction Smackdown: April (Poetry Month) Edition

Flash fiction: A style of fictional literature marked by extreme brevity.

Welcome to LitReactor's Flash Fiction Smackdown, a monthly bout of writing prowess.

How It Works

We give you inspiration in the form of a picture, poem, video, or similar. You write a flash fiction piece using the inspiration we gave you. Put your entry in the comments section. One winner will be picked and awarded a prize.

The Rules

  • 30 words. You can write less, but not more.
  • It can be any genre.
  • Give it a title. Please keep it to 10 words or less.
  • We're not exactly shy, but let's stay away from senseless racism or violence.
  • One entry per person.
  • Editing your entry after you submit it is permitted.
  • LitReactor staffers can't win, but are encouraged to participate.
  • All stories submitted on or before April 29 will be considered. We'll run the winner on April 30.

This Month's Prize

This month's winner will get a copy of The New Black: A Neo-Noir Anthology edited by LitReactor columnist and instructor, Richard Thomas, and published by Dark House Press. This anthology also contains stories by LitReactees: Stephen Graham Jones, Nik Korpon, Craig Clevenger, Paul Tremblay, and Vanessa Veselka.  Here's some reviews that oughta get you excited:

The New Black ought to be the New High Standard for dark fiction anthologies. It's loaded with intelligence and talent. Every one of the pieces in this extraordinary compilation is worthy of your full attention.
—Jack Ketchum

The New Black is a great collection of incredibly unique fiction. I honestly liked every story in here, and I usually don’t say that about an anthology. It was also nice to encounter so many authors with whom I was unfamiliar. A strong compilation of talent. Very strong.
—John Boden, Shock Totem Productions

There's depth to darkness, a richness waiting for those who have the patience to let their vision adjust to it. Rembrandt knew that; it's there in the voluminous shadows that wrap around the figures in his paintings. So did Poe: it's the note sounding underneath the stories his narrators tell us. And so do the writers Richard Thomas has assembled for The New Black. At this point in our shared history, it's no secret that those things closest to us, our family, our memory, may be full of night. What is remarkable is what the writers in this book succeed in telling us about that darkness, what shapes they discern within it. A showcase of some of the most exciting writers at work today, The New Black is not to be missed.
— John Langan, The Wide, Carnivorous Sky and Other Monstrous Geographies

If you aren't sure what Neo-Noir is, check out Richard Thomas' primer Storyville: What is Neo-Noir Fiction?

Your Inspiration

Well, it's National Poetry Month, so let's combine the concept of Neo-Noir and Poetry to create a challenging contest. I found an interesting writing assignment shared by John S. O'Connor on The Poetry Foundation website. Below is an adaptation of the lesson he used for his Literature and Film class.

1) Brainstrom 50 concrete nouns

2) Write down 10 "tough guy/girl" lines.

3) Use that word pool to write a 30-word poem

4) Avoid verbs and adjectives (but small words, such as articles and prepositions are ok.)

5) Ignore rules 1-4 and write a 30-word Noir Poem that knocks my socks off.

Now get writing!

And the Winner is ...Alan H Jordan

Only 16 entries, and this may have been one of the hardest Flash Fiction Smackdowns to judge yet! I enjoyed Mr. Jordan's allusion to the radio detective at the end of this poem. I may be a bit biased, though, because I actually got to meet the sound effects guy and voice actors when my childhood choir performed on A Prarie Home Companion back in the 90s. Yes, I did just make this about myself. But enough about me; here's the winning poem:

Bitter Almonds are not Twinkies

A detective
struggles each week to
survive and prosper.

Doomed to the dark
grey side of life and

Guy, as he is known
on NPR
makes me smile.

Taylor Houston

Column by Taylor Houston

Taylor Houston is a genuine Word Nerd living in Portland, OR where she works as a technical writer and volunteers on the marketing committee for Wordstock, a local organization dedicated to writing education. She has a BA in Creative Writing and Spanish from Hamilton College and attended Penn State's MFA program in Creative Nonfiction. She has taught writing at all levels from middle school to college to adult, and she is the creator of Writer’s Cramp, a class for adults who just want to write!

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Andrewbee's picture
Andrewbee from Chicago is reading some YA book, most likely April 1, 2014 - 1:47pm

On the way down,

I felt like a clown,

Turned a smile to a frown,

Lost all renown,

On the way down.

