Jeff Taylor: I had it in my mind from one of the regular news reports about refugees. At the first short story course I attended, the suggestion ‘what if’ was drummed in. When I have written something, I look for a word or a passage with what I call a ‘heartbeat’, and then try to give it a transplant. A story about refugees would never do – so it came down to either some low-lifers with nowhere else to live, or maybe the decadent rich and famous cruising the Mediterranean in their super yachts. I chose the former because they would be characters that fitted my dark sense of humour.
JT: This is one that I use often. A first person observing stuff that’s going on and making snide, often sarcastic comments to the reader.
JT: It had several rewrites. The state of mind of the narrator came gradually, then it fell into place throughout the story. Initially I wasn’t sure whether to make him affected by drugs, or alcohol, or just mentally unstable. I settled on the alcohol.
JT: The opening is important, but I think the closing ones always nail it with flash fiction. I hoped that my ending would resonate with the reader, i.e., leaving questions about how much of it all was real, and how much imagined. The last sentence did take me by surprise when it popped into my head, but seemed appropriate and fitted the alcoholic/nautical idea.
JT: I like dark humour! I grew up with Monty Python and always liked the way they would take a normal situation and twist it each and every way in their skits. Also ‘The Far Side’ cartoons by Gary Larson, who would do the same. I’ll use as much humour (dark or funny) in my writing as I can. I find I struggle writing anything deep and meaningful! So most of my stuff is shallow and meaningless.
JT: I played in bands in my youth, and call on my knowledge of music and instruments whenever I can. I did this particularly with my ‘The St. Louis Six’ in the New Orleans edition of Flash Frontier in 2018. I threw everything musical I had at it.
100 words are really hard. I prefer 250 to 500. If a novel is an ocean, the short story a lake, flash fiction a pond, then micro is a puddle. My mother told me to avoid puddles.
I recommend anyone who wants to start writing flash fiction should read a lot of it to get the idea. I have self-published a couple of books, and the stress and cost involved would put anyone off! Short fiction is nice and quick with much lower blood pressure.
JT: Being retired, I have plenty of time to write. My favourite place is the city library. Walls and walls of spines are stimulating and inspiring.
JT: It was great to have a Hamilton NFFD event this year. Tracey Slaughter, one of last year’s NFFD adult judges, did a wonderful job getting a number of people together to read out their NFFD pieces. I am always trying to inspire people to write flash fiction and short fiction, and our Waikato Writers July meeting will focus exclusively on flash fiction. We will have some local writers who have been either short or long listed in NFFD over the last few years to come along and read their work. Tracey will also address us on writing flash fiction.
JT: I do read a lot of short fiction and flash fiction, and plenty of our NZ authors seem to be particularly good at it.