Writing Winning Flash for Apparition Lit

*This blog post was originally publish Feb 7th, 2023 and was updated to now include reference to 2023 Flash winners*

Greetings and salutations, readers!

It’s time to get real about our reality show themed flash competitions. This year, we have decided to stretch your imagination by sending you down the television trope whirlpool, and we are excited for what you have in store. 

January was our first month, and we had a whole range of stunning entries. In the months since, I have noticed a handful of trends. In the spirit of sharing success, I wanted to take this time to tell you all what I am looking for in 2023 – and updated this blog to include examples of winners! 

Here are some rules, friendly reminders, and also some wishes (NOW with examples), that will help your piece rise to the top month after month:

  • These are reality shows, but we don’t want reality: turn the mundane into the speculative. The shows we reference in the prompt? Yeah, those are bound to our modern realm of existence. We want to see worlds beyond anything we would ever see on cable. Remember: we only accept speculative fiction. 
    • Winning Story: In Her Wake, by Elis Montgomery
    • Month and Prompt: March, Team Challenge Game Shows, inspired by Would I lie to you? and Taskmaster
    • Why it won: Fantastical and expansive, this story far transcends our realm of existence. It shows an eternal battle between Gods and those that worship them, and sends the protagonist on a heroic journey beyond what modern game shows could ever imagine. A lot more is at stake than just reward money!


  • Be inspired, but not ekphrastic: last year, we asked our writers to use the images as prompts. This year, we are decidedly not. You don’t need to tell me about something you have seen on the show; the inspiration is just a starting point to spring you into other realms. Take us there! 
    • Winning story: Just of the Two of You, by Laura Barker
    • Month and Prompt: April, Travel and Adventure Shows, inspired by The Amazing Race and Where in the world is Carmen San Diego?
    • Why it won: This strange, dark tale is complex and tells a layered, imaginative tale of identity. There’s no reference to a television show; no reference to television at all. Just the competition between our protagonist and her shadow self. Is it real? Or is it in her head? It’s open for interpretation, and that’s why we love it.


  • Think beyond the screen: the shows we reference have so many layers. What we end up with as consumers is just the icing on the cake. We want the underbelly; what stories are there, beyond what can be seen on tv? 
    • Winning Story: We Interrupt this Program by Taryn Frazier
    • Month and Prompt: May, Cooking Competition Shows, inspired by Great British Baking Show and Chopped
    • Why it won: There’s a show happening, of course. But that is the least of the concern for our many contestants and characters. Instead, the story is laden with dread and mystery of what is happening off-screen and just out of ear-shot. A jump cut shows us how scary things have truly become, outside of what the cameras have captured.


  • Do not use the name of the shows: you just don’t need to! 
    • Winning Story: Clonely Hearts Club by Marie Pabolinio 
    • Month and Prompt: February, Inspired by Romance Reality TV, Fboy Island, The Bachelor
    • Why it won: This is definitely not a real show. At least, not one any of our readers would ever come across in this universe. And while our protagonist is on the show, the author peels back the layers of deception to reveal our clone’s shiny core, and leave you wanting more. It also is a great example of how the truly eye-catching stories about about television have unique and ardent voices that exceed TV tropes in all ways.


  • Do not include actual elements (people, places, things) from the shows: while you may be a fan, we do not accept fan fiction. By including show specifics, you are limiting your own possibilities, and you will find yourself counted out. 
    • Pieces that feature stories told from the perspective of producers, viewers, directors, or other entertainment-industry type folks are an increasingly hard-sell for this year’s theme. To increase your odds, we recommend you avoid these tropes entirely. While you all have submitted staggering works, stories featuring someone talking about a show or production – be it on set or as a viewer – are no longer standing out amongst the many other submissions.
    • Winning Story: The Treachery of Objects by Dylan Kingsley
    • Month and Prompt: January, Inspired by Antiques Roadshow and Pawn Stars
    • Why it won: This first-person story shows what it means to tell a story in a unique voice. It has nothing to do with television, but everything to do with being haunted and the way objects are both saved, and destroyed. The fact that it only relates to the inspiration shows when you squint and tilt your head sideways is what made it jump to the head of the pack, straight out the gate.


  • Don’t be limited by the shows’ format: it can be tempting to think that because we reference a specific show, that’s how we want to see the narrative and dialogue. Not true! A format that works on tv does not always translate to fiction. So while it may be a lofty challenge for you to replicate a show in writing, it will likely feel like a mismatch for us. 
    • Winning Story: Zone Cook Mechanism by Oli Johns
    • Month and Prompt: May, Cooking Competition Shows, inspired by Great British Baking Show and Chopped
    • Why it won: Beyond bizarre, Zone Cook truly pushes experimental flash to it’s limit, and is so staggeringly strange and wonderful, it had to be one of two winners in the first time in Apparition Lit history.

TL:DR: Do be creative and get us away from the reality of the reality show prompt. Don’t be literal. 

Until next time, friends!

Blog Photo by dylan nolte on Unsplash    

  • Marie Baca Villa
    Marie Baca Villa Blogger/Submission Reader

    Marie Baca Villa is a Chicana writer and artist in California. She has a master’s degree in psychology and used her education to build a long career in crime victim advocacy. As a fan of speculative fiction, she loves anything involving strange worlds, complex characters, and unexplained phenomenon. She’s a bonified cat lady, covered in tattoos, and she loves cussing, beer, and flaming hot cheetos. You can find Marie on Twitter @okay_its_marie

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