Updated With Winners: LitReactor's Flash Fiction Smackdown: September Edition (...and another chance to win Chuck Palahniuk's new book!)

Flash Fiction: A style of fictional literature marked by extreme brevity

UPDATE: Since it's only a few days in and we already have 76 (and counting) entries--we've scrounged up two more copies of Chuck  Palahniuk's new book for a total of THREE books to give away to the best three entries! So keep 'em coming!

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 September 27 will be considered. We'll run the winner on September 30.

This Month's Prize

You get a second change to win an Advanced Reading Copy of Chuck Palahniuk's upcoming novel Doomed (which doesn't come out until next month!) It's a follow-up to the popular Damned. Here's a teaser for ya from Amazon.com:

Madison Spencer, the liveliest, snarkiest dead girl in the universe, continues the adventures in the afterlife begun in Damned. Having somewhat reluctantly escaped from Hell, she now wanders the Purgatory that is Earth as a ghostly spirit, seeking her do-gooding celebrity parents, fighting the malign control of Satan, recounting the disgracefully funny (to us, anyway) encounter with her grandfather in a fetid highway rest stop in upstate New York when she . . . oh, never mind, and climaxing in a rendezvous with destiny on the new, totally plastic continent in the Pacific called, not at all accidentally, Madlantis.

Dante Aligheri, watch your back, Chuck Palahniuk is gaining on you.

Your Inspiration

In July, we used a section of Dante's Purgatorio since Doomed is the second book in a trilogy based on Dante's work.

This time, let's use something specifically Chuck-related. In his interview with LitReactor's Kasey Capenter on his book Damned, Palahniuk likens Hell to his experience of staying in a hotel's "author's suite" while touring. Here's a couple quotes from the interview:

When you tour for books, most big luxury hotels now reserve a suite called the author’s suite, because they know that there is this constant tour of authors coming through town. So they put you in this author’s suite, that always has these bookshelves, and um, all the books are all the people who have ever slept in that bed.  So you know, looking at the wall, everybody who has slept in the bed you are about to sleep in.

It’s like having a resume… you don’t want to know that you're sharing a bed with Paula Deen, David Sedaris, John Grisham, Jane Fonda – a whole litany of all the people that have been in that bed, makes me kind of…disgusted. But then I love the dichotomy. Their minds and hearts are on the wall, you know, in these books, but when you pull back this bedding, and see the stains on the mattress and the mattress pad- their bodies are like, there, in a very physical and literal sense…

If Chuck's Hell is an author's suite, what might be Purgatory? Your prompt is to write your own metaphor for Purgatory. Remember 25 words in prose or poetry. Two sentences. Titles are excluded from the word count.

Now Get Writing!

And the Winners are... Heather Boyd, Carole Rossi Kenyon, and Anthony David Lawson.

The number of entries must have broken records—148!!! There were many, many great entries but I had to pick three: So here they are in no particular order:

From Heather Boyd


It could be now. It isn't.

From Carole Rossi Kenyon

Have Mercy

Please send money for indulgences to Pope Francis  Stop
60 more years of watching reruns on the golf network before my debt is settled  Stop

From Anthony David Lawson

The most beautiful girl I’ve ever known had given me her number.  My finger hovered over that last button.

Thanks, everyone, for entering!

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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reader101's picture
reader101 September 10, 2013 - 2:03pm


 I sit in the crampped space, exposed... to them, horrified of whats to come. I close my eyes, hoping whats about to happen, happens fast.

icebandit007's picture
icebandit007 September 21, 2013 - 1:44pm

Hope Is Just a Four Letter Word in the NICU

The silence in the room is deafening, monitors hooked to the little body, sterile tools everywhere. Two figures  watch over nervously; beep… pause… beep… pause…

Werus's picture
Werus from Portland, OR is reading Secret Acension September 11, 2013 - 2:49pm


I have a stroke on the couch while bobble-heads on the TV babble about the latest teen blah blah blah. Unconsciousness eludes me.

Crescendo2020's picture
Crescendo2020 from Redlands, Ca is reading Not enough of all of them. September 11, 2013 - 4:35pm


Such atrocious stains; an accumilating filth left for future transfer.

"Despicable, truly," I bluster,  and provide a worthy addition before retiring to the floor.

Ryan Bremond's picture
Ryan Bremond September 11, 2013 - 6:07pm

POP Quiz

"What is the difference between Ignorance and Apathy?" asked professor Sutphin.

"I don't know and I don't care" was all she replied. 

Flaminia Ferina's picture
Flaminia Ferina from Umbria is reading stuff September 12, 2013 - 9:18am

Mist and Corridors 

Weeks in this towel and still can't find the bloody spa, I see no freaking light, and does anyone speak English? Damn no.

Kile James Curlew's picture
Kile James Curlew from Corner Brook, Newfoundland is reading 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami September 12, 2013 - 6:59pm

The Pride of Vancouver


They say the streets of Vancouver are painted in rainbows.  I can only see syringes, torn condoms, wet newspapers and coagulated blood.

