The First Two Pages: “Mala Suerte” by E. Gabriel Flores

In April 2015, B.K. Stevens debuted the blog series “The First Two Pages,” hosting craft essays by short story writers and novelists analyzing the openings of their own work. The series continued until just after her death in August 2017, and the full archive of those essays can be found at Bonnie’s website. In November 2017, the blog series relocated to my website, and the archive of this second stage of the series can be found here.

The best short stories provide readers a sense of a world existing beyond the page—before the first page, beyond the final one, and all along the edges as well. One of the reasons I invited E. Gabriel Flores to contribute a First Two Pages essay today was not only the strength of the first two pages of “Mala Suerte,” her latest story for Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, but the power of the story’s first line: “As they drove away from the Glass Man’s house, Carmelita asked the question that had haunted her all her life.” In just a few words, this sentence gestures toward the wider world and the longer life lived—the longer life haunted (that tension)—but at the same time it dramatically emphasizes the importance of this immediate moment: Why ask this question now?

Seems easy, doesn’t it? But the next challenge is to make the rest of the story live up to the breadth and weight of that first line.

You’ll discover Carmelita’s question in the essay below and you’ll learn more about Flores’ craft choices here and throughout the story—a balancing act in many ways. And while the craft choices are of primary importance, I also loved hearing about how Flores’ personal history helped inspire this tale as well.

“Mala Suerte” is Flores’ third story for EQMM. Her first, “The Truth of the Moment,” won the 2017 Robert L. Fish Memorial Edgar Award. And she’s now working on a mystery novel as well. Find out more about her work at her website here.

Please use the arrows and controls at the bottom of the embedded PDF to navigate through the essay. You can also download the essay to read off-line.