Tag Archive | Kevin Julien

Flash Points: First Lines!


Welcome back to Flash Points. Every (so often) on a not-very-hot-for-August Monday we stick one of the previous Friday’s entries under a sparklyscope and talk about it right in front of its face, dragon style. What makes writing “good”? Specifically, what makes great flash? Let the discussion begin!

Prompt: Men and machine

Word limit:  100200 

Killer first lines!

Like any other form of writing, flash fiction requires a strong hook, a strong finish, deliberate development of plot and character, consciously chosen details, a uniquely compelling voice–except a fraction of the length and twice the strength. That first sentence, for example, had better grab the reader right off the bat and pull them (even if kicking and screaming) into the story. 

The following are the first lines that caught my eye this week and made me want to keep reading. I love their succinctness, their mystery, their color & texture, and how these dynamics immediately made their stories stand out:

From the beginning, Tom had seen the risks. Tom O’Connell

“Something doesn’t feel right.” — Marie McKay

He looked at the photograph, well, not so much looked, as interpreted; it was hard to look at anything anymore without actual eyeballs. — Erin McCabe

“See? I told you he was up to no good.”IfeOluwa Nihinlola

Three concerned faces studied the old machine; it hadn’t been used for months and it wasn’t yet clear why it had been used today.A J Walker

This is painful to watch. — Danielle Cahill

“Couldn’t we simply leave him in there?” — Kevin Julien

The day at long last had come, and the reporters sat anxiously awaiting the feeds from NASA.M T Decker

The truth was that the moment that I saw her, I knew she would be a star.  — J M Blackman

“This will change the world?” asked Dr. Canon. — Whitney Healy

What about you?

What these first lines share is the way they pulled me in and made me want to know more about whatever world their writers have created.  

What first lines throughout literature are your favorite?? Let’s go beyond the famous ones (though yes, “It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of good fortune must be in want of a wife,” probably wins hands down. And yes, a girl can love dragons AND Jane Austen!). 




Flash! Friday # 31 — WINNERS!

One cannon. One mountain. Infinite number of story possibilities! You all showed up with arsenals exploding with creativity. No matter the prompt, you always manage to knock our socks off with your writing. Thanks as ever for coming out to play and to encourage each other. See you next week!


Judge Dan Radmacher says, This week’s prompt seemed to really get the creative juices flowing. Dragons, magic, mysterious backdrops and, of course, lots and lots of battles. This was a great collection, as usual, making the judge’s job pleasantly difficult. 



Kay Sully, “Imagination.” This was a sweet tale that charmingly captured the innocence and imagination of youth. Well done. 


Sarah Cain, “The Glory of Battle.” In some ways this was the tonal opposite of “Imagination.” This wasn’t about innocence and imagination; it was about a man who long ago lost his innocence and who had seen things he never could have–or would have wanted to–imagine. The weight on his shoulders is palpable, thanks to the excellent writing.


Mary Decker, “Heritage.” This lovely little tale bridges the thematic difference between the honorable mention and the second runner up. There’s innocence. And indifference. There’s what must have been a horrific battle, but with more distance and a greater sense of duty. And then the indifference and distance are overcome as the main character realizes the meaning of honor and sacrifice and bravery. Awesome.

And our Flash! Friday familiar competitor but first-time gold medalist



for “Ill-Tempered.”  Let me count the ways I love this piece. First of all, I love the title’s subtle pun. There’s some very descriptive prose here. You really put the reader in Smith’s shoes. The ending provided a nice little twist. In addition, you managed to hint at a much larger tale that made me want to learn more. It’s not often I read the very first entry and realize I’ve probably already found the winner, but that’s what happened this time. Wonderful, compelling job.  

Congratulations, Craig! Here are your Winner’s Page, your magnificently crafted eBadge (below), and your winning Tale. Please contact me asap (here) with your email address so I can interview you for Wednesday’s Sixty Seconds feature (I can’t wait!).


The liquid glowed red like a sunset as it poured from the melting pot. The Smith wiped his brow with a thick leather glove to prevent the sweat from trickling into his eyes. He carefully guided the substance into the mould under the watchful gaze of his captors. They frantically made notes, studying his every move so as to eventually remove his usefulness to them. The only way to prolong this miserable existence was to keep them guessing. He changed the process again, this time pouring cold water onto the sculpture. It hissed and spat in protest as they scribbled away.

The ugly one with the moustache barked at him in broken English. “Why you add water?”

“It settles the metal quicker, makes it stronger. Allows you to pack it with more gunpowder, to fire further.”

