Why do you write flash? What makes it different for you?
A long time ago I decided that I was just going to write my stories the way I’d tell them to someone if we were sitting around talking in a bar or whatever. So that’s what I do. About half the time they end up being under 1,000 words, and the other half a little over. Sometimes they even get up to 2,000 (I think that counts as a novel). But it’s all the same to me; I never know how long they’re going to be until they’re done, and the only thing I care about is that they’re right, that they work and make me smile sentence by sentence and feel like you’ve emotionally broken through to something at the end and don’t make me cringe at any point when I read them aloud. That’s an impossible enough task for me; the idea of aiming for any specific word count really just boggles my mind.
What’s your writerly lifejacket: character or plot?
Well, character is the north star; the revelation of it is what you aim for, and the feel and pull of it is how you steer. But plot is how you get there. So 50/50 split.
Writing style: Quick and messy or slow and precise?
I write first drafts very quickly, usually in 20 minutes or less, and then spend months or years editing and expanding and shrinking and throwing everything out and starting over and building it up again from scratch and then going back to the previous version and then the later version and then the initial version and etc etc etc until finally somehow the right version of the story clicks fully into place from beginning to end, and then I iron and iron and polish and polish forever and ever and ever.
(I don’t recommend it, but it’s my process.)
What element or part of your “real life” do you think most influences your writing?
One night when I was little my dad took my sister and I outside onto the patio and pointed up at the stars and told us all about them, what they were and where and how maybe there were other planets moving around some of them and maybe there were other people, other life forms on those planets, and maybe some of them were standing outside their homes looking up at the stars in the night sky and wondering about us, if we existed and what we were like and what we were up to. That’s the moment I try to live in and hopefully write my stories from.
If you could recommend a few flash stories or writers, who/what would it be?
“Lemmings” by Richard Matheson.
“Appointment in Samarra” as retold by Somerset Maugham.
And probably my favorite: the 2-paragraph blanket story from Scott McClanahan’s novel Crapalachia: A Biography of a Place.
What story of yours do you wish got more recognition?
I had a story up at Wigleaf in 2018 called “Mystery (The Third Man)” which is one of my favorite things I’ve ever written. Just really gave me that special feeling.
Ben Loory is the author of the collections TALES OF FALLING AND FLYING
and STORIES FOR NIGHTTIME AND SOME FOR THE DAY. His fables and tales have appeared in The New Yorker, Tin House, The Sewanee Review, and A Public Space, and been heard on This American Life and Selected
Shorts. Find him at benloory.com.