Top 8 Flash Featuring Strong Sense of Place
These pieces have been chosen because the writer has done something special with sense of place. They’ve eliminated the need for a distinction between foreign and familiar. It doesn’t matter if you’ve never seen that place, been to that spot. You know this place because of how this writer has created it.
- Joaquin Fernandez, Places Saved and Lost- Rhythm & Bones 2018
Joaquin Fernandez’s tale stands out among many short shorts that tackle grief. The author mixes literary techniques like a bartender crafting the perfect cocktail. Detail and specificity arrive in the first paragraph and never leave, cementing a vivid scene throughout. The addition of tension, slowing the heartbeat instead of speeding it up, imbues the moment with depth. Finally, Fernandez’s choice of second person point of view grabs the reader by the collar, involving them in the narrative. An intoxicating combination.
- Hema Nataraju, Make Your Own Sandwiches – Funny Pearls 2020
In this expeditious, voice driven flash, Hema Nataraju focuses on a unique moment in time. The use of humor and hyperbole sets up a thrill ride. This is accomplished with brevity. The author isn’t mired in the distraction of description. Characters are introduced efficiently and their engagement is immediate. The setting is clear and so are the stakes. Even if the reader has never seen the vegetable; they now know exactly what it means to stand at an okra bin.
The bitter pain of generational trauma is exposed and juxtaposed with the sweetness of fruit in Noor Hindi’s piece. A heartfelt and heartbreaking tone is deftly conveyed via the author’s choice of an epistolary format. The reader weaves in and out of vignettes rooted in specific surroundings. They are powerfully rendered, with some of them giving the illusion of a life paused. A clever strand of quotes interlaced with an already layered narrative makes this a piece worthy of study.
- Arriel Vinson, Boiling Water – Kweli Journal 2020
You don’t read Arriel Vinson’s piece, you experience it. The hyperrealism ensures that weeks later, the scenes will come to you in your most mundane moments and remind you why art is so important. Why minutiae that sneak in unannounced like the sound of leaves or a playground can be just as forceful, if not more forceful than long, luxurious descriptions. Setting doesn’t overwhelm or obliterate Vinson’s story, it flows alongside it. In a compelling current that’s impossible to resist.
- Michelle Ross, The Sand and the Sea – Smokelong Quarterly 2018
Though the beach setting is essential to Michelle Ross’ story, the author doesn’t expend words characterizing it. Instead, emotion and motion-laden imagery portray seminal childhood moments. Trusting the reader to know this place both physically and spiritually without additional prompting, frees Ross to engage in a satisfying game of contrasts. The author pits the unfolding imagination of youth against the simplicity of thought in adulthood, stacking one relationship against another. The result is a clean yet rich examination of motherhood.
- Christopher Moyer, Feral – Hobart 2014
In Christopher Moyer’s piece, “the woods” act as a backdrop, but also as a foil for the young narrator and their sister. There is something fantastical and mysterious about two siblings wandering through this setting. Moyer allows those preconceptions to take hold while using them as a counterbalance for a less fanciful narrative. A narrative that’s built on neglect and how it permeates life, oftentimes by choice. By the end, the title takes on multiple meanings and it’s confirmed, this is no fairy-tale.
- Victoria McCurdy, This is How You Fail to Ghost Him – Monkeybicycle 2017
Our virtual lives collide with the real world creating a space explored in this lyrical flash by Victoria McCurdy. Rhythm and repetition form patterns that allow the reader to slide into the story as if descending a spiral staircase. There’s honesty to the moments McCurdy describes, even in the quick travel into multiple universes, each a branch of a different decision. The sensory detail grounds the narrative and creates openings for the author to insert that most human emotion—vulnerability.
- László Krasznahorkai, I Don’t Need Anything From Here – The New Yorker 2017
In a single poetic sentence, László Krasznahorkai tells a story that borders on prayer. The breathless format is supported by repetition; it reaffirms the claim made in the first fragment, “I would leave everything here.” As the reader discovers exactly what “everything” is and where is “here”, the pacing is used to highlight the shift in center and subject. The lens widens but the story (and the narrator) remains focused. Here it’s the subtracting of setting which engenders a transcendental tone.
Veronica Klash loves living in Las Vegas and writing in her living room. She is a Folio Award-winning essayist and a Senior Reader for Witness. Her work has appeared in such publications as Desert Companion, Cheap Pop, Ellipsis Zine, and X-Ray Lit. You can find more about Veronica at veronicaklash.com.
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