Why do you write flash? What makes it different for you?
I write flash for the same reason I write anything: because I love doing it. And flash helps me remember that good writing is about using as few words as possible to tell your story. Writers often like the sound of their own (or their narrator’s) voice too much. Flash reminds me to shut up. Get out of the way of the story. And it’s great for editing practice. Write long if you must. But edit short.
What’s your writerly lifejacket: character or plot?
I can’t write plots. I’ve tried. I can come up with a moment, an epiphany, a striking image to begin or end on. But my writing is character-driven. I hear about people who map things out, or they use a card system, colour-coding, spreadsheets, and I’ve read widely about narrative theory, but it’s too “conscious” for me. Pinter said he just wrote what the characters in his head were saying, and mostly, I do that. Once I’ve got the narrative voice, everything gets easier.
Writing style: Quick and messy or slow and precise?
The best stories come out in an unstoppable flow. But then editing is slow and precise. I enjoy both. I often enjoy editing more, the cutting back, the chipping away. I’ve done exercises where you write a full story to a strict, low, wordcount, say, one thousand words. Then you leave it for a day, and when you come back you have to cut it in half. It’s always – always – a better story for it.
What element or part of your “real life” do you think most influences your writing?
I try not to write autobiographically, but the big things in my life bleed into my stories: being a son, being a father, being divorced, falling in love, giving up booze, losing people, and battling – as many do – with four-in-the-morning fears. Getting up and getting on with it, Like Carver said: “Life. Always life.”
If you could recommend a few flash stories or writers, who/what would it be?
There’s a huge amount of flash fiction published, and a lot of it is not necessarily very good. It’s like any art form: much of what is produced is mediocre. And I’m happy to include most of my own work in this! But there are some excellent flash writers out there. I want to mention three, to keep it manageable.
Meg Pokrass writes flash fiction which is immediately recognizable as uniquely hers. It’s something I greatly admire in her work.
Peter Jordan is a writer I’ve come to “know” through twitter. He does something in his stories which makes me want to show them to everyone and say, “See? That’s what I mean!” The words don’t get in the way of the stories.
Adam Lock often writes a particular kind of flash – brief, present tense, deceptively simple, but full of symbolic resonance. I find them incredibly effective.
What story of yours do you wish got more recognition?
I’m going with a story published earlier this year online at The Nottingham Review called Counterpoint. When I wrote it, I had a feeling that I’d done almost exactly what I wanted to do, that I’d had an idea and I’d put that idea on paper in a way which felt very satisfying. That’s what writing can be, when it works. It made me feel a real sense of accomplishment.
Bio: Jason Jackson’s prize-winning fiction has been published extensively online and in print. In 2019 his work has appeared at New Flash Fiction Review and Nottingham Review. In January, Jason’s hybrid photography/prose piece The Unit was published by A3 Press. His stories have been nominated for The Pushcart Prize and Best of Small Fictions. Jason tweets @jj_fiction