While every word in a flash fiction piece is important, often pulling double or triple-duty, in most cases it is the last line that makes a flash piece effective and memorable. Personally, I find flash stories that completely change because of the last line to be the hardest to do and the most enjoyable type of fiction. It’s akin to poetry in prose form.
Let me whip up an example 55-word flash piece for you:
The Final Bully
Oh, how they loved me when I arrived. Two years later and I’m the pariah, all mistakes that were not my fault.
I can’t stand this hatred.
Open the antique desk drawer, ignore the pistol.
Press the red button next to it.
It’ll take ten minutes before the planet-busting bomb shockwave reaches the White House.
It took me eleven minutes to write that. Everything up to the last two lines are there to set up the story and to allow your brain to automatically fill in the empty spaces between the words. Even the title of the piece, not part of the story according to the rules but available to misdirect the reader, can be utilized to give the final line some additional impact. The concept works today because suicides are all over the news and the toxic political atmosphere during this election cycle. This story wouldn’t be as effective if I wrote it back in 1977. It relies on the reader to bring along the news of the time into the reading experience.
The last line spins the story from where most readers expect the plot to go towards something completely different. It turns out that the final bully is an insane politician with science-fiction weaponry at their disposal. Note there is no actual clue if the president is male, female, non-binary, or even a lizard person. It is a far future event, unless we’ve invented planet-busting bombs and are hiding them in Montana. It brings along the rhetoric about presidential temperament from this year to add more background to the story without writing the words.
By making the reader think one thing and then adding a twist, the tale tends to go from a vignette towards a full story. Those last words gives a true ending. I personally find that the shorter the word count, the more important the twist is for my writing. It is also the thing that readers remember long after they’ve closed the book or surfed elsewhere on the Internet.