This month our Flash In Five comes from Avitus B. Carle
How We Survive (click title to read)
Idea: “How We Survive” has gone through several revisions, which is why I struggled to remember the origins of the initial idea. I did some detective work and discovered that the story originated in Meg Pokrass’ microfiction masterclass workshop! The prompt was to write a story addressed to someone off the page with one of the examples being “You’ve Stopped” by Tommy Dean. I love repetition in flash and how the echoes of a word or phrase can portray so much of the character, whether that be an exploration of the truth, a signal of denial or a mind that’s been broken, or reflections on something that’s come to an end.
Development: I was deeply immersed in my apocalypse era of writing and wanted to explore the complexities of relationships, especially breakups. Since my character is addressing someone off the page, why not have them tell the story of their survival to the reader? My next question became, how to make this particular breakup stand out without relying on the apocalypse as the event or moment of conflict that makes this breakup interesting. In what way can I complicate this specific breakup that still makes my character unique and complicated enough to hold the readers’ attention without being predictable? I decided that my character and her love interest would be the last people on earth, she wanting a relationship while her love interest has already found love with someone who is unexpected, yet perfect, for a romance at the end of the world. I then wanted to focus on how my main character navigates an unrequited love and separation from the only other human left on earth.
Editing: Initially, this was supposed to be a micro. However, Lorraine is a force. The more I explored the lives of these three characters, the more I wrote until I exceeded the word count requirements expected for a micro. I posted a portion of the story for workshop, ending with Lorraine (a mannequin and lover of my main character’s love interest) leaning in the doorframe of my main character’s bedroom, and saved the flash-length draft to my computer. This workshop took place during the summer of 2021 and I didn’t return to the story until the fall of that same year. I still wasn’t sure what was missing until Tara Campbell suggested separating the repetition of “We Survive On…” statements to heighten the sense of isolation. I also added several more line breaks to allow the story to breathe, to create even more white space on the page, and italicize any dialogue between my characters so the moments in which the last people on earth connect really stand out amongst the chaos and conflict provided by Lorraine.
Submitting: I had two places in mind for this story. One I’d been receiving personal rejections from and thought, surely, this story would be the one to convince them! The other, Lost Balloon, I’ve been a huge fan of since I first started writing. Lost Balloon had also published one of my first flashes, “White Ribbons,” and I believed this story coincided with the inspiration behind the magazine’s name: “…those small and sad but whimsical moments in life.” Lost Balloon accepted the story and later nominated the piece for Best Small Fictions!
Reflections: Out of all my stories so far, I have the most fun reading, “How We Survive.” To quote a member from Meg Pokrass’ microfiction masterclass workshop, “To be dumped for a mannequin in an apocalyptic world…oof, that’s rough!” Watching the “oof” of realization show on the audiences faces keeps me coming back to this story, to Lorraine, and finding more ways to distort our ideas of relationships, even at the end of the world.
Avitus B. Carle (she/her) lives and writes outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Formerly known as K.B. Carle, her flash has been published in a variety of places including the Fractured Lit, ASP Bulletin, Five South Lit., Lumiere Review, -ette review, and elsewhere. Avitus’s flash, “Black Bottom Swamp Bottle Woman,” was recently selected as one of Wigleaf’s 2023 Top 50 and nominated for the O. Henry Prize. Her story, “A Lethal Woman,” is included in the 2022 Best Small Fictions anthology. She can be found at avitusbcarle.com or online everywhere @avitusbcarle.