I was having a conversation with a friend of mine last weekend. He’s a DJ, a drum and bass one to be precise and we were discussing what we look for in stories, and in music. I should clarify, for the record, that I don’t much like drum and bass, or most dance music. He asked me what I first listened to when I listen to music, when that song first comes on, what is it that first grips you, that makes you want to listen more. I thought about it for a moment, and I told him it was the words. The lyrics of a song. That’s what I listen out for. And so I asked him, when you do the same, what is it you first listen out for? He said he didn’t much go for the lyrics, to him the words are just another instrument and he wants to hear all those instruments used intelligently. He wants creativity in everything to do with music.
I bring this up because I have been thinking a lot over the past week about myself as a writer. When I pick up a book and dismiss it after reading the first chapter because it’s badly written, because the plot doesn’t work – am I doing the same thing? Am I looking for works that use everything creatively, intelligently? Has writing, in fact, ruined my love of books to an extent? I can enjoy music because to me, the songs I like have great lyrics. I don’t care about the guitar or piano or whatever. But with stories, for me at least, they’ve got to get it all right.
I picked up Jon McGregor’s wonderful short story collection, ‘This isn’t the sort of thing that happens to someone like you’ the other week and the opening story, ‘That Colour’ happens to fall under the word count of a flash fiction. To me, that story is a work of genius. Go on, go out and buy it, give that tale a read and tell me it isn’t the best piece of work by a writer so far this year. It’s incredible and more so, it’s less than a thousand words long.
I suppose that’s what I like about Flash Fiction. Maybe like isn’t the right word, respect is probably better. When they’re done well, they manage to do everything well, plot, character, imagery; they can make you laugh, cry and all within a tiny word count.
We’ll be celebrating National Flash Fiction day in