And what is it exactly that your mother does in Hell?


I have received final entries from five of our seven finalists, and have decided that their stories will be posted without retributi–oops!–attribution!

My guess is that you will be able to speculate who the author is because each finalist has a distinctive style, already developed  and evident in their previous submissions.  Why not give it your best guess in the comment box?

I still am scrambling to find a judge beyond reproach, or at least one who is willing to share!  $500 to our winner!

Here is our first final entry:

All it takes is Faith and Trust


Contestant #1


He’d told her before that it took a certain kind of person to perform an exorcism, and that she didn’t fit the profile. Yet she had just driven an intruding malevolent spirit out of his body and sent it to the next life.

“You did it, Lonnie!” Bence exclaimed, touching his face, chest, arms, to confirm his continued existence, too happy to be alive to realize the consequences of what just transpired. “You saved me!”

“How did I do that, exactly?” Lonnie asked, arms crossed. “Without seminary training? Without taking the holy vows? While being a woman? ”

Realizing his mistake, Bence winced, averting his gaze. “I’m… sorry I lied to you,” he said. “I just…. wanted you to need me. So you would keep me around.” He met her eyes, held her hands in his. “I can teach you the rest of it. I can teach you everything I know.”

Tempting, really. It would help greatly. But by then, it was too late.

“It was never about need,” she said, drawing her hands away. “I like having you around. We’re partners. Friends. I would’ve kept you with me forever. But you lied to me about something too important. I can’t trust you. And I can’t keep hunting ghosts with you. It’s over.”

“No,” he said desperately, shaking his head, eyes wide. “What would I do without you? Lonnie, I need you.”

“Need’s not the most important thing there is, Bence,” she said, turning away. “Maybe now you’ll learn that.”

33 thoughts on “And what is it exactly that your mother does in Hell?

  1. Parisianne Modert says:

    I really like the pace, the cadence and personal snap to the dialogue which proves the distinctive and acute connection and experience the characters share. I enjoy stories which transform characters either for the better or worse which this story did very well in such a compacted word count limit.

    Doing critique for finalist stories as a finalist is difficult, so I have pledged to only state the elements I am the most impressed with by each author. With this disclaimer written, I wish each of the other six finalists along with myself, your honest opinions. Six more great stories await us from six more talented writers. Life doesn’t get any better than this for a devoted writer and reader.

  2. Parisianne Modert says:

    I really tried to resist the guessing game of who wrote this, but I love game playing so I’m guessing this story was entered by Claudia Barillas which means the odds are only 6:1 I am right, since I know this story is not my final entry one. Let’s give this author or authoress a round of applause for their work throughout this contest.

  3. Miryam says:

    Sometimes we love our self made demons… Good story in so few words. It is a challenge, but you did a great job. Mazel to the finals!

  4. Kristy Webster says:

    You did a great job of telling a whole story, which infers a back story, setting and a relationship in very few words. That isn’t easy!

  5. Diane Cresswell says:

    I know how challenging it is to create a whole story in very few words. This definitely has been achieved rather interestingly on all levels – emotions, physical, mental and in spirit. Would be a rather good story to flesh out…good one.

    • thorn says:

      Remember Hemingway (appropriate in Heming-by-the-way country). Short story.
      “For Sale…Baby shoes…Never used.”

      Or how about “Editor…In-Chief…Humble…Moi”
      Position, power, fiction, falsity and vanity in only FIVE words and a hyphen!

  6. Julie Mark Cohen says:

    I haven’t, as yet, read any of the contest entries. (My real world took over for a few months.)

    This final story is intriguing, but I have some constructive criticism to please kindly take or toss, as you wish.

    I counted four characters, three males (two named, one unnamed) and one female (named). To avoid confusion, I suggest naming the characters when they are introduced. Also, the only Lonnie whom I’ve met was a male. If she was named up front and referred to as “she,” this confusion would be gone.

    Is the POV from Bence? We seem to be given some of his internal thoughts along the way. However, no attribution is given to to this: “Tempting, really. It would help greatly. But by then, it was too late.” If it was Bence, I’d suggest placing it in italics and moving it to the end of the previous paragraph; _Xxxxxx_, he thought. Or: He thought, _Xxxxxx_.

    If the story is from Bence’s POV, I’m wondering if it would be more effective if it ends with his dialogue? Or, maybe, this story can be written from Lonnie’s POV and have her end it?

    I’d like to be drawn closer to these characters. A lot of body parts are mentioned, most moving. I’d like to have more from which I can visualize them. Is there a hint of their ages? Physical presence? Clothing? Can our other senses (hearing, smell, maybe taste) be engaged, too?

    I’d like to see a stronger last sentence, something that can potentially leave a lasting impression. I think this can be accomplished by changing:
    “Need’s not the most important thing there is, Bence,” she said, turning away. “Maybe now you’ll learn that.”
    “Maybe, now you’ll learn something,” she said. “Do not be needy.” [or something like this to nail the point home]

    And, I’m wondering if the title can be shortened to “Faith and Trust” without loss of meaning?

