Is “the mountain” a mountain in particular? Based on somewhere you’ve been or seen?
The only mountains I’ve ever seen were in Vancouver, British Columbia—in the distance. By the end of process of writing this flash I started seeing similar mountains within the fictional setting of my flash.
I like how this starts in the middle. “The day after the avalanche…” How did you decide to drop the reader in precisely here?
Isn’t it the essence of flash? Dropping the reader in the middle? I didn’t make a conscious decision. I was already playing with the images of snow in my mind, and I wanted to start with something that would create instantaneous tension and provide background for the story in one word.
I imagine you see a lot of snow where you are. I love how the snowflakes are written here, as living, burrowing, egg-laying “glitter bugs.” Can you explain how the snow itself became such an important player here?
Snow has been seemingly ever-present in my life and in my writing in the last years. I just completed a novel set in Iqaluit, a town of eight thousand in the Canadian Arctic where I lived for two years. Snow, snow, more snow, and really cold. Then we moved to Nova Scotia, and what do we get? More snow! I wrote this flash from a writing prompt I posted on my blog when I decided to be a more active blogger—”Over the pond the tree swallow stitches the evening.” This is a line from Miriam N. Kotzin’s poem, from her collection, Reclaiming the Dead. The poem inspired me, and this is where the bug imagery came from, as I imagined swallows hunting for bugs. But it was snowing outside, and a blizzard in Iqaluit (I still have Iqaluit weather on my Google home page). I wasn’t ready for a summer flash. As I drafted this story I also blogged about it, in real time.
So there’s more about its creation here, (http://aniavesenny.blogspot.com/2009/01/flash-writing.html) and here (http://aniavesenny.blogspot.com/2009/01/process-of-flash-writing-day-2.html). I normally don’t blog or even make notes about the way I write, but I was attempting to do something creative on my blog and maybe inspire others by sharing my process.
The two women seem to have a slightly odd dynamic, the sister and the fiancé, both knowing Xan, equally well but in different ways. During this scene, there is so much going on, but not a lot of conversation. How well do these women get along on a normal day?
This flash was born out of images. I never intended to know these women intimately. Their tension was born out of the conflict that was already there—in the snowflakes that were larvae. But I’m 1/3 into a new novel, and this flash became a chapter in that novel. The sister became Xan’s ex-girlfriend. They are together at that cafe only because Xan’s missing, but they are also stuck in an odd triangle of co-dependence.
I often wonder how a story starts. What were the first words you wrote in this story? Did it then turn out as you anticipated, or go in another direction?
As I was already thinking of bugs, my first images were of a brother and sister sitting together by a pond, as children. This scene sort of worked itself into the middle of the flash. But when I started writing, the first sentence was already about the snow and it has remained the same. When I write flash, especially when I start with images, I don’t have a set direction. The story evolves, sentence by sentence. I don’t want to give an impression that flash writing is easy, or just “comes” to me. The draft I workshopped on zoetrope.com was nowhere near polished. I received very helpful feedback and revised the story accordingly—clarifying scenes, tightening sentences, rearranging paragraphs, working on word choices. This process, of fluid, almost magical creation and then the focused, deliberate revision is very rewarding for me.
Thank you for the thought provoking questions, Beth. And big thanks to those on Zoetrope who reviewed this flash and helped me to make it better.