A high percentage of my flash fiction is in the fragmented form. There’s something very Proustian about this form for me. We humans tend to have random memories pop into our heads when we’re doing the most mundane things (like standing in line and someone’s actions spark the memory of Louise and her sassy denim shorts who stole your dad away when you were a kid). Those little memories spark emotions, which in turn tend to spark more memories and more emotions.
My flashes always begin with an image tied to an emotion (in this case, a young woman with commitment issues who is anxious thinking her boyfriend is going to propose). I never edit myself in a first draft—I just follow the rabbit hole and write whatever associations, regardless of how tenuous, pop into my head. “Fitting” these together into a coherent story comes later, when I begin to pick that first draft apart—rearranging, deleting—as the emotion I’m trying to convey starts to take shape within my choices. Once I’m happy I’m heading in the right direction, this is when I read the piece out loud, and I listen for the words and sentences and images that announce their need to be erased, to let their absence shout their importance to the reader instead. I keep chiseling away until I can’t find one more instance where I’d make a change, then I put it away for a few days or weeks until I feel like I can look at it with fresh eyes. Invariably, I end up rewriting entire sections and/or cutting even more.
Life rarely makes sense from separate moments across a lifespan, but these moments have a Jungian synchronicity. This is why fragmented flash is my favorite form as I put those moments together like pieces of a puzzle. And it’s our job as writers (or storytellers—I like storytellers much better) to make the puzzle pieces fit and to create the picture on the front of the puzzle box. I love it when even I’m surprised at what the front of that puzzle box ends up looking like—sort of like life’s moments, how they still can surprise me, how I never thought this moment would connect to that moment from years ago. But they do. You just have to look for the truth in each moment.
L MARI HARRIS’s most recent work has appeared or is forthcoming in matchbook, Ponder Review, (mac)ro(mic), Bandit Lit, Pithead Chapel, Tiny Molecules, among others. She works in the tech industry and lives in the Ozarks. Follow her on Twitter @LMariHarris and read more of her work at lmariharris.wordpress.com.