Monday, 21 May 2012

THE DEMOCRACY OF STORY - Pauline Fisk



This is a post about two lately-comers to the world of story, electronic publishing and flash fiction.  Wednesday 16th May was the first ever National Flash Fiction Day, celebrated not just across the UK, but online too, and across the world in some cases, Australia being among them and New Zealand as well.

In the county town of Shrewsbury, flash fiction was celebrated too.  It was a huge success - a packed coffeehouse event that saw strangers coming together to share their short, short stories, make common cause of their inspiration and write on table-cloths, backs of envelopes [well, one envelope - I wouldn't want to be seen exaggerating here], anything that came to hand. People having been stopping me on the street to say how much the evening meant to them. Some said they hadn't written stories since they were in school.  Others said it provided them with a way of getting personal without feeling exposed.  When are we doing it again, they wanted to know.  And it's that 'we' that I love.  Flash Fiction Eve wasn't mine, for setting it up.  It was OURS.

The connection with digital publishing, you may ask? It’s in the heading - that word 'democracy' - and in that other word 'ours'. In Shrewsbury on Flash Fiction Eve people claimed story-writing for their own.  For one fabulous night stories weren't something that only ‘proper’ writers could produce.  People wrote their own.  Sometimes they did this alone.  Sometimes they did it in groups.  Sometimes they wrote with friends.  Sometimes they wrote with total strangers.  But they wrote and wrote all evening and, as someone who's always had a passion for getting people writing, it was wonderful to see.  


In the e-publishing world, something similar is happening.  Some may get sniffy at dross in the e-book market giving digital publishing a bad name.  But  one person's dross is another's opportunity for self-expression.  People are doing it for themselves, that's the thing.  They're making story their own. They’re publishing online. Democracy again.  It’s their call.  


And it's our call too.  For published authors who have books beneath their belts, and writers of repute who have something good to say - here’s a chance in the world of story to say it in a whole new way.  No one knows what will happen next in electronic publishing.  But we’re in this all together.  We're doing it for ourselves, and doing it our own way, and and these are exciting times.  Democracy again.   

If you know nothing about flash, here are a couple of questions taken from my interview with Calum Kerr, the man behind National Flash Fiction Day.  The full interview can be found on my website.  

Q. What are the characteristics of flash fiction - apart from being short - that you most admire?

For me it's about being able to paint in miniature something which can shift your whole world. The right word in the right place making all the difference.

Q In your own flash, what are you trying to achieve?

It depends on the day! I've been doing a project to write a flash a day for a year. I finish at the end of April. Some days I'm just getting something done. Other days, I'm pushing myself, trying new genres, new styles, new perspectives. But, I think, with every story, I'm trying to give a glimpse of the world that is surprising and recognisable at the same time. Something which will make the reader nod and say 'Yes, that is how it is.'

Q. On a sliding scale of literature from great to shit, where do you rate flash?

What a great question! I rate it the way I rate any other literature, depending on the instance in front of me. I have read some very, very bad flash-fictions, but I have also read some that made me cry and some that made me laugh out loud in a crowded place. It's all about what the writer does with it. In a flash you can conjure a whole world very quickly and take your audience on a huge journey, and because it is so short the emotional impact of the piece can be that much greater than in, say, a novel. But, at the same time, if you get it wrong, it's just a bunch of misplaced words.  Personally, I like flash. I like the concise nature of it and the ability to do a lot in a small space. I think it's a really good exercise for a writer in how to cut out the dross.

For the completely brilliant short film of Shrewsbury’s Flash Fiction Eve event click HERE

If you want details of the film makers, who are brilliant – especially when it comes to filming arts events - click R & A COLLABORATIONS


Pauline Fisk is the author of eleven novels, including e-books MIDNIGHT BLUE and IN THE TREES.



6 comments:

Dan Holloway said...

Thye first National Flash Fiction Day was wonderful, and it sounds like it was a fabulous event in Shrewsbury - very impressed by the video!

julia jones said...

'One person's dross is another person's opportunity for self-expression' YES indeed and I'm so glad you've said this so clearly.
I used to run an annual essay competition as part of Age Concern Essex. many of the people who entered had left school at 14 or younger. They had no confidence in their ability to express themselves yet, once they had been persuaded to have a go, their essays ('My First Job', 'Illness when I was a child', 'My Hopes' etc etc) were often moving, truthful and valuable. Well worth publishing (which i did) and storing in the Essex record Office for future generations.
Thank you and Dan for opening my eyes to Flash Fiction. It's an amazing concept.

Pauline Fisk said...

Thanks, both of you. Julia, don't know if you've seen the video because the link wasn't right, but it's working now. I like what you say about people's stories being moving, truthful and valuable. That's what I felt we had in Shrewsbury the other night.

Enid Richemont said...

The video wouldn't play properly for me, which was frustrating as I could see it was good and I wanted to hear the words.
I've never played with Flash Fiction - what are the basic rules? How long? How short? Haiku short? Picture book texts, which I've been working on recently, must be quite similar.

Pauline Fisk said...

It should be working now, Enid. If not, go to my Facebook page where there's a link if you scroll down my timeline. It IS good. Really conjures up the mood of the occasion and the buzz that was generated. [I'm the demented looking woman with the untidy white hair.]

The 'rules' for Flash Fiction Eve were a piece of fiction in anything between ten and 500 words, hopefully with characters, some sort of sense of purpose, a beginning, a middle and an end.

The person to thank is Dan. It's thanks to him that I got into flash fiction [thank you, Dan].

Dan Holloway said...

I came to Flash Fiction through the #fridayflash community on twitter - more particularly through my dear friend and long-time co-conspirator Marc Nash (@21stCScribe - http://sulcicollective.blogspot.com) who regularly performs it with us and does some extraordinary things with the form.

I was going to paste in the flashI did for the day but it has some rude words so I'll paste the link instead - http://agnieszkasshoes.blogspot.co.uk/2012/05/dreaming-of-narwhals.html - it's about narwhals :)