Why do you write flash? What makes it different for you?
In May 2012 I set myself a challenge to write a piece of flash fiction every day for a year. The reason I did this was because I had ideas, but never got past the first couple of paragraphs (I still have more ideas than finished pieces), and I liked the idea of writing a ‘complete’ piece in around 500 words. Some days I was happy with the results, other days I wasn’t, but every day I wrote something and continued even after the year ended. I’d completely fallen in love with flash. The challenge of writing an entire story in so few (carefully chosen) words became addictive. In fact, the longer I’ve been writing, the shorter my pieces have become.
What’s your writerly lifejacket: character or plot?
Character. Every time. To be honest I don’t think any of my stories have “a plot”, for me it’s about emotions and relationships, and the shifts in these that provide the movement in my stories.
Writing style: Quick and messy or slow and precise?
Definitely quick and messy. I write all first drafts by hand (including the first draft to a novel that’s sitting in a bottom drawer somewhere). To me the connection of pen to paper is ingrained.
An advantage of writing by hand is that you can’t hit ‘delete’. You can cross something out, but when you go back to edit it later, it’s still there; and sometimes those words you wrote first, but discarded, are the better ones.
Editing, for me, is painfully slow; picking over every word, every sentence, every paragraph. Reading, re-reading, re-reading, etc. For this reason, I used to hate it (lack of patience being one of my vices). However, more recently I’ve learned to work with it more, seeing editing for its worth: it allows me to polish a piece until it (hopefully) shines.
What element or part of your “real life” do you think most influences your writing?
Conversations with people, whether they be members of my family, friends, other parents I chat to at the school gates, the woman who served me at the checkout, the old man who tells me snippets of his life because he, I imagine, has no one else to talk to. I have a terrible memory for certain things (dentist appointments, remembering to phone the plumber, etc.), but conversations with people stick with me for years and will often find their way into my stories in one way or another.
If you could recommend a few flash stories or writers, who/what would it be?
There are so many fantastic flash fiction writers that I’ve been privileged to read, and interact with, online; too many to name. I would like to mention two writers who are fairly new to me and I’ve been genuinely excited to read their work recently.
Dettra Rose’s ‘Relationship Maths’ (Reflex, March 2020) absolutely blew me away. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since reading it.
Remi Skytterstad’s ‘Soul Theft’ (Flashback Fiction, February 2020) packs so much into such a short piece, the feeling of discomfort lingering long after you’ve finished reading.
What story of yours do you wish got more recognition?
That’s a hard question to answer; I love all of my published pieces. However, I feel that Santa’s Favourite, published on 50 Word Stories on Christmas Day, 2019, fell a little under the radar because people were, obviously, busy celebrating Christmas and not online (which is a good thing!). I’d read an article outlining that children can feel that Santa favours one child over another if gifts from Santa vary in size and/or cost. The thought that some children might feel that, made my heart ache.
Bio: Laura Besley writes short (and very short) fiction in the precious moments that her children are asleep. Her fiction has appeared online (Fictive Dream, Spelk, EllipsisZine) as well as in print (Flash: The International Short Story Magazine) and in various anthologies (Adverbally Challenged, Another Hong Kong, Story Cities). Her debut flash fiction collection, The Almost Mothers, will be published in March 2020 by Dahlia Books. She tweets @laurabesley