Columns > Published on May 31st, 2013

UPDATED WITH WINNER: LitReactor's Flash Fiction Smackdown: May Edition

Flash Mystery Fiction: A style of fictional literature marked by extreme brevity--and mystery.

Welcome to LitReactor's Flash Fiction Smackdown, a monthly bout of writing prowess. For this edition, we are going back to the 25 words and 2 sentences rules--using the works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle as inspiration.

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

  • 25 words is the limit. (You can write less, but you can't write more.)
  • The whole story must only be 2 sentences. No more. No less.
  • It can be any genre.
  • Give it a title (not included in the word count, but keep it under 10 words).
  • 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.
  • We'll pick a winner on the last day of the month.
  • LitReactor staffers can't win, but are encouraged to participate.
  • All stories submitted on or before May 30 will be considered. We'll run the winner on May 31.

This Month's Prize

A hardcopy of J.G. Ballard's Autobiography Miracles of Life: Shanghai to Shepperton, An Autobiography.

A final statement from the greatest clairvoyant of twentieth-century literature.

Never before published in America, this revelatory autobiography—hailed as “fascinating [and] amazingly lucid” (Guardian)—charts the remarkable story of James Graham Ballard, a man described by Martin Amis as “the most original English writer of the last century.” Beginning with his Shanghai childhood, Miracles of Life guides us from the deprivations of Lunghua Camp during World War II, which provide the back story for his best-selling Empire of the Sun, to his arrival in war-torn England and his emergence as “the ideal chronicler of our disturbed modernity” (Observer). With prose of characteristic precision, Ballard movingly recalls his first attempts at science fiction, the 1970 American pulping of The Atrocity Exhibition—which sprang from his fascination with JFK conspiracy theories—and his life as a single father after the premature death of his wife. “This book should make yet more converts to a cause that Ballard’s devotees have been pleading for years” (Independent).

Your Inspiration

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was born on May 22, 1859 in Scotland. He was a doctor, sportsman, and a writer, and you probably know him best from his Sherlock Holmes crime novels.

For this month's contest, use the concept of Sherlock Holmes as inspiration. You can use the true Doyle-ian version, or any of the TV and movie versions created after the books came out. It's up to you. Here's a description of Sherlock Holmes from A Study in Scarlet, the first book of Doyle's to feature the now-famous character:

Holmes was certainly not a difficult man to live with. He was quiet in his ways, and his habits were regular. It was rare for him to be up after ten at night, and he had invariably breakfasted and gone out before I rose in the morning. Sometimes he spent his day at the chemical laboratory, sometimes in the dissecting-rooms, and occasionally in long walks, which appeared to take him into the lowest portions of the City. Nothing could exceed his energy when the working fit was upon him; but now and again a reaction would seize him, and for days on end he would lie upon the sofa in the sitting-room, hardly uttering a word or moving a muscle from morning to night. On these occasions I have noticed such a dreamy, vacant expression in his eyes, that I might have suspected him of being addicted to the use of some narcotic, had not the temperance and cleanliness of his whole life forbidden such a notion.

And the winner is...WonBlackGuy

Once again, so, so, so many great entries, so I had to go with my gut. This one stuck out to me because it's funny, clever, and smart-alecky in a way I can appreciate.

Rathbone and Bruce

"The game is afoot," proclaimed Holmes wryly.

“A foot,” quipped Watson, “considering the magnitude of this case, I’d say the game was an entire leg!” 

About the author

Taylor Houston is a genuine Word Nerd living in Portland, OR where she works as a technical writer for an engineering firm and volunteers on the planning committee for Wordstock, a local organization dedicated to writing education.

She holds a degree in Creative Writing and Spanish from Hamilton College in Clinton, NY. In the English graduate program at Penn State, she taught college composition courses and hosted a poetry club for a group of high school writers.

While living in Seattle, Taylor started and taught a free writing class called Writer’s Cramp (see the website). She has also taught middle school Language Arts & Spanish, tutored college students, and mentored at several Seattle writing establishments such as Richard Hugo House. She’s presented on panels at Associated Writing Programs Conference and the Pennsylvania College English Conference and led writing groups in New York, Pennsylvania, and Colorado for writers of all ages & abilities. She loves to read, write, teach & debate the Oxford Comma with anyone who will stand still long enough.

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