My full name is Elaine Marie McKay. I think, at some point, I tried to have a pseudonym, but it turns out I’m rubbish at being mysterious. My husband and I have four young children. Since taking a break from my career, I have tried to write more. I have had a few flash fiction pieces published. Most recently, I had a photo story published in 100 word story.
My flash fiction tends towards dark themes, and I do like to experiment with form.
100 words ain’t many. How do you fit a story into so few words? The shorter the better for me. I do worry about my lack of stamina! I think precision of language has to be key. The title can be really useful for setting the scene, allowing you to get some things said before you’ve started.
Why do you like flash fiction? I like that I get to complete something. I also love trying to get words to really pull their weight in a story. I think it is an area where you can experiment with form and try out different ideas.
Been writing long? I have been writing flash fiction for about two years.
You write anything else? I have tried my hand at writing texts for children’s picture books.
Any advice for other flash writers? Enjoy the genre.
Any interesting writerly projects in the pipeline? I am delighted to be working on flash stories for Volume 2 of the Flashdogs Anthology.
‘Fear me,’ he says- just as he hands me my change; just before the train pulls up; just before the guy behind me shouts, ‘What’s keeping you, Lady?’
I try to find a trace of the words on his face. In the lines across his forehead. In his pinpoint pupils. In the shiny gold between his yellow teeth. But they’ve disappeared.
Except, somehow, I am in possession of them. I carry them onto the train, feel them fluttering at my chest. I try to pull them into some other shape. But the train thrums, ‘Take care! Take care!’ I turn towards the squawking skies and watch the noises flying.
I loved the photo prompt. It took me down a more abstract route. The first bookend ‘Fear’ set the tone for my story. I did find ‘flying’ more difficult to work with, and it took me a while to come up with the last line.
‘Play!’ prods the electronic voice in her head.
She picks up her pace, an hour in and her tits and legs ache. She’s nauseous. Contorting and twirling make the air crawl up her exposed skin. The sensation triggers her synapses. She wonders if the men below still give their daughters music boxes that play You Are My Sunshine while the stiff pop-up ballerina spins.
‘Plaything number 1. You are thinking!’
Before she detaches again, becoming a distorted rag doll in a glass box, writhing for the ‘nice men’, she allows one last lucid thought to fire across her brain:
‘Please make this one a boy.’
Both the bookends, Play and boy, along with the introduction itself were the inspiration for the story. I wanted to explore the role of women in a society where pornography has become the norm.
New layers of architecture rise beyond the minarets. The old muezzin looks up to see the changes, for the physical world is no different at eye level: children impoverished still naively play, kicking up the dust of decay.
The muezzin sits mute. He draws his eyes down knowing there are other changes for those who stay the same. The cacophony of the city’s noises are transformed. The diminished soundscape tires him: the blend of chants for prayer now a single electronic voice.
Taciturn he shakes his head, another layer, another coat that strips the ancient city of its old but colourful clothes.
The bookend,’New’, and the fabulous photo prompt reminded me of articles I had read on the unification of the call to prayer in Cairo. It struck me as a huge cultural change, and I thought that was a good place for a story to start. I also found the idea of the sound of a city changing a fascinating one.
The Nation’s State of Mind
Mock vaccinations were clearing their gurgling lungs, drying their weeping sores, sewing together their broken spirits, stