Our Favorite Flash Pieces

April 4, 2017

Here at The Masters Review, we are huge fans of flash fiction. Broadly defined as story of less than 1000 words, flash is so wonderful for the extreme variety and power within this dense little form. In our experience, limiting the number of words in a story opens the door for creativity. Well, we’ve gathered some of our favorite short short stories, (most of) which you can read online. We are also thrilled to announce that we are holding a Flash Fiction Contest this spring, open now. You can learn more about it here. We have been wanting to have a flash contest for years, and can’t wait to see what this one will bring. So, dive into these thrilling little stories. Enjoy!

 “Peanut Butter” by Camille Esses (Available in Hint Fiction: An Anthology of Stories in 25 Words or Fewer edited by Robert Swartwood)

I love this piece of microfiction. From how Esses sets up the story via the title, to its dark and sinister implication. The full text is just a few words: “He was allergic. She pretended not to know.” Creative, cutting, and clever. Microfiction at its best. -Kim

“Nicholas Was…” by Neil Gaiman

This is another piece of microfiction, less than 100 words, that cleverly uses the title as part of its storytelling. Sure, all fiction does this, but I feel in this piece (and in the one above) it is much more deliberate; a direct contribution to the story. This was the first fairy-tale-turned-on-its-head story I had ever read, and was completely blown away. -Kim

“And the World was Crowded with Things That Meant Love” by Amber Sparks

In this exquisitely crafted piece of flash, a man and a woman spend one romantic night together and go on to live their lives apart, in different corners of the world. They keep in touch by sending each other strange objects: he sends her a puzzle box; she sends him a music box with a ballerina whose face is molded as her own. This short story, somehow, spans much of two lifetimes, and includes many wonderful oddities within it. -Sadye

“Defects” by Deb Olin Unferth (Available in Wait Till You See Me Dance)

Deb Olin Unferth’s entire collection is beautiful and filled with flash fiction. While the opening story “Likeable” is mentioned in many reviews, I am a big fan of “Defects.” In this piece a man highlights his personal defects to improve his total quality. He explains this to a second character—a woman. It’s a wonderful piece about self awareness and labeling, and the ending is incredibly witty. All of the fiction in this collection follows similar suit. I highly recommend it. -Kim

“What The Water Feels Like To The Fishes” by Dave Eggers

But really, though: what does the water feel like to the fishes? In this witty piece of flash, Eggers attempts to answer this question, then flips it on its head. There are many great pieces of flash that serve as meditations of sorts, but none are quite like this one. -Sadye

The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis

Even though Lydia Davis was writing her short, pithy stories before the term “flash fiction” was part of our literary vocabulary, I can’t talk about the genre of short short stories without mentioning her name. Many of her masterpieces are under 1000 words. One of our favorites is this little gem. -Sadye

“School” by Melissa Goodrich

The opening line of this story is: “All of the boys in school are breaking their hands.” This piece defies explanation because the entire world unfurls word by word until the end when you’re left with a dark and smoldering story. Just read it! -Kim

“Our Secret Life In The Movies” by J. M. Tyree and Michael McGriff

I have to mention this project because the flash is so beautiful and the project so unique. It was written by two writers, each piece inspired by a film in the Criterion Collection. The book reads beautifully as independent stories, but as a whole it comes together as a touching coming of age story, just filled with life. Flash fiction fans will adore it, new readers of flash will find enough cohesion to be won over. -Kim


At The Masters Review, our mission is to support emerging writers. We only accept submissions from writers who can benefit from a larger platform: typically, writers without published novels or story collections or with low circulation. We publish fiction and nonfiction online year-round and put out an annual anthology of the ten best emerging writers in the country, judged by an expert in the field. We publish craft essays, interviews and book reviews and hold workshops that connect emerging and established writers.

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