Discover more from Mondettes
Going into 2023, one of my intentions was to get back to reading more flash fiction. So, I set myself the challenge to find one piece I loved for every single day of the year. These might be pieces that were published on that particular day, or they might be pieces from a week before, pieces from the archive that I’ve just discovered, or pieces I’ve rediscovered after a long pause. One piece per day – how hard could that be? Today, I’m sharing my picks for January, and hopefully I’ll keep up with my good intentions for the rest of 2023.
Your Lover, The Clown (Iona Rule | Fractured Lit)
Why I like it: the deft way the characters come to life through rich specific details, the clever use of implication, the tonal shifts into something lighter, then something darker.
What Goldilocks Learned (Amy Marques | Parentheses Journal)
Why I like it: retells a fairy tale in a way that makes it brilliantly relevant, looking at the story through new eyes, finding a human realness within the narrative.
PROMPT: take a character from a fairy tale and think about why they act the way they do. What is the real story behind the tale we have always been told?
A Portrait in the Cache (Moh Afdhaal | Moonpark Review)
Why I like it: the building of emotion as the situation comes slowly into focus, the back-and-forth between “I” and “she” hinging around the one single sentence that moves into first-person plural.
A Single Memory, Remembered Differently (Sumitra Singam | Cheap Pop)
Why I like it: the sense of place, the deep sense of relationship between these characters, the expert use of sensory detail and simile (“Papa cackles like a machine gun, crescendoing into a breathless cough”)
A Solid Contribution (Kathy Fish | Milk Candy Review)
Why I like it: the use of the first-person plural narrator (that collective voice which is so unusual, so tricky to get right), the insistent effect of the writing (how this creates emotional resonance), the small shifts in the story (almost imperceptible on first read), the powerful effect of all of that.
Be Careful What You Wish For (Melissa Llanes Brownlee | Trampset)
Why I like it: the breathless rush of it (one-sentence stories need to read in an effortless way but that doesn’t mean there’s not a whole host of clever architecture underneath!), the natural dialogue that interacts so brilliantly with the description in between.
A Man Takes a Fox, a Chicken and a Sack of Grain across a River in a Small Boat (Jo Withers | Flash Frog)
Why I like it: the wonderful shift between title and first line (and the connectivity between them), the unexpected nature of the story that follows on from there, the way the chosen device cleverly puts across the personality of each character.
Offering (Laura S. Marshall | Okay Donkey)
Why I like it: the parallel set up by that opening sentence (“patron saint” versus “only visits when he needs something from me”) and the tension that brings to the piece; the layers to the situation that ask a reader to sit and ponder.
My Brother, Named and Unnamed (Steven Sherrill | Fractured Lit)
Why I like it: the unusual, surreal nature of the story, the strong sense of character that shines through, how trusting the story is of the reader, allowing us to take these ideas and come to our own conclusions.
Breadcrumbs (Priya Ele | Pidgeonholes)
Why I like it: the unexpected grouping in that first sentence (“folds and follicles and some sort of prophecy maybe”), the use of synaesthesia (“you think it tastes like a memory”), the way the story continuously pulls a reader forwards from beginning to end.
A Temporal Haunting (Fiona McKay | Ellipsis Zine)
Why I like it: the original slant the story finds on this universal situation, the beauty and creativity of the language (my highlight among many highlights is “We found the spare room, under the layers of laundry, and old toys”)
The Fifty Minute Hour (Karen Schauber | Matter Press)
Why I like it: the tone of voice, the specificity of the language that brings the scene to life, the spiralling structure towards explanation that quickly uncoils in the ending, the use of summary to relate the protagonist’s life before we return to the intimacy of the scene.
Elvis is alive and he lives in Belfast (Letty Butler | New Writers)
Why I like it: the way it lulls a reader into a false sense of security, the use of white space and punctuation around the turn of the story, the glorious ending.
PROMPT: start a story with a character doing something out of the ordinary (something which perhaps we might view as odd), then shift a reader’s understanding of who the person is and why they are doing this.
Two Wolves (Jo Gatford | Voidspace)
Why I like it: the interactive element is integral to the story rather than feeling like a gimmick, the possibility of reading the story multiple times through multiple journeys, the sparkling nature of the writing.
Catholic School Girl (Jeanine Skowronski | Lost Balloon)
Why I like it: the way it tackles its subject matter on a slant, the build-up of small details that come together so brilliantly to give the essence not only of the narrator’s life but of this whole community, the sense of build towards that gut-punch final paragraph.
Wildflowers Thrive in the Verge Where I Contemplate the Disintegration of a Pheasant (J P Relph | Reflex Fiction)
Why I like it: the creativity and originality of the language (“Time bloats and leaches. Like sorrow”), the use of imagery, the sensory, immersive nature of the writing.
