Why do you write flash? What makes it different for you?
I was first really introduced to flash by Deb Olin Unferth. I was lucky enough to take her Very Short Story course when she briefly taught at the University of Kansas. At the time I was thinking more in terms of poetry for what I wanted to do with writing (well that and screenwriting).
I think about the books, stories, and lessons of that class all the time. It was a survey course, but we did have an opportunity to write our own pieces. I sorta tucked mine away. Flash forward (pun intended) some years later and I’m taking on flash writing with a more concerted effort. I was transitioning from a period of performing comedy and running comedy shows. I took that energy into writing stories—so my pieces are very much informed by joke-telling. I write flash because my brain is now wired for it.
What I love about flash is that it is so encompassing! You can have cheeky jokesters like me, you can have folks who create very serious and dramatic scenarios. You can have pieces that subvert fantasy tropes. You can go to space and blow up the earth in a paragraph. You can draw out a characters’ thought over two pages. You can go macro, micro, and everywhere in between. You can break hearts in a sentence. Because the stakes feel lower compared to other forms (and IMO they are not) you get this urge to experiment and explore.
What’s your writerly lifejacket: character or plot?
Probably character. Throw an interesting character into the most banal of situations and you’ll probably still have a story. But, in some of my favorite flash stories, the characters are purposefully thin, so the plot becomes the character. I value both voice-driven pieces and pieces that feel like logic puzzles.
Writing style: Quick and messy or slow and precise?
Quick and messy. Build the idea or feeling in your head before you write. Let it be something so weird that a) don’t want to write it and b) you have to write it. Sit down, write quick, and surprise yourself as you go along. Then edit, edit, edit, edit.
What element or part of your “real life” do you think most influences your writing?
So many stories of mine draw from real life situations. Some are only very lightly fictionalized. Both these micros that appeared in Gravel are basically real things that happened to me.
If you could recommend a few flash stories or writers, who/what would it be?
Deb Olin Unferth
Woody Skinner’s “The Wavering Grass”
Amelia Gray (in particular, “These Are The
Adam Levin “The Extra Mile”
Troy James Weaver “Tennis Balls”
What story of yours do you wish got more recognition?
Hmm…I don’t know. I’m always happy when a piece gets picked up and someone decides to read it.
My joke answer is: all the ones sitting in Submittable unread!
My real answer is: the flash community is really fucking cool.
BIO: Chance Dibben is a writer, photographer, and music-maker living in Lawrence, KS. His poems and shorts have appeared in Split Lip, Reality Beach, Horsethief, Yes Poetry, matchbook, Hobart, as well as others.