It’s Gaynor again, giving you a little insight into how one of my flash fiction stories came to be.
Content warning: infertility
Idea: I was intentionally writing for the (sadly now closed) Reflex contest and I thought a ‘breathless paragraph’ flash would suit the short word count. This is a type of flash I first heard about in a Kathy Fish workshop and it roughly means writing something with a big emotional impact in a really urgent way. There’s punctuation in my piece so I don’t know if it’s a true breathless paragraph example but, rules schmules. At one point I intended this flash to be part of my novella-in-flash, so if you’ve read it, this is Carys much further on in the second part of the book, but in the end it just didn’t fit. Every chapter in my NiF is either about sheep or eggs, so this stood out too much.
Development: I decided to focus on colour, clearly! And I didn’t think much beyond that. The end of 2019 was a pretty rough year personally and I think some of the frustration and anger I was holding inside boiled over into this piece, but in themes that weren’t particularly relevant to me. I often do this, hide something real inside a fictional story so that I’ve got it off my chest but it’s completely disguised in other issues. I didn’t do much story development, I find I never do with a breathless flash – it’s as if the story that tumbles out is the story that was meant to tumble out.
Editing: I had plenty of colour in my original draft, but I had also given myself extra work by specifically using the word ‘rainbow’ in my title, so I thought I’d better go through and ensure the rainbow colours were in there. I don’t know if anyone even noticed to be honest! But as a flash writer you learn to take extra care with the specifics. I also recognise now that it’s a strong example of my ‘go full mushroom’ theory of flash. I wanted a story about colours so I needed to saturate it with colours. If you’re writing a flash about mushrooms, for example, go full mushroom, have mushroom imagery in every single sentence, I think flash is a form that can take it.
Submitting: Although I had my eye on Reflex for the story itself, I did have a wobble about the title. I remember asking some writer pals what they thought about swearing in a title and got mixed feedback. So then I thought, f**k it! And it stayed in. I was gobsmacked to be awarded second prize in the Reflex comp, after entering so many of their contests.
Reflections: I am much more critical of myself ethically now, but I feel okay about writing a story about infertility. Although I have a child now, it took a long time for that to happen, so I do feel the bitterness and anger isn’t just presumption – it reflects the truth of my experience. I know the narrator isn’t real (as I literally made them up) but part of me hopes they left that terrible husband and now have a lovely family somewhere else, far over the rainbow.
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.