UPDATED WITH WINNER: LitReactor's Flash Fiction Smackdown: Knockemstiff Edition

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

Welcome to LitReactor's Flash Fiction Smackdown, a monthly bout of writing prowess.

How It Works

We give you inspiration in the form of a picture, poem, video, or prompt. 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

  • 20 words. It can be less, but not more. 
  • It can be any genre.
  • Give it a title. Please keep it to 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.
  • LitReactor staffers can't win, but are encouraged to participate.
  • All stories submitted on or before June 29th.  We will run the winner on June 30th.

This Month's Prize

One lucky winner gets a copy of Donald Ray Pollock's newest book, The Heavenly Table, coming out in July from Doubleday. 

From Donald Ray Pollock, author of the highly acclaimed The Devil All the Time and Knockemstiff, comes a dark, gritty, electrifying (and, disturbingly, weirdly funny) new novel that will solidify his place among the best contemporary American authors.

It is 1917, in that sliver of border land that divides Georgia from Alabama. Dispossessed farmer Pearl Jewett ekes out a hardscrabble existence with his three young sons: Cane (the eldest; handsome; intelligent); Cob (short; heavy set; a bit slow); and Chimney (the youngest; thin; ill-tempered). Several hundred miles away in southern Ohio, a farmer by the name of Ellsworth Fiddler lives with his son, Eddie, and his wife, Eula. After Ellsworth is swindled out of his family's entire fortune, his life is put on a surprising, unforgettable, and violent trajectory that will directly lead him to cross paths with the Jewetts. No good can come of it. Or can it?

In the gothic tradition of Flannery O'Connor and Cormac McCarthy with a healthy dose of cinematic violence reminiscent of Sam Peckinpah, Quentin Tarantino and the Coen Brothers, the Jewetts and the Fiddlers will find their lives colliding in increasingly dark and horrific ways, placing Donald Ray Pollock firmly in the company of the genre's literary masters.

Your Inspiration

There are some crazy town names out there: Coxsackie, NY. Boring, Oregon. Truth and Consequences, NM. Imalone, WI. The author of our prize book was born in Knockemstiff, Ohio. For this month's contest, create a town with one of these awesome names (or you can use a real place, too,) and write a little description of what it's like to live in that town. 

And The Winner Is...Saul Aguilar

This was a fun one! It does amaze me how a place name can mean so much and have such an effect on its residents. This month's winning entry is from Saul Aguilar:

Nothing, AZ

The visitor says, "What'd I expect?" repeating the local's question. With eyes glazed over, he mumbles, "More."

Part Number:
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!

To leave a comment Login with Facebook or create a free account.


Jose F. Diaz's picture
Jose F. Diaz from Boston is reading Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel June 1, 2016 - 8:05am

Side Note: Steinbeck's East of Eden has a great section about town names. Well considering one of the major themes is names and how names influence the wearer, but I digress.

Yeehaw Junction, Florida

The single streetlight in Yeehaw Junction sways back and forth matched by old man Briggins in his rocking chair.

Terry Griffin Pearson's picture
Terry Griffin P... June 1, 2016 - 8:14am

Concequences, NH


Charmed by the history and quaintness of Consequences,  NH? There  are repercussions to living in a town aptly named.

mattmyth's picture
mattmyth from Rotorua, New Zealand is reading Cousins by Patricia grace June 13, 2016 - 6:37pm


A hall thats never used, a pub thats never closed, and heaps of Pakeha's with dumb questions.

Kikazzi's picture
Kikazzi June 1, 2016 - 11:16pm

Red Herring, WI

"Nothing good’s ever come outta that town, Sheriff, and yer number one suspect was born there."

Melina.'s picture
Melina. from Brazil is reading At Night We Walk in Circles (by Daniel Alarcón) June 2, 2016 - 9:42am

The town: Solidão (translated Loneliness), in Pernambuco - Brazil.

Loneliness down in the tropics

They come here to forget who they were, sir. Probably the reason no one opens the door to the new.

Saul Aguilar's picture
Saul Aguilar from Tucson, AZ is reading Waking Up June 3, 2016 - 3:27pm

Nothing, AZ

The visitor says, "What'd I expect?" repeating the local's question. With eyes glazed over, he mumbles, "More."

muhlar's picture
muhlar June 5, 2016 - 10:28am

Ghost Town, or Ong’s Hat, New Jersey.

Silence and honeysuckle prevail.  Wind cascades over the ribcage of a mummified mule still tethered to a rusty plow.  Progress.

BarryG's picture
BarryG June 6, 2016 - 6:53am

Hell, Norway

Don't know why so many tell you to go here - there's nothing to see. And it does freeze over...often.

Christopher Peterson's picture
Christopher Peterson from Illinois is reading the tea leaves... June 6, 2016 - 9:03am

Tetas de la Bruja Negra, CA - Est. 1846, Pop. 13

A coven founded the town atop an inaccessible snowcap in the Sierra Nevadas. It snows year-round. The population never changes.

The Dark Lord's picture
The Dark Lord from The Void is reading The Book of the Dead June 8, 2016 - 10:43am

Buttzville, New Jersey

“Yeah, Johnny’s has some of the best wieners to come out of Buttzville,” Dick commented.

Jack frowned, considering. “No shit?”

Thuggish's picture
Thuggish from Vegas is reading Day of the Jackal June 11, 2016 - 10:32pm


Home of Superman. Finally got their first stoplight and a McDonalds last year.

Timothy Burbage's picture
Timothy Burbage from Sunbury, England is reading The Girl of Ink and Stars June 20, 2016 - 8:24am

Santa Claus, Indiana

Home of Bob Griese, Hall of Fame Quarterback. Home of Jay Cutler...

It also has very busy postmen. Stupid kids.

Grant Williams's picture
Grant Williams from Wichita, KS is reading Friday June 30, 2016 - 6:22am

Dodge City, Kansas

You couldn't possibly miss Dodge City. Drive west until it smells like cow shit and broken dreams and you're there.