“Richard Skinner on Writing Flash Fiction”

Richard Skinner, is a poet, author and head of the Faber Academy's fiction programme. Amanda Saint had a chance to sopeak with him, and here's what Richard had to say about flash fiction:

Flash fiction seems to have really taken off in the past couple of years, why do you think this very short story form has become so popular with both readers and writers?

Inevitably, I think the rise of flash fiction has to do largely with the rise of social media. As technology develops, so we have less time than we did to devote to reading, in isolation, long pieces of fiction. Flash fiction appeals to the younger generation of writers because the form suits the way their minds and reading practises have been shaped by new forms of communication. A well-structured and written tweet can be very pleasing in itself, for what it is—like an aphorism or a haiku. It is a new genre of writing. 

You've had poetry collections published – do you think the two forms can be compared as every word has to work so hard to earn its place? Do you ever write flash fiction yourself?
I do think some superdense flash fiction can approach the realms of poetry, because one definition of poetry could be that it is the densest possible arrangement of words to convey a feeling. In my own case, I conceived of the poems in my collection, the light user scheme, as ultra-mini short stories. I had a rule that no poem could be longer than seven lines so I had to work really hard to convey as much as I possibly could in those lines. I had to distill each story down to its barest bones whilst at the same time keeping the sense of the story intact. Rather than feeling constrained by such a severe rule, I actually felt completely liberated. It taught me a great deal about economy of means in storytelling. 

Which flash fiction writers do you admire and why?

I’m reading Jayne Anne Phillips’ Black Tickets at the moment and, of the 27 stories in it, 14 are no more than a page long. They are simply amazing. In those few words, there are whole stories and histories, all in pin-sharp locations evoked by very precise language. They really do stretch the form and to read them is to feel storytelling being achieved at the highest level. 

How can the writers entering the hysteria-themed competition impress you with their stories?

As with Jayne Anne Phillips’ work, I want to feel that writers are really playing with and stretching the form, reaching for the unsayable, working hard to leave me wondering and wanting more…
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Amanda Saint

About Amanda Saint

Amanda Saint grew up on the outskirts of London in a town where everyone always seemed to be going somewhere else. Now she's a nomad and has lived in many different places in the UK, including London, Exmoor, Brighton, the Lake District, and on a canal narrow boat. She also lived in New Zealand for three years, has travelled in Europe, Asia and the South Pacific, and is just about to set off on an Australian adventure for 2015. A magazine features writer by day, her love is for fiction and her short stories have appeared in various anthologies, journals and online. Amanda's first novel has just gone out on submission to agents and she's going to write the first draft of her second one in NaNoWriMo in November. Find out more here: http://www.amandasaint-writer.com/