Hi everybody – Today I have a guest post for you from UK flash fiction writer Nik Perring. His stories have been published widely, here and abroad, in print and online. They’ve been read, they’ve been on the radio, they’ve been on US high school courses and they’ve been collected into the books NOT SO PERFECT (Roast Books, 2010) and, collaborating with Caroline Smailes, FREAKS! (The Friday Project/HarperCollins, 2012). Nik is also the founder of The Story Corrective – providing short story and flash fiction edits and help. His website’s http://nikperring.com and he’s on Twitter as @nikperring.
I have been a fan of Nik’s flash fiction stories for a while and was delighted to find that he was happy to answer some questions for us about his work. Here are my questions and his replies:
When did you start writing?
In one way or another, I’ve always been writing something, but I only got serious about it around 2002. I was made redundant and had a little time on my hands and thought I’d see if I could actually write. Ten or so years on it’s a gamble I’m glad I took.
Why choose flash fiction? What is it that you particularly like about this form?
I’m not sure I really chose it. It’s never been a conscious decision to write something of a specific length. That’s simply the length of the stories I’ve been telling. I’m a firm believer in allowing stories to become what they are and I think once you start trying to make them shorter than they’re meant to be, or adding stuff to them that they don’t need, then that’s when the stories lose their power and their purpose. Though, that said, I do like the idea of being able to complete a first draft of something in one sitting.
Flash fiction seems to have several definitions but no widely accepted one. How would you define flash fiction based on your own work?
They mean lots of things, most of them very good. I’m hugely proud of them and I’m thrilled that people like them. But I think what they mean to other people is more important.
Would you say your flash fiction stories differ from most other flash fiction stories in any particular way?
Good question. I guess this is the same with any writer: these are my stories told about things I find interesting, in my own way, so I suppose it’s me (the person who’s written them) that would set then apart. That said, I don’t see then being that much different to other good short, short stories.
Your stories do not seem as bleak as many short stories are these days. Was that a conscious decision?
Ha! Oh I don’t know! Some of them are! Again, I think it’s a case of me writing about things that I find interesting, that make people feel something. Sometimes they work out bleak, other times they don’t and I think that’s more about the stories than my intentions.
Name three writers that have directly influenced your short story writing.
Just three? There really are so many. But reading Aimee Bender and Etgar Keret certainly helped me realise that I could write the kinds of stories I wanted to write. And Marie-Helene Bertino, more recently, has made me happy; she’s very, very good.
Are there any special ingredients that set a flash fiction story apart from a regular short story, apart from length?
No, I don’t think so. As long as they last in the mind after they’ve been read then they’re good. They’re a bit like a bruise. Or a kiss.
Is flash fiction a particularly good vehicle for magic realism, do you think?
Again, I guess that all depends on the story. With flash there’s no real time to build anything up so you can start stories with pretty bold statements without needing to justify them. But it can be the same in something longer – The Metamorphosis is hardly short!
Flash Fiction stories appear to tell rather than show. Writers are always being told to avoid ‘telling’, so why does it work here?
I think it’s a little more complicated than that; the same principles of good writing apply to any story, regardless of length. I think that flash fictions tend to have to very efficient in the economy of words used can make them appear to be more ‘tell’ than ‘show’ but I think, when it’s done well, that’s simply directness.
What should a writer set out to achieve when they start a Flash Fiction story?
To tell the best story in the best way they can, efficiently.
You don’t just write Flash Fiction. Tell us about the children’s book you have written. Do they have elements in common?
They really do, and I only noticed they did years after the children’s book came out. I’d not noticed that, really, it was a collection of individual stories which had cunningly disguised themselves as chapters!
What are you working on/hoping to begin working on now?
I’m doing what I’ve always done – writing short stories (fitted around editing work and teaching and online courses – a writer’s life is never straight forward!)
Thanks for that, Nik. It’s been great chatting to you about one of my favourite kinds of stories. Now I’ve got to get better at writing them; to get them closer to being “a bit like a bruise, or a kiss.” Lovely. I shall remember that.
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