    • Parisianne Modert says:

      I only counted two people in this story…Lonnie, the woman performing the exorcism and the frustrated enabler of her man’s lying ways in relationship…Bence, the man possessed, finally freed, but remaining a condescending, conceited self-victim of his own insecurities. Lonnie is trying to be close and respected by him. She has performed a miracle of sorts to try to turn him whole, but receives nothing, but a questionable, partial apology from him. The demon is driven out, but Bence still discounts Lonnie not as his equal, but as an inferior to himself to deflect his remaining self-condemning lack of self-love. He only appreciates part of the gift she has given him both before and after the demon has been driven out. POV I presume to mean the point of view in the story is shared in dialogue which is essential to knowing the two characters and their intentions. She needs a mutual life not to be his crutch, his enabler. With the demon being exorcised, Bence has run out of guilting her to stay. The relationship much like the demon is headed towards being exercised by Lonnie, because Bence is acting more like a demon himself than a loving man. This is the way I see this story.

      • Julie Mark Cohen says:

        Parisianne et al.,

        My comments pertained to story structure, clarity, and presentation, not to the meaning or interpretation of this story.

        By its very nature, flash fiction writing needs to quickly and efficiently convey without ambiguity (unless this is an objective). As such, characters should be identified by proper name when they are introduced. Sure, you could have a story with two characters, he and she with no names, but this distances the reader from the characters.

        By POV, I was referring to the “technical” meaning, which is a character who informs the reader of his internal thoughts and/or an author who tells us what a character is thinking or feeling. Bence’s POV is offered through these phrases:
        * touching his face, chest, arms, to confirm his continued existence, too
        happy to be alive to realize the consequences of what just transpired
        * Realizing his mistake
        * he said desperately

        Technically, dialogue isn’t a POV. We may learn about a character’s opinions through his spoken words, but, without getting into his head, we don’t have the tools to see the world through his eyes.

        In flash fiction, the POV is typically kept to one character. I’ve seen longer flash fiction (800-1000 words) in which two or three POVs were used, but this only seems to be successful when there are literally as many sections to the story as there are characters.

    • Mac Eagan says:

      Julie, I agree with you that the story does present two POV’s but I don’t see that it made the story hard to follow. I imagine that if you took the story from the outset as two characters (referred to as he and she in the opening paragraph, then named in the second) instead of four, the story would have fit together better for you.
      I do agree with your observations on the naming/spelling. I assumed Lonnie was the man since it was spelled in the “traditional” male way, and “Bence” is an unfamiliar name to me, thus not gender specific. Halfway through the story I figured out I was wrong and started over.
      I don’t consider ‘touching his face/chest/arms’ as a true POV issue. It is a physical act and can be observed by anyone. Most of the story is not “internal thoughts” POV but is dialogue – I only saw one or two sentences that were POV and the context indicated to me who was doing the thinking. But again, I connected the name and unnamed characters as the same characters so I was keeping track of fewer people.

      To Contestant #1: Although the story is short it is complete and makes a valid point. Relationships can survive differences of opinion and even some disrespect but if trust goes, it’s over. Although Lonnie quote’s Bence’s arguments that she cannot be an exorcist because of her lack of training/certification, and her gender, this disrespect by him is not the final straw. It is that he used convenient stereotypes to lie to her about what she could accomplish. He also evidently lied in not telling her that he wanted her but instead says he ‘wanted /her/ to need /him/.’ C’mon, Bence, man up and tell her how you really feel.

      Well written, Con1.

  7. Michael Stang says:

    Wow, can’t wait for my story’s time in the bucket…or maybe it just was. I gotta tell ya (anybody who wants to listen) the prompt threw me. In two hundred and fifty words, the story, back story, POV, and all the other goodies need to get it on quick before anything is too late. I know the finalists will find creative ways around this. This story did, and I am to be congratulated for it, or not.

    • Mac Eagan says:

      Love it when the Professor displays his IQ. ‘My story … or not.’ Way to play, Mike.
      I never do too well at the guess-the-author game so I am holding off for a bit (and hoping the newbies do things like comment on everyone’s story but their own, or post a Thank You on their own) before I venture any hypotheses.
      You’re right, Mike, the prompt for this write-off looks tough. “Too late” with any importance requires time and a backstory – not easy to do in 250 words.
      Can’t wait for the next entry to be posted.

  8. Mac Eagan says:

    The challenge in guessing authors with this contest is the inclusion of Elizabeth Sloan. Not saying she doesn’t belong but that I only found one story of hers on this site and it is difficult to define a “style” base only on that.
    Still, this particular entry makes me think of Claudia – and not because of the “Lonnie” discussion. That just pushed my opinion further in her direction.

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