Renae Gee's picture
Renae Gee from Australia is reading All the words! April 10, 2014 - 1:51pm

Unrequited Fury

Maggots eat the lining of my eyes. 

I go blind. 

I beg them to eat my heart.

voodoo_em's picture
voodoo_em from England is reading All the books by Ira Levin April 2, 2014 - 1:53am


Powder burns and lipstick

Beneath my snub nose every breath

Is a sepia toned ending

Cut short

Life reflected in translucent narcotic puddles

Straight no chaser.

Harbinger of Nepenthe's picture
Harbinger of Ne... from a small town in N.E. Ohio is reading Moral Disorder And Other Stories April 2, 2014 - 8:21am

It was a foggy, full moon night…
An empty night
a thriller night
and though I wanted 
to retreat inside,

I had to finish
my cigarette,
which at this very
moment, kept me
from going insane.

Jeff Cain's picture
Jeff Cain from Nowhere is reading Big Machine April 2, 2014 - 2:42pm


A match not for cigarettes
but sins
better left unknown.
Gumshoe's for solving
mysteries, not justice
that is better ash.
Odorous gas,
the crook asks
"What you gonna do

Grant Williams's picture
Grant Williams from Wichita, KS is reading Friday April 4, 2014 - 11:23am

Caught Cheating

Dark acts in light rooms

Hot bullets and hard feelings

Warm bodies to cold meat

Impartial system for fair judgement

Dark acts in light rooms

Luis Oliveira's picture
Luis Oliveira from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil is reading Iliad by Homer April 9, 2014 - 5:36pm

No translation

Saudade, em mim paire
Para eu lembrar do passado
Com meu amor ao lado

Saudade is a desire
That burns inside
This little widow bride

Strange Photon's picture
Strange Photon from Fort Wayne, IN is reading Laurie Anderson lyrics April 10, 2014 - 12:48pm


Kid without thumbs
sits, staring down double-barreled
Army recruiter eyes.

“Son, you need five
fingers to pull triggers,”
the bastard oozes
through chew-stained lips.

Echo of the gunshot

jyh's picture
jyh from VA is reading whatever he feels like April 16, 2014 - 10:55am

Ants in the Apiary

Hid in hex
Have it your way

Baby's gone
Baby's breath is blasted
Boo hoo, baby girl

Make it to Mexico
Maybe in time for Cinco de Mayo

Alan H Jordan's picture
Alan H Jordan from Reno, Nevada is reading Devotion by Dani Shaprio nd Now I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings April 18, 2014 - 1:43pm

Bitter Almonds are not Twinkies

A detective
struggles each week to
survive and prosper.

Doomed to the dark
grey side of life and

Guy, as he is known
on NPR
makes me smile.

Incyde Out Boy's picture
Incyde Out Boy from Melstrand is reading This Is Your Brain On Music by Daniel J. Levitin April 20, 2014 - 7:56am

Another Night on the Case


On the wrong side of town

When there's no one around

Except the corpse you've found

After the sun goes down

Your sanity will drown

In the blood curdling sound

WilliamGrit's picture
WilliamGrit April 22, 2014 - 8:55pm
Epoch Ellipses's picture
Epoch Ellipses is reading Li-Young Lee's The Rose April 28, 2014 - 5:36am

Behind Warlocked Doors

bruja-llways twist like snakes,
food dances on djinn-er plates;
when the cucuy clock
thrice strikes 19

the grimoire-drobe jackets raze

Werus's picture
Werus from Portland, OR is reading Secret Acension April 25, 2014 - 11:11am

On Anvil Street

Bar stool murmurs
Miss Sometime, with legs like glass
Whiskey trigger
Wet bullet
All I had
On Anvil street


blnicola's picture
blnicola April 28, 2014 - 7:32pm


My nose explodes.

'Cause she walked in

and made me tingle.

Now I'm just throbbing.

My jaw shatters.

Shouldn't've gotten involved.

But now I've got 'em

right where I planned.

Loehly's picture
Loehly April 29, 2014 - 4:46pm


Stiff nips.
Cherry lipstick
Sucking on her cigarette.
“No names, But-
A price.
Double if we’re not playing nice.”
Slipping rings, I reply,
“Triple not to tell my wife?”