Why do you write flash? What makes it different for you?
Maybe it’s because I used to write songs when I was a teen, playing out narratives of specific characters or settings in my songs. So in my twenties, it was an easy transition into writing flash fiction. Plus, I found writers like Carver and Moacyr Scliar. I remember sitting in the used book section, down in the basement at Changing Hands bookstore, reading the translation of Scliar’s whole collection called The Carnival of the Animals and thinking, “I want to do this!” Back then, the writers I hung around called them short-shorts, and I loved the immediacy, the jolt of a moment. Still do. I’m attracted to brevity, glimpses into characters’ lives that reveal their uniqueness in a brief moment. And once I started writing stories, I found very few literary journals publishing flash fictions. This was in the snail mail, all-print days. I wrote long stories to break into getting published. But my love of flash fiction never left me and I’m glad this form of storytelling is robust and vital and growing at this time.
What’s your writerly lifejacket: character or plot?
I’ll follow my characters anywhere, most of the time having no clue where they’re taking me. I remember a bigtime writer once told me that sometimes your characters will take over your intention and you’re just typing fast enough to keep up. I thought this was a weird, hippy-dippy notion. Sure enough, the more I wrote, the more the characters took over. I have no clue about my endings at times, but my characters, thankfully, save the day over and over again. I’m very needy of my characters, you see.
Writing style: Quick and messy or slow and precise?
Once I get to typing out a story, it is fast fast fast. But before I type, I’m writing longhand in a notebook. That is agonizingly slow. Seriously, if you’ve got a five-year-old child, the same child may be in college by the time I finish some of my stories! The good thing is, presently, I have a backlog of characters/settings/conflicts playing out on multiple screens in my mind. If a beginning and a middle of the story look as if might be interesting, I’ll start drafting it out, always hoping my character(s) are leading me in the right direction. I’ve had some story ideas (images of moments) looping on my multiplex for years now. Of course, everything changes with revisions. Everything. I wonder if a story is ever done?
What element or part of your “real life” do you think most influences your writing?
Financial woes. Family dynamics. I was raised in a large family (six children) that struggled at times. So all these years, I’ve been able to hang out in the corners and observe not only my own family but have interacted with all kinds of different families and their relationships. Perfect fodder for conflict-rich stories.
If you could recommend a few flash stories or writers, who/what would it be?
It’s hard to make a list here because I love the work of so many flash writers, producing, I believe, the best in contemporary fiction today. And I’m finding new writers of flash all the time. I will say, to be jolted unexpectedly by a writer I’ve never read before is a gift, truly.
What story of yours do you wish got more recognition?
I’m proud of “What Others Do About It.” I’m grateful that Kim Chinquee enjoyed this flash enough to publish it in New World Writing back in 2017.
BIO: Dan Crawley is the author of the novella Straight Down the Road (Ad Hoc Fiction, 2019). His writing appears or is forthcoming in a number of journals, including Bending Genres, New Flash Fiction Review, Jellyfish Review, and Atticus Review. His work has been nominated for Best Small Fictions, Best of the Net, and the Pushcart Prize. Along with teaching creative writing workshops and literature courses, he is a fiction reader for Little Patuxent Review. Find him at https://twitter.com/danbillycom.