Smoking With Z.Z. Boone
Read the Story June 25, 2009
One of the things I love about this story is how “Rats” is a splendid piece of multilayered flash fiction. The story is an excellent example of that old “show don’t tell” thing, a story of a teenager who isn’t hanging with the typical crowd, but doesn’t seem to resent that, a girl whose wisdom is beyond her years, a father/daughter scenario where the daughter is perhaps consoling the father, plus scene, setting etc. etc. How conscious are you of this layering during the creation of the piece?
Not very. I simply try to take characters I find interesting and place them in unlikely and (I hope) interesting situations. For me, thinking a piece out structurally is certain death. It has to be a discovery and it has to be character, not author, driven.
Do your characters reappear in stories and if so, will these two? If not, are you done with these two people of interest? Can you just let them go right here?
I think every character a writer creates leaves behind a bit of her/himself. Therefore, this young woman’s discomfort and fear becomes part of my writing psyche. So does her father’s bullying. They may never show up again as the same people, but bits and pieces of them are certain to resurface in the future.
Have you shot a rat and if so can you discuss the experience?
This story is somewhat autobiographical. I have a terrible fear of rats and always have. When my sister’s macho husband found this out—I was maybe fourteen at the time—he took me on a rat hunt similar to the one fictionalized here. It was the most terrifying night of my life; I was too frightened to even move, much less shoot at anything.
How about the title? Titling is hard for some people, easy for others. “Rats” is the perfect title in my opinion, but others could have worked also. How do titles work for you?
I believe it was Raymond Carver who said a title should fit a story like a good roof fits a house. Usually mine are simple and don’t come to me until I’ve completed the story.
The father is struggling with the concept of power, but the daughter, at her young age, might already understand how power works. How about you? How does “approaching from a position of power” come into your life or your writing?
It’s important that the power lies within your characters. The protagonist has to want something badly—in “Rats” I think the young woman really wants to make her emasculated father effectual again—and she/he has to overcome obstacles in the pursuit. A powerful character is an active character; a passive character is a prop.
About the Author:
Z.Z. Boone received an MFA from Goddard College and currently teaches at Sacred Heart University in Connecticut.