Sarah Jane Penney's picture
Sarah Jane Penney September 12, 2013 - 2:05pm


I split your lip, asked if she was any good. Your face a cathedral--I was still talking to you.

Dave Cummins's picture
Dave Cummins from Ireland September 12, 2013 - 2:13pm

Clever titles don't impress anyone

The itch never goes away. I scratch.

Nicholas C.'s picture
Nicholas C. from Canada is reading The Corrections, by Jonathan Franzen September 12, 2013 - 2:51pm

Purgatory, Inc


She flattens my resume on the desk and says:

“Purgatory accepts only the most unexceptional. We’ll text you your results by next year.”

And leaves.

Ryan's picture
Ryan from Georgia is reading Haunted by Chuck Palahniuk September 24, 2013 - 11:49am

Galllop-'n'-Goes: The Galapagos' Premier Wild Life Theme Park

Grey-green marine iguanas navigate snaking attraction lines, dodging orthopedic flip flops and the wheels of ergonomic baby strollers. Stagnant, sun-blocked eyes glare at passing fast-passers.

Christian Mott's picture
Christian Mott from the inside of a raincloud is reading The Chronicles of Narnia September 12, 2013 - 6:44pm

A Writer's Existence


"Here's everything you need to write the novel," he said. "Character descriptions, chapter outlines ... And don't you get up until it's perfect."

joey_m's picture
joey_m September 13, 2013 - 7:15am

Living as a Waste of Breath:
Drifting from one place to another, will little preference or protest.  Well, “Story of my life,” he could say.

Margaret Dybala's picture
Margaret Dybala from Houston is reading volume iv essays philo of alexandria September 14, 2013 - 9:43am

I knew what others must have done in that hideous shower. But if I was going to get clean, I had to go in.

Merran Jones's picture
Merran Jones from Australia is reading All That I Am, by Anna Funder September 13, 2013 - 10:37pm

The Second Opinion 

“Hmm, that's interesting,” Dr. Smith frowned at my CT and walked out. I sat, marooned in my patient gown and ignorance.

bohemianonrye's picture
bohemianonrye from Pittsburgh, PA is reading Love in the Time of Global Warming September 14, 2013 - 9:12am

Now Boarding

There are no empty seats in the gate, no courtesy space between our bodies. Good food tempts nearby, but if I rise, it's all over.

James Matterhorn's picture
James Matterhorn November 14, 2013 - 1:23am

Beginning to Wait

The water felt fine, luke-warm, slight tug; "hard to see with the mist."

"Always," sighed one of the hundreds of figures I realized apposed me.

Nicoleta the Wordsmith's picture
Nicoleta the Wo... is reading Giovanni's Room by James Baldwin September 14, 2013 - 8:28pm

"Sleeping Soundly in a 1950s Monochromatic Television"

I dream in black and white
because my mind refuses to process
anything tainted by artificiality.
Death isn't new to me;
I kill colors subconsciously.

MVP_chanse's picture
MVP_chanse September 15, 2013 - 7:06pm

Choices in the Halls of Purgatory

As he opened the door, he felt the blood run down his neck and back. He turned away from  his God.

Jen Pelto's picture
Jen Pelto from Houghton, MI is reading The Map of the System of Human Knowledge -- James Tadd Adcox October 25, 2014 - 10:14am

Great competition!

Shodi's picture
Shodi from Warren, PA is reading books September 17, 2013 - 1:31am


We struggle educating ourselves to work jobs we hate so we can survive our painful existence. There's a light at the end of the tunnel.

voidPortal's picture
voidPortal September 17, 2013 - 5:36am

A Necessary Purification

Clouds of steam billowed from the skulls mounted on the sauna's heater, particularly Borges' and Lovecraft's. I felt their eye sockets watching my every move.

yinyeang's picture
yinyeang from California is reading Wired; September.13 issue September 17, 2013 - 10:06am


I watch my head float in the air as empty thoughts scatter and fly away with no lid to hold in my weepy, weepy thoughts.


Patrick Brown_2's picture
Patrick Brown_2 from I'm from a little bit of everywhere. is reading Alot of pop philosophy. September 17, 2013 - 12:01pm



All that I wish for

Is to put my weapons down and pray

For the ghosts I sent to sleep

But will never go away.

Gabriel Pinheiro Gois's picture
Gabriel Pinheir... from Brazil is reading "The Crossing" by Cormac McCarthy September 17, 2013 - 12:04pm

Senseless Meaninglessness

It was always a fetish – you know, the cross
In this big morgue - a trial - then we love as we get lost

Cassie Muldrow's picture
Cassie Muldrow from Denver is reading The Beautiful and Damned, Les Liasons Dangereuses, Exit to Eden, Lots of Comic Books September 17, 2013 - 12:30pm


I’m squirming on the seat, needing to pee.  I can't wait to hear the closing of the door, your footsteps receding on the tile floor.

Willow's picture
Willow September 17, 2013 - 2:46pm


Waiting for a bus that'll never come, to take me to a place I've never been.

My bags are packed, but I'm not going anywhere.

pifalo's picture
pifalo from New England is reading A Case of Conscience September 17, 2013 - 9:12pm

Bus Bully

I sit on the bus, hearing the names, looking at nothing. Spat gum sticks to my hair; one more stop to go.

