It’s Gaynor again, giving you a little insight into how one of my flash fiction stories came to be.
girl & pangolin (2020)
Idea: I used to write a LOT of animal-based flash fiction. I think I had a photo of a pangolin on my phone from a cute meme, and then I learned a little more about them and how they are endangered. I started thinking of a world where such animals had begun to flourish again, because the humans that had pretty much destroyed them had almost died out. So, a post-apocalyptic pangolin-based flash was my starting point (as you do).
Development: In 2020, my flash stories tended to follow a very easy formula: weird stuff written in simple ways. So this piece started as a 500 word piece told in that familiar way. I don’t have the early drafts but I know the opening will have been something like, “Life is better now there’s no adults, only us children and the animals. Why? Who knows why any of it happened, you might as well ask why the sun fell down, or why the ants still climb up onto the pangolin’s tongue.” Which I suppose is quite an interesting opening, but …
Editing: I was BORED of myself, and of my writing style. I sent an early version to my small writing group and they all thought it was great, but this flash didn’t make me feel anything other than tedium. I thought, well, if humans have nearly died out, maybe language has died out with them, and then I completely stripped the language right back. One person had thought I was trying to aim for for a contemporary dialect, which I absolutely wasn’t, so I stripped it back even further until I felt my intention came through.
Submitting: I had my eye on Splonk as I admire the work of so many of the editors. I was absolutely delighted when I got my acceptance, and the note that came with it said my story was “flashy perfection” which made me grin from ear to ear.
Reflections: I really like this piece because it reflects a time I decided to shake things up. It can be easy to stick to a ‘formula’ when things are going well, but then creativity can become stagnant. I think the starkness of it could be off-putting and maybe there’s not as much emotional depth as I might like, but I’m happy I got to tell a whole circular story in so few words. I also adore the custom artwork created by Janice Leagra.
Gaynor Jones is the recipient of a 2020 Northern Writer’s Award from New Writing North for her short story collection, Girls Who Get Taken, and an ACE DYCP grant for her current project, The Wild Ones
She has won first prize in several short fiction competitions, including the Bath Flash Fiction Prize and the Mairtín Crawford Short Story Award, and has placed or been listed in others including the Bridport Prize and Aesthetica.
She loves stories that feature wayward teens, middle-aged women who’ve had enough, and the darker sides of suburban life. She is represented by Laura Williams at Greene & Heaton.