Flash Fiction: for writers, readers, editors, publishers, & fans


Flash Interview: Tom DeMarchi

Tom DeMarchi teach­es at Flori­da Gulf Coast Uni­ver­si­ty in Fort Myers. When not teach­ing or sleep­ing, he’s direct­ing the Sani­bel Island Writ­ers Con­fer­ence.

Years as a Writer: Start­ed keep­ing a dai­ly jour­nal in 1988. 
First pub­li­ca­tion: a record review in my col­lege lit jour­nal (1991).
First non-crony pub­li­ca­tion: flash story–one of the first I ever wrote–in the Mia­mi Her­ald (1996).
Years Writ­ing Flash: 16
Years Teach­ing Writ­ing: 16
Years Teach­ing Flash: 10


What do you feel are the main advan­tages and dis­ad­van­tages of writ­ing in the flash form? 


Advan­tage: focus.
Dis­ad­van­tage: oth­er than the obvi­ous length con­straints that pre­vent a high­ly devel­oped and intri­cate plot with mul­ti­ple char­ac­ters & scenes, I can’t think of any.


How do you con­tin­u­al­ly invent new sto­ry ideas? 

Writ­ing every day. Read­ing every­thing I can get my hands on. Star­ing at things like an idiot. 


How strong do you think the sto­ry arc needs to be in a flash? And how res­olute the end­ing?

As with a nar­ra­tive of any length, arc & res­o­lu­tion should devel­op organ­i­cal­ly (or at least appear to devel­op organ­i­cal­ly) in ser­vice of the sto­ry. I hate to speak in gen­er­al­i­ties, but in gen­er­al a flash sto­ry should be a sur­gi­cal strike—in and out quick­ly, deliv­er­ing max­i­mum pay­load. This is not to say that the geom­e­try of the sto­ry is the lin­ear short­est dis­tance between two points. There can be peaks & val­leys & full cir­cles & asso­cia­tive leaps. In the­o­ry flash should be able to accom­mo­date any kind of nar­ra­tive, but as I say above, the length con­straints would make it very chal­leng­ing for someone—(read: me)—o devel­op some­thing as com­plex and unam­bigu­ous­ly resolved as a Sher­lock Holmes mys­tery. The flash form requires such com­pres­sion of lan­guage that the sto­ry should show and sug­gest as much as it can with­out expla­na­tion. At its best, the flash form can give a read­er a sense that some­thing pro­found has hap­pened in a very short time, that the char­ac­ters are in the midst of an emo­tion­al­ly charged sit­u­a­tion and have risked some­thing of val­ue, and that the char­ac­ters are some­how trans­formed as a result of the experience—as often hap­pens in life at piv­otal moments. This is a very tra­di­tion­al way of look­ing at nar­ra­tive, I know. I enjoy sto­ries that stretch beyond ambi­gu­i­ty into absur­di­ty, that play lan­guage games and speak in code, but I rarely feel more alive after read­ing such sto­ries. Most­ly I get a headache. 


Much flash is pub­lished on the Inter­net. Do you think this adds to, or detracts from, the field of flash fic­tion? In what ways?

It adds by giv­ing peo­ple more places to read & pub­lish flash fic­tions.
It detracts for the same rea­son. Like any­thing on the Inter­net, it’s often­times dif­fi­cult to sift through the worst to get to the best. Over time it’s a skill that devel­ops almost uncon­scious­ly. Like, remem­ber when you first joined Face­book and read everyone’s updates with inter­est? After a while you start­ed scan­ning, look­ing for some­thing that grabbed your atten­tion. Now you know whose posts are thought­ful & inter­est­ing and whose are basi­cal­ly nar­cis­sis­tic and mun­dane. If you put in the time you can find the good stuff and you can learn what to avoid by read­ing the bad stuff. It’s inter­est­ing how many peo­ple want to skip the appren­tice­ship and pub­lish straight­away. The Inter­net feeds that impulse, just as it feeds the impulse for some­one with no musi­cal train­ing what­so­ev­er to pick up a gui­tar, strum a few ran­dom notes into a sound­card, and post it on the Inter­net along­side The Bea­t­les as if to say, “We’re all musi­cians.” Sor­ry, no you’re not. It takes years to devel­op your craft. So maybe peo­ple don’t skip their appren­tice­ship. The prob­lem is instead of wood­shed­ding, a lot of peo­ple broad­cast their appren­tice­ship online. 


What do you think is the future for flash?

Wide open. And not just because our atten­tion is more divid­ed and so it makes sense that peo­ple would be drawn to short­er writ­ings. That IS part of it, but not every­thing. With flash it’s depth, not length. We’re all dis­tract­ed and divid­ed and over­whelmed by the vol­ume of avail­able infor­ma­tion, which is why it’s nec­es­sary to slow down and engage with works of art that make us feel deeply. Flash, when exe­cut­ed well, can pro­vide that expe­ri­ence very quick­ly but in a way that lingers long after we’ve linked to a new page or put away the book. That sounds so lofty, but I believe it. I’ve seen it hap­pen with my stu­dents who read & write flash. 


FF.Net Author’s Note

Indi­go Phoenix is a nov­el­ist for tweens, teens, and new adults. She mod­er­ates the Flash Dance and Tweens & Teens forums at Writ­ers’ Vil­lage Uni­ver­si­ty while pur­su­ing her MFA degree at Rose­mont Col­lege.

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