Tanzim W. Rahman's picture
Tanzim W. Rahman September 18, 2013 - 8:22am

The Ledge


Should I participate in this contest?
Maybe I’ll just wait for the next one.

Southpaw13's picture
Southpaw13 September 27, 2013 - 9:43am

Standing by for the Kick

The doc writes up another script for me.

"If you don't feel any improvement in the next four to six weeks, we'll try something else."

iri123's picture
iri123 September 19, 2013 - 4:32am

3:30 pm.

His small body fidgeted. “I’m going home- would you mind letting Principal Hardings know, that I did cut off a piece of Shelly’s hair?”

Emma Light's picture
Emma Light from The mathematical middle of Nowhere is reading An Unquiet Mind September 19, 2013 - 5:03pm

Everything Glows A Sterile White

I knew too much, but the darkness and straitjacket helped me learn. The walls and Watchers for Madness require silence in their inescapable insane 'refuge'.

Rachel Dodd's picture
Rachel Dodd September 20, 2013 - 2:08am

Come home, Rachel


More like the nondescriptly prefabricated resting place for some oddly shaped game piece. Having beaten Candyland, never allowed to play another, hadn't the bank for Monopoly; check.





hantueffect's picture
hantueffect September 23, 2013 - 9:03pm

My Mother had warned me about Compound Interest

Hi Fiona!

This is a friendly reminder that you have an outstanding payment of $86,750.00 on your RebborBank Credit Card.

lkr1212's picture
lkr1212 from Maryland is reading Travels with myself and others by Martha Gellhorn September 20, 2013 - 8:20am

The Waiting Room TV

I flipped hoping to escape life’s vapid reruns.  An episode of buying my exorbitant house at a price garnered at others’ misfortunes…15 minutes added.

Jordan Garcia's picture
Jordan Garcia from Milwaukee, Wisconsin is reading The Crooked Letter by Sean Williams September 20, 2013 - 6:29pm

*Operation Enduring Freedom*

Barefoot hearts wander a desert, here, in the middle, we find we have shoes.
Many places I've been, my heart dies for home.

nchappe's picture
nchappe from Minnesota is reading Jacob's Room September 21, 2013 - 10:52am

Sterile Sky

In Minnesota winters, finding sunrays is queer as finding ripe raspberries in snow. I sit a sigh on one elbow and endure five barren months.

Jamieton's picture
Jamieton from Sioux City, IA is reading Trigger Warnings September 21, 2013 - 12:30pm

Memories of Home

He rolls another cigarette and smiles to himself. We wait, trading tales like two long-lost friends hoping the last bus to the city never shows.

jlblair's picture
jlblair September 21, 2013 - 7:34pm

Florida Drivers

Driving ten under because of the rain? While you consider braking for that puddle, I'm behind you white-knuckled with the urge to floor it.

Foukariaris's picture
Foukariaris September 22, 2013 - 6:02am

Always Stars


“Fuck your revolution.” he said and got off his horse. He sighed as he gazed at the burning city. “They always look like stars.”



mikemc2003's picture
mikemc2003 from Hamilton, Ontario Canada is reading The sun also rises. September 22, 2013 - 7:00am


The endless loud droning of the machines, It's night shift.

The clock seems to be stuck at two fifty nine.

stariki's picture
stariki from montreal, quebec is reading perfume September 22, 2013 - 11:56am

Limbo and Counting

Thrashing out of a nightmare into a party swinging full-loud, sound-heavy. And once more, and again, and loitering on a perfunctory smile, cursory courtesy.

TomJoad72's picture
TomJoad72 September 22, 2013 - 12:24pm


The gut wrenching ordeal of pouring one's heart out.
The excruciating wait for what will come out of her lips.

Tomek Łowiecki's picture
Tomek Łowiecki from Poland is reading "Little Brother" by Cory Doctorow September 23, 2013 - 2:50am

Sorry, mom

Money weren't for a trip to Vatican and rosary from pope was fake. It's not that bad here, quit smoking, love you.

Bill Tucker's picture
Bill Tucker from Austin, Texas is reading Grimm's Fairy Tales (1st Edition) September 24, 2013 - 10:05am

::The Boy With the Rain Cloud Head::

Soaked to the bone on a sun shiny day, the boy apologized to God.  “Mom was a mean lady and I’m sorry for eating her.”

Colton Adrian's picture
Colton Adrian from Williamsburg, VA is reading a book about souls September 25, 2013 - 6:52pm


The elevator is infested with the sweat and stench of the unknowns. Precisely my formula for awkward, get me out of here, situations.


Tan Jie Hui's picture
Tan Jie Hui from Singapore September 26, 2013 - 8:25am

Two Types of Silences

Nights that pierce the skin and rip it raw. 

Thoughts that pound so loud, they drown everything out. 

tpatlynch's picture
tpatlynch from Bayonne, New Jersey, United States is reading The Shining September 27, 2013 - 8:40pm


I walk away from the sun
And feel like it's setting on me.
I glance down and see no shadow
And realize this is purgatory.