My story, Taken, is about a mother whose son is taken by a shark while out surfing. My son surfs and I always feel a vague sense of unease when he’s out on the ocean. However, I accept the risks inherent in him entering another creature’s territory and am vehemently opposed to the shark cull going on in Western Australia. I wanted to capture these sentiments in my story.
2. Tell us about your process. (Do you start sparse and widen out, or do you write down every possible association and cut back? Do you research the subject matter you are writing about? Is it pure intuition?) Take us through an example if you want.
For any story I write, I start by scribbling a page or so of notes for myself about what the story is going to be about, broad statements about the characters and action. As the idea develops in my mind, I write little notes and questions for myself about the setting, characters’ motivations, relationships, etc. For example – Did his father die recently or maybe during the war? What if it’s winter instead of summer? Does she hate her neighbour? Why? What action could show this?
When I’m ready to write the actual story, I’m not good at just putting down a really rough first draft. I’m pretty fussy from the start and my first draft is usually not miles away from what I end up with. I do lots of editing and polishing – usually about a dozen drafts.
I do research the subject matter, especially for longer pieces– although not so much for accuracy as for the interesting facts that I come across in my wanderings and that can lead me off in directions I hadn’t planned on taking.
3. What advice do you have for other writers? (About the first or last line? About how to choose the title? Do you follow any rules?)
Drop the reader right into the action.
With flash fiction (especially with strict word counts) chose your title wisely. It’s an extra sentence you’ve got for free. With the title, and the first line too, you can hold a little sign up to the reader and point them towards the things you hope they’ll see.
4. Who or what inspires your writing?
Stories that I feel a strong need to tell. But also, quirky facts, unusual associations of ideas and words, tiny things seen during my wanderings (in the real world or in Googleland)
There are also lots of great writers that inspire me – Flannery O’Connor, Alice Munro, David Malouf, Cate Kennedy, Tim Winton, Etgar Keret to name a few.
5. Tell us what you do if you haven’t written anything in a while and you want to get started writing again? Could you share your favourite writing exercise with our readers?
I read good short stories and copy out passages by hand. Seeing the beautifully written sentences flowing from my pen onto the page helps me to believe that I could write them myself.
I also sometimes take a well-written passage and analyse the syntax eg: Infinitive + adjective + present tense verb + negative+ abstract noun … Then I use this as a template to create my own sentences and am often surprised at how that opens up my expression.
Michelle Wright writes short stories and flash fiction. She’s won the Age (2012), Alan Marshall (2014) and Grace Marion Wilson (2013) Awards, and the Writers Victoria Templeberg Fellowship (2013). In 2013, she was placed second in the Bridport Prize for Flash Fiction.
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