Why do you write flash? What makes it different for you?
There are many reasons why I like writing flash, and they’re likely similar to other flash writers. I love the brevity of flash, but also how nothing is sacrificed to achieve this brevity. There are flashes that are easily more powerful and have had a greater impact on me than novels I’ve read. I love what is unsaid, and I love that readers of flash sometimes need to see the unseen in order to really see what’s going on.
What I also enjoy about flash is how well it lends itself to reading aloud. You can go to a flash reading as a reader or a listener and read aloud or listen to many fully-formed, complete stories in a single evening. There’s nothing I enjoy more than reading some of my funnier flashes to a room full of people and making them laugh and smile (though I make sure they’ve had a drink or two first…).
Also, I have the strange inability to write anything much longer. I’d love to write a novel, but every time I’ve had an idea I’ve (accidentally!) turned it into a flash fiction.
What’s your writerly lifejacket: character or plot?
I think both are important.
As an editor for National Flash Fiction Day and New Flash Fiction Review, I read a lot of stories and I always ask myself the same question: “Do I care about this character and their situation?” This may sound harsher than I intend, but every reader wants to care about what they’re reading, right? If nothing happens, or the character is flat and stereotypical, then it’s difficult for me to keep reading, even if the story is a few hundred words, because I’m not invested in this character or their fate.
Writing-wise, the core of my stories often come to me either as a character or as a situation. Perhaps the plot comes to me first more often than the character. I really love it when an odd situation comes to mind and I can explore this absurd and surreal world, but I also love it when a distinctive character comes along and demands that I listen to what they have to say. Whichever it is, that usually drives the writing of the first draft for me, and I have to be conscious of not neglecting the other while redrafting. I think I’m better at spotting this in other peoples’ writing than in my own, but that’s why I love reading submissions because you learn so much doing so.
What is great about flash is we don’t need to read it and be able to list off a number of traits a character has or be able to plot out the entire narrative arc. So much of this detail can be implied, but it still needs to be there for the reader, and I think the best flash achieves this balance.
Writing style: Quick and messy or slow and precise?
Write fast, edit slow. Sometimes. It all depends. Sometimes an idea comes along and I need to get it down right away, whereas other times I will keep it in my head and let it grow. I wouldn’t say I write in my head, but certain sentences or images or dialogue may formulate as a part of the initial spark (that character or that situation/plot) and then I can get to it.
What element or part of your “real life” do you think most influences your writing?
I’m fascinated by different perceptions. My first collection of flashes was called Dots and other flashes of perception purely because I felt these flashes explored a lot of different perspectives. I find it intriguing how other people think, how they view the world, and how our perception of reality may not always match up to what really is. How many times have we misinterpreted a situation and then realised we were completely wrong or thought we’d misinterpreted a situation but ended up being completely right? It’s a part of what makes us all human, this relationship each individual has with the world, and I believe this makes for interesting stories. It’s something I think occupies all of my writing, especially in my forthcoming V-Press flash pamphlet, There’s Something Macrocosmic About All of This.
If you could recommend a few flash stories or writers, who/what would it be?
There are so many fantastic writers who consistently publish such stellar writing that any attempt at a list on my part is going to omit incredible work by incredible human beings.
There are also many brilliant flash magazines that publish a stunning flash fiction. Again, making a list would immediately mean accidentally overlooking some, but I think you can’t go wrong by reading everything SmokeLong Quarterly, Wigleaf, matchbook, and Jellyfish Review publish. I’d also add New Flash Fiction Review, but I’m slightly biased (that said, I do objectively believe we publish killer flashes).
I will say that having just finished reading submissions for the next National Flash Fiction Day annual anthology, there are some really amazing flashes in response to the theme of food. ‘Thirteen’ by Jen Harvey moved me to tears when I first read it. Last year’s title story by Helen Rye in Sleep is a Beautiful Colour: 2017 National Flash Fiction Day Anthology is both hilarious and heart-stirring.
Charmaine Wilkerson’s flash novella, How to Make a Window Snake, is also essential reading. I’m currently looking forward to reading New Micro: Exceptionally Short Fiction edited by James Thomas and Robert Scotellaro (due in August), as well as Christopher Allen’s Other Household Toxins, which is out now.
Kathy Fish, Tania Hershman, Ingrid Jendrzrjewski… I could go on and on and on…
What story of yours do you wish got more recognition?
This feels like a weird question to answer. I’m happy for any recognition for any of my work, but what I wish my stories do most is connect with a reader in some way.
If I had to choose one, I think I would choose my story called ‘Plastic,’ which is about a father whose wife gives birth to a living, alcoholic baby-doll, who changes as she grows based on love.
I had so much fun writing this story, but what means the most to me is that this story was published in a fantastic anthology called Stories for Homes Volume 2, where all profits from the sale of the anthology are donated to Shelter, a UK homelessness charity. You can find out more by visiting their website: https://storiesforhomes.wordpress.com
BIO: Santino Prinzi is the Co-Director of National Flash Fiction Day in the UK and the Senior Editor for New Flash Fiction Review. His debut flash fiction collection, Dots and other flashes of perception, was published by The Nottingham Review Press, and his flash pamphlet, There’s Something Macrocosmic About All of This, is forthcoming from V-Press. His short stories, flash fiction, and prose poetry have been published or are forthcoming in various magazines and anthologies, such as Flash: The International Short-Short Story Magazine, Jellyfish Review, Litro Online, (b)OINK! zine, Bath Flash Fiction Award Vol.2, Stories for Homes Anthology Vol.2, Ink Sweat & Tears, and The Airgonaut. To find out more follow him on Twitter (@tinoprinzi) or visit his website: https://tinoprinzi.wordpress.com