The Bottom of a Well is Also a Home (Laur A. Freymiller | Fractured Lit)
Why I like it: I love the rhythm of the writing, the use of mirrored pairs (“I know it exists because of the noises. I know it is not a frog because of the scratch marks on the windowpane”). There is also a wonderful flow to the ideas from one thing to the next. I love the unsettling nature of the story.
At the only Friendly’s open when the world ends (K.B. Carle | Cheap Pop)
Why I like it: the focus on place and time, everything brought alive through the wonderful specificity of the language, the rich sensory detail (side note, on my “Colourful Characters” course, I talk about taste / smell palettes and “everything tastes like lead dipped in Tabasco” feels like a great example of this)
I’ll Never Know (Shome Dasgupta | Trampset)
Why I like it: firstly, it’s wonderfully meta. Secondly, it feels as though this is a writer branching out in a new direction, tackling a different tone and wrapping it around the lyrical nature of their previous work.
This Would Not Fit on a Bumper Sticker (Mathieu Cailler | Wigleaf)
Why I like it: the vastness of this tiny story that wouldn’t *quite* fit on a bumper sticker, the tension which is all in the description of a boy on the cusp of becoming a man, the sense of relationship between narrator and son, the way one sentence juxtaposes with the next (the run of sentence starters that goes “I” / “he” / “I” / “he”).
PROMPT: write a story that has a narrator describing the actions of a relative (child, parent, sibling, partner etc.) and makes use of that back-and-forth of “I” / “he” or “I” / “she” to shift the focus between the two characters and get under the skin of their relationship.
Grandpa called her Tiger (Maria Thomas | Free Flash Fiction)
Why I like it: the laser focus on this one idea, how the whole story, the whole essence of this character grows out of that; the wonderful use of repetition and the insist effect that creates, the multiple shifts in mood and tension.
Soap Opera (Juliet Gelfman-Randazzo | Passages North)
Why I like it: the clarity of the voice, the notes of humour, the absurdity of the surface-layer situation and the hidden layers underneath.
Interview with a Voice within an Abandoned Adult Care Facility (Fair Park, Dallas) (Lauren Brazeal Garza | Gone Lawn)
Why I like it: the lyrical nature of the writing (rich with sensory detail), the way the title adds something concrete to the piece that follows, the eye-catching visual effect of those mid-line indentations that reflect the content of the prose
Haunted Penthouse (Urvashi Pathania | AAWW)
Why I like it: the glib tone of voice (humour is hard to do, but this for me hits the mark), the fine balance between the backstory elements, the juxtaposition of all these different worlds (illegal basement apartment vs Manhattan luxury, land of the living vs life as a ghost etc.)
PROMPT: write a story where the narrator is a ghost. Do they interact with the world around them? Now that they are able to go wherever they like, where do they go? How does their view on the world change from their new perspective?
Here (Tommy Dean | New World Writing)
Why I like it: the way the story focuses around an idea, around a community; the rich specificity of the description, picking out sensory detail and describing things in creative ways (“turtled with bullet-proof vests” is a particular favourite)
The Kuleshov Effect (Nora Nadjarian | Milk Candy Review)
Why I like it: the puzzle-box nature of the story, the invitation (in the title) to take all of these scenes and derive meaning from how they fit together, the rhythmical feel of the writing (cleverly underpinned by repetition and mirroring and other lyrical techniques)
Third Person Bio (Kik Lodge | Ellipsis Zine)
Why I like it: the knowing way the story acknowledges its likely audience, the wry humour throughout, the human story that emerges and the emotional swell of the ending that defies the simple innocence of the title.
Occur (Judith Osilé Ohikuare | Cheap Pop)
Why I like it: the unsettling nature of the story, the way the form enhances the narrative as well as the emotional journey, everything that is bubbling away beneath what is actually there on the page.
Between Things (Lavanya Vasudevan | Pidgeonholes)
Why I like it: the either-or structure that continues throughout, asking a reader to contemplate the different facades of this man and the different way of seeing his actions; the original new slant on the mythological
PROMPT: take a character from myth and write a piece that examines who history tells us they are against your own contrasting interpretation of their character. Perhaps make use of a similar either-or structure to the one in “Between Things”
Banana (Laila Amado | Flash Frog)
Why I like it: the insistent repetition of that paragraph opening “imagine”; the way our perspective is shifted from one thing / one person to the next; the sense of this specific family unit that emerges from these details, and the universal portrait of life that extends out of that
Upside Down (Kathryn Kulpa | Five South)
Why I like it: the ending that changes everything that has gone before, asks a reader to dive in for a second read and understand the scenario in a different light, the intriguing details that make the piece completely original.
I hoped you enjoyed all my recommendations this month. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments. I’d also love to hear about any other brilliant ‘mondettes’ you’ve discovered over the past few weeks.
Why not share with your writer friends?
If you haven’t already done so, why not subscribe to get my monthly round-up sent straight to your inbox?