Why do you write flash? What makes it different for you?
I’m a big fan of flash fiction that stays in one scene and digs into that moment deeply. For me, there are these moments in life where I can say: this is pivotal, I want to remember this, because it encapsulates so much of who I am and what my life is about. So what I love about flash fiction is it shows us that a snapshot can be powerful.
I also admire how flash fiction is a paradox. It asks us to look at and focus on small increments of time, but also write about the larger meaning of that moment without destroying the integrity of the smallness. It’s hard. But when it’s done well, I think there is so much tension and so much creativity required of the writer.
What’s your writerly lifejacket: character or plot?
I’d actually say images. Most of my stories come out of an image that interests me, whether it’s a picture from a scene, or the life I’ve lived, or just imaginative what if thinking. And then I’ll start to write around that. I’ll try to create the circumstances that led to that core image, as well as think about the implications and fallout of that image.
I will say, and I’ve talked about this in various settings before, I’m a big proponent of plot being just as important as character. I think in a lot of literary circles we talk about how character leads to emotional resonance. But I also think that characters don’t change and learn when nothing happens. We need plot because it propels characters and crafts them. And it also makes stories enjoyable to read. I think it’s natural for humans to ask, “What happened next?” And if the answer is that the character just sat around in the same situation, I think that can be a downer for a lot of readers. I’ll admit that once I started focusing more on plot in my writing, I found that it became sharper, because I was challenged to write less thoughts and more action, leading to—hopefully—a more balanced story.
Writing style: Quick and messy or slow and precise?
When it comes to flash and short stories, I like to spend weeks, or even months, thinking about a story, letting it become more a reality I can wade through than just a vague idea. Sometimes, I’ll rewrite the beginning paragraph of a story. But after that, I tend to go really quick, and a lot of my first draft does make it into a final draft. I think it’s that reflective period in the early stages that acts like mental drafting.
What element or part of your “real life” do you think most influences your writing?
I would say that having a chronic illness—ulcerative colitis—has influenced my writing heavily. A lot of my stories have to do with bodies, illness, and caretaking. Before I was diagnosed with my illness at the age of twenty-one I wasn’t really thinking about these issues. But now that I’m faced with them in my day-to-day life, they naturally show up in my writing a lot. Even the stories that aren’t overtly about illness could work as metaphors for sickness/situations around illness. I think a lot about animals and land and family relationships where there was meant to be caretaking and something went wrong. I think ultimately a huge part of the world is how communities and ecosystems of all sizes function together and rely on each other, and my writing reflects that.
If you could recommend a few flash stories or writers, who/what would it be?
I absolutely love Krys Malcolm Belc’s work (@krysmalcolmbelc). He is writing fantastic flash creative non-fiction pieces, a genre I think is very hard to pull off due to how essays often really require space to ruminate and process. Many of his pieces think about transness, gender/gender roles, bodies, and family relationships.
I am also a big fan of Melissa Goodrich’s flash fiction (@good_rib). I love how she writes surreal and speculative worlds with a biting, true-to-the-voice-in-your-head style. The contrast feels very much of this time to me, since we’re living in the strangest of times but also have such a specific style of communication through social media and technology.
What story of yours do you wish got more recognition?
Of course, I’m grateful for all the readers I’ve gotten for my stories. I’ve been lucky to build a wonderful literary community, especially through Twitter. But if pressed, I’d say my story, “Impasse,” which was published on Lunch Ticket. It’s about tricky father-daughter dynamics, but takes place in a fictitious Alcatraz. Mostly, it’s the last line that I’ve always loved, and it’s one of my darlings that were never killed.
BIO: Eshani Surya is a writer based in Greenville, SC. Her writing has appeared in [PANK], Catapult, Paper Darts, Joyland, and Literary Hub, among others. Eshani is also a Flash Fiction Reader at Split Lip Magazine. She holds an MFA from the University of Arizona in Tucson. Find her @__eshani or at http://eshani-surya.com.