Ugly smiled a wicked, one-toothed grin.

It would take several days for the metal to cool, and several more for them to ship this evil contraption to the castle. By the time they tried to fire it he would likely be dead, but he would get the last laugh when the weakened steel exploded in their faces. This would be his final contribution to the rebel cause.


Flash! Friday # 29 — WINNERS!

I KNEW IT! You all wrung tears and giggles and who knows what else out of poor Mona Lisa and her weighty travails. Thanks to all of you for giving the prompt a go, and history-sized thanks to judge Beth Peterson for her own weighty travails. I love the weeks when y’all make the judges sweat over their decision. Oh wait. That’s every week!


Judge Beth Peterson says, This was a great group of stories, and I really enjoyed the privilege of reading and studying each one! Thank you, writers all! Many of you made me think, many of you made me smile, several made me laugh or sigh in sheer enjoyment, and some of you made me smirk. Tar and feathers on the Master’s stool, indeed! EEP! 

NOW: a bit of a disclaimer, if you will. I am an artist. I am an artist who loves history and art history. I am the daughter of an artist and art professor who has actually seen the Mona Lisa in person, not once, but twice! So this week’s prompt has a great deal of added pleasure for me. *happiness dance* 



Craig Anderson, “Revealed.” Fun–you get the clear indication of the husband’s character as well as the lady’s, and having been caught in doing commission work, I sincerely feel for the painter! But you really got me with that last line: “And paint that stupid smirk off her face!” ROFL 

Marycritic13, “Lady of Ice.” A fun and well-done piece of fantasy! I love that you used the Mona Lisa’s background as part of your story–it is so often overlooked and yet so wonderfully painted. I am also totally intrigued with how and why Lady Liada’s eyes turned from brown to icy blue! (And I’m sure Rebekah will love that you have dragons, lol.) [[Editor’s note: ARE YOU A MINDREADER?!]] 

Kevin S. Julien, “Beauty is a Beast.” Kudos for that delightfully unexpected ending! You made me laugh with undiluted mischievousness! And a nice — if irreverent 😉 — nod to the pedestal the painting has been metaphorically placed upon, as well as all those Mona Lisa parodies, and including the ones with fangs. 😀


Ruth Long, “The Lady’s Secret.” Homey and inviting — a real treat to read and a love way to bring this larger-than-life icon down to the earthly realm we humans actually dwell within! I love the immediate sense of place and the characterizations. My one wish was that you had stayed true to the time frame… perhaps using the Italian for “grandma” and “ducky,” and using something other than pinky-swearing. Wonderful story otherwise.


Mary Decker, “A Secret Worth Keeping.” Magical, and reminiscent of so many myths and legends of artists/craftsmen and their works, from Pygmalion to Gepetto and onwards. Good beginning stretching into a lovely, strong climax-of-intent, followed by a very strong ending! The characters of painter and his lady are spare but come across so clearly – and I love the answer you gave for her secret smile.

And our Flash! Friday third-time gold medalist, but it’s-been-a-while



for “Eterno Sorriso.”  What can I say?? Masterful writing and a great merging of history, literature, and… not really a twist, because it fits so very well! And you certainly caught daVinci’s reputation for grouchy arrogance, LOL! Not just with the American tourist, but with the docent as well. Marvelous story — congratulations!

Congratulations, Maggie! Here are your Winner’s Page, your magnificently crafted eBadge (below), and your winning Tale. Please contact me asap (here) with your email address so I can interview you for Wednesday’s Sixty Seconds feature.

Eterno Sorriso

“And here we have possibly the most famous work in the Louvre, Da Vinci’s portrait of whom we believe is Lisa Gherardini, wife of the Florentine merchant, Francesco el Giocondo,” said the museum docent.

Under the careful eye of the guard, the tourists gathered around the portrait, held back by its protective enclosure.

“You probably know it as the ‘Mona Lisa,’ but we call it ‘La Gioconda,’” the docent continued.

“Is that the picture that was in that Da Vinci code movie?” asked one man. The guard looked him over. An American, of course.

“That was ‘The Last Supper,’” the docent replied, her smile indulgent.

“Can we see that?” the tourist asked.

No, you moron, the guard thought, because it’s in Milan.

The docent moved the group along, and the guard met the eyes of Lisa Gherardini. If only they knew, he heard her say inside his head. His smile echoed hers.

The real Da Vinci code was his formula for immortality, and who better to guard his masterpiece but Il Maestro himself?