Why do you write flash? What makes it different for you?
Thank you so much for asking me to do this. It has really made me think.
For me, everything about flash fiction is more immediate than other forms of literature. They do take time to write, but still, they are not as time consuming as short stories or indeed novels. The submission and feedback process from magazines and competitions is also relatively quick. And if a piece isn’t working, you can work on it and submit again. I think I’m a writer who needs the constant process of submission and response; flash fiction fulfills this need.
What makes flash fiction different, is its precision. Short stories and novels do share this quality, at times, but flash fiction is all about precision. I love identifying what truth a flash piece is searching for and then cutting everything that doesn’t help convey this truth. For me, a great flash piece is like a ray of light shining on one tiny, yet universal truth.
What’s your writerly lifejacket: character or plot?
This is a naughty question. But I like it. I’ve been thinking about this more and more recently. The conclusion I have reached, is that fundamentally, people want to read about people (or animals – but even these tend to be anthropomorphised, and so end up being about people too). It’s a simple as that. Plot is what happens to characters, so this of course is important too. But ultimately, all good fiction says something about what it feels like to be human. And when a writer hits on something the reader recognises to be a shared human experience… well here lies its magic.
Writing style: Quick and messy or slow and precise?
I find it difficult to shut off the editor in my head sometimes, so I tend to be more ‘slow and precise.’ I think it would be ideal to be both — to begin ‘quick and messy,’ and then slow down and be more ‘slow and precise.’
There is a fantastic book on writing called, ‘From Where You Dream,’ by Robert Olen Butler, who writes about how to reach a ‘dreamspace,’ and create a sense of ‘yearning,’ in your writing. This made me see how important it is to be both quick and slow at different times. Being quick and messy can trick your brain into revealing something of which you’re not consciously aware. This stuff is the gold you’re after. Then the slow part of your brain has to sift for that nugget of gold in amongst all the other stuff your brain is playing with.
There is a collection of Norman Mailer’s thoughts on writing called, ‘The Spooky Art.’ I write in the early mornings, and sometimes when I read back what I’ve written, I don’t remember writing it. The writing process really does feel wonderfully spooky sometimes.
In short, I want to be both, but I am definitely more ‘slow and precise.’
What element or part of your “real life” do you think most influences your writing?
Has to be the things other people say and do. I think I’ve always watched and listened, but being a writer makes you really watch and listen. People do and say unbelievably wonderful things without even realising sometimes. I use the Notes app on my phone to write these things down – otherwise I’d forget most of it (and don’t think you won’t – you will). Then, when I’m struggling to think of something to write, I look in my notes and I have a first line or prompt to start me off. Sometimes I don’t even use the original idea, but it’s a place to start.
If you could recommend a few flash stories or writers, who/what would it be?
This is tough because there are so many writers, and now friends, who I follow and whose work I think is wonderful.
Melissa Goode writes stories on a theme I come back to time and again myself: relationships. She has such a light touch, and this ability to gesture to different moments in time that connect and spark off one another. I’m in awe of the poise and delicacy in her writing. This is her story, ‘Guernica’: https://jmwwblog.wordpress.com/2018/03/23/fiction-guernica-by-melissa-goode/
Christopher M Drew writes stories that integrates the natural world and science beautifully. I have been lucky enough to share drafts of stories with Chris, and have received his invaluable advice. I don’t think there is a flash fiction writer who plays with white space better than Chris.
‘The Shape of Us,’ is a great story: https://www.reflexfiction.com/the-shape-of-us-flash-fiction-by-christopher-m-drew/
Leonora Desar’s stories are instantly recognisable. She writes with freedom and bravery, generating a feeling of hope and joy. When I read one of her flash pieces I see the word in a slightly different way. A wonderful writer.
This is, ‘Fire, Ocean.’ https://www.theshortstory.co.uk/flash-fiction-fire-ocean-by-leonora-desar/
Peter Jordan is a terrific writer. I’ve been lucky enough to receive his advice and help with my own writing. His stories uncover universal truths that are presented in a clear and visceral way.
This is, ‘At the Bottom of the Glass’: http://www.ellipsiszine.com/at-the-bottom-of-the-glass-by-peter-jordan/
More great writers, collections and stories:
Christopher Allen’s collection: ‘Other Household Toxins’
Stephanie Hutton’s NiF: ‘Three Sisters of Stone’
Meg Porkrass’ collection: ‘Alligators at Night’
Gaynor Jones: ‘The Thing Between Your Legs’ http://jonzeywriter.com/the-thing-between-your-legs
Damhnait Monaghan: ‘The Neverlands’ https://jellyfishreview.wordpress.com/2018/04/20/the-neverlands-by-damhnait-monaghan/
Jason Jackson: ‘As Beautiful as Blackberry Picking’ https://fictivedream.com/2018/06/29/as-beautiful-as-blackberry-picking/
What story of yours do you wish got more recognition?
That’s another tough one. Commenting on your own writing always feels a little icky doesn’t it? I’ll choose a story I wrote when I first started writing flash fiction. I wrote this at a time I was learning about white space and leaving room for the reader. I think there are stories in which you recognise an improvement in your craft. I think this story, ‘Step on a Crack,’ is one such story for me.
Thank you again for this opportunity. I’ve really enjoyed it.
Bio: Adam Lock writes in the Midlands, UK. He recently won the TSS Summer Quarterly Flash Competition 2018 and the STORGY Flash Competition 2018. He was placed third in the Cambridge Short Story Prize 2017, and has been shortlisted twice for the Bath Flash Fiction Award 2018. He’s had, or soon will have, stories appear in publications such as Lost Balloon, Former Cactus, MoonPark Review, Fictive Dream, Spelk, Reflex, Retreat West, Fiction Pool, Ellipsis Zine, Ghost Parachute, and many others. You can find links to his stories on his website: adamlock.net. He’s also active on Twitter at: @dazedcharacter.