Why do you write flash? What makes it different for you?
I write more flash now than I did in the past for a couple of reasons. One is that I’m getting exhausted with longer stories, both writing and reading them. This is not out of laziness or anything, it’s said in that I feel a story should be short, sweet, and to the point. A story does not need to be 25 pages and 8,000 words. Why write 8,000 when you can write 1,000 and get the job done quicker? A lot of stories usually take four to five pages to really start going, because the author feels to give unnecessary backstory, and with flash, you don’t need that. You get right to the heart of it. Sometimes, I don’t need to know everything.
The second reason is that I can be quirky and experimental and get away with it. Look, I could get hit by a bus tomorrow. It could be all over for me. I’m going to write short, read short, and in most cases, these short pieces of flash convey more emotion, blood and pain than a longer story ever could. Nine times out of ten, the flash story is the greatest gut punch there is, and I love it. This isn’t to say that I’m abandoning longer pieces completely, but chances are, if I see a writer on Twitter I admire post a story, and it’s a flash, I will definitely gravitate towards that more.
In short, flash for me is the best way you can hone your craft as a writer, because you have a limit. Say it fast, say it quick, say it right. Don’t ramble if you don’t have to.
What’s your writerly lifejacket: character or plot?
Character, always. I never care about plot and I’ll tell you why. I could come up with the most elaborate plot in the world, full of intrigue and love and danger and excitement, and it wouldn’t mean shit if it had bland, boring characters. Humans are messy, obnoxious, dumb creatures, and I could spend a whole life time trying to understand them, make sense of them, tear them apart and put them back together. Most of my stories go right for a sense of realism – I write about drunks, liars, cheats, reprobates, young angry yuppies, anxious as hell, broke as fuck people who have to claw their way out of whatever situation they’re stuck in, literally or figuratively. I don’t think you need a plot – you just need a person who makes a terrible mistake. And we do that quite often.
Writing style: Quick and messy or slow and precise?
Quick and messy. I never write drafts, ever. I edit as I go and when the story is done, I never touch it again. I would rather write a good draft once. I’ve been that way my entire life and I don’t suppose it’s ever going to change. I tried to be slow when I first started writing – I had written a few novels that are definitely not very good. I’ll be the first to admit it. If you ever stumble across one of them, you’ll definitely see it. They suck. And I think that’s because I thought about it too much. I’d rather write it out once, at its purest emotion, because that’s when you see the blood, the grit. If you edit too much, you lose your passion in the story. I believe that. The more you touch it and go back, the more meaning it loses.
What element or part of your “real life” do you think most influences your writing?
I tend to hit the bottle more than I should, so a lot of my stories involve drinking and some form of self-deprecation. And that isn’t so much a reflection of me in that I feel negative about myself, but I’ve been to some depths in my life, so I just pull from that. So much easier to do so. I think there’s a lot of power you can give to yourself as a writer by focusing on the negative elements, as you can really go anywhere you want with it, and be as creative as you want. Writing happy only gets you so far and it tends to border on the maudlin at times. By writing about this stuff – the bad drunk days, the bitter parts of relationships, the feeling that you’re never going to get away from the banality of life, you know, all that stuff that Camus talks about in The Stranger – you could write forever.
If you could recommend a few flash stories or writers, who/what would it be?
I would say first and foremost, if you haven’t read Gutshot by Amelia Gray, you absolutely have to. No questions asked. Probably without doubt the greatest book of flash I have read and it is one I go back to a lot. Specifically the stories “The Lark” and “These Are The Fables”. Both are readily available via Google and they’ll knock your socks off, as the kids say.
Another one that truly opened up my eyes was Scorch Atlas by Blake Butler. Not all of that book is flash, but the parts that are, truly magnificent.
What story of yours do you wish got more recognition?
I wrote a piece called “It’s All About The Breathing” that was picked up by Hypertext back in the beginning of 2018. It’s just a hair over being flash length (about 1,100 words), but I wish this was the one that caught on more. It’s a piece about a woman going through some difficult feelings about her pregnancy and tends to take some drastic actions as the story goes on in order to cope with the concept of creating life. It was important to me that I wrote a story involving this as I have had many friends who have gone through it, and I was stunned on how many times they admitted to me that it was, frankly speaking, all kind of bullshit. How there were so many negative feelings attached to this, how even though the end result would be a child and it would be so wonderful, but how miserable they were and couldn’t admit it to anyone. It was important to me to write a strong voice and I love how it turned out. It did not get as much recognition that I was hoping for, but perhaps maybe someday it will resonate for someone and they can get something out of it. I’m attaching the link in case someone does want to read it after this interview: https://www.hypertextmag.com/tag/its-all-about-the-breathing/
BIO: Kevin Richard White’s fiction appears in Grub Street, The Hunger, Lunch Ticket, The Molotov Cocktail, The Helix, Hypertext, decomP, X-R-A-Y and Ghost Parachute among others. He is a Flash Fiction Contributing Editor for Barren Magazine and also reads fiction for Quarterly West and The Common. He lives in Philadelphia.