Category Archives: Flash Fiction

The Talking Heads

Last year, during a writing conference, I was introduced to Hemingway’s short story, Hills Like White Elephants. Since then I’ve been exploring the power of dialogue in my story telling. I’ve always enjoyed writing dialogue, but everything can be taken to a new level.

For my fifty-five word short story, I decided to forget all of those pesky descriptors and stick with talking heads. Enjoy.

“Dude, are you gonna eat that?”

“What? No.”

“Still pining for Jadan?”

“Just finish so we can go.”

“Thought so. And if I told you she just walked in?”

“Shut up.”

“I hope you’ve been practicing. Hey Jadan!”

“What are you doing?”

“I’m just giving you a…whoa. Really? Oh man. Abort mission. Cookies tossed.”


The Last Line

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.



About the Author:DeMarco_Web-5963

Guy Anthony De Marco is a disabled US Navy veteran speculative fiction author; a Graphic Novel Bram Stoker Award® nominee; winner of the HWA Silver Hammer Award; a prolific short story and flash fiction crafter; a novelist; an invisible man with superhero powers; a game writer (Sojourner Tales modules, Interface Zero 2.0 core team, third-party D&D modules); and a coffee addict. One of these is false.
A writer since 1977, Guy is a member of the following organizations: SFWA, WWA, SFPA, IAMTW, ASCAP, RMFW, NCW, HWA. He hopes to collect the rest of the letters of the alphabet one day. Additional information can be found at Wikipedia and

The Earth my sky, the Moon my siren

Hello everyone,

Before I get to my 55 word story, I wanted to say how I excited I am to post my first official entry as a Fictorian! I have guest posted here four times before, and I am both honored and thrilled to be made a full time member.

Now, on to my first blog post- -and it was a doozy! Write a story in exactly 55 words? It sounded like a fun challenge, but a difficult one. In the end I enjoyed the puzzle of writing the story so much, I documented my journey through double-nickel-land for this post. First I’ll give you the story, then if you want to stick around I’ll take you through my process of writing it.



The hatch is open, my radio channel closed. Alone I float through the stars, alone with her.

Through the glass she had called, her song a sweet wind. She whispers, reaching for my helmet. Without it, I will hear her better. Her hands and mine, both at my collar.

Who removes it? It doesn’t matter.


All in all, I’m pretty happy with how that came out. Funny thing is, I had my idea for the story pretty quickly after getting the assignment. In my mind’s eye I saw an astronaut floating in space, getting farther and farther away from his capsule. I knew he was out there because he wanted to be, but also against orders. (I acknowledge more than a passing nod to David Bowie’s Space Oddity in the imagery.)

The siren concept and the ending both came quickly to me and I was off to the races. Now the question was: how could I possibly tell this in 55 words?

So I figured first I’d bang out what I had using as brief prose as possible and count it up. This version (sadly?) is lost to the ether, but it was 70 words long.

“Great!” I said. “I’m only 15 words off. I’ll just squeeze it a bit more and count up what I have!”

That second version ended up 90 words long. Somehow my prose squeezing added 20 words instead of subtracting them!

Here is try #2, the 90-word version:


The stars are my world now. Outside the capsule, I am alone among them. Alone with my new friend.

She had beckoned through the window, called to me with a song I’ve heard on the wind since I was a child.

There is no wind here, as she floats with me. The capsule is far now, but she is close. With my helmet off I will hear the wind, feel the song in my ears. I cannot tell if it is her hands on the helmet seal, or mine.

It doesn’t matter.


So all the core concepts are there, and the ending is there. Still now I am 45 words away from my goal. I was, like my astronaut, drifting farther and farther away.

I decided on my third try I would just capture the core concepts in a few words as possible. No prose, nothing fancy. Just A to B to C and see what that count was.

Here is try #3, where I also started counting the number of words in each sentence:


I am alone in space, outside my ship (8)

A woman called me with her song (7)

We float off together. (4)

She wants me to remove my helmet to hear her song. (11)

Either she or I remove it, it doesn’t matter who (10)


Ok with the core concepts down, I did the math: 8+7+4+11+10 = 40

That gives me 15 words to play with. I could add a bit, and swap in some ‘prosier’ word choices.

I decided I wanted to add “The door is open, my radio channel closed.” as a first line – that’s another 10 words, leaving me 5.

Here’s version #4:


The door is open, my radio channel closed. (8)

Alone I float through the stars, alone with her. (9)

Through the glass she had called, her song a sweet wind. (11)

She whispers now, reaching for my helmet. (7) Without it, I will hear her better. (7).

Her hands and mine, both clasping the collar. (8).


Okay, still needs the big finish, what do I have left to work with? Five. Five words. “Who unclasps it? It doesn’t matter.” is six. Maybe I can cut one in one of the sentences above. I decided to kill ‘now’ in “She whispers now”.

Here’s a look at what I hoped was the finished product, version #5:


The hatch is open, my radio channel closed. (8)

Alone I float through the stars, alone with her. (9)

Through the glass she had called, her song a sweet wind. (11)

She whispers, reaching for my helmet. (6) Without it, I will hear her better. (7)

Her hands and mine, both at my collar. (8)

Who removes it? It doesn’t matter. (6)


I also swapped ‘hatch’ for ‘door’, which I think is better. I made a second minor change because I didn’t want to use ‘clasp’ twice. At this point, I decide it’s done and that is the version you read.

For 55 words I’m pretty happy with it – the major thrust of what I envisioned is there. I wish I had a bit more room for atmosphere and to show his emotions about removing his helmet, but I’m happy with the result.

If you are a writer (or want to be one) I encourage you to try a double-nickel challenge of you own. I found it to be a fascinating little puzzle and I think it grows some great skills.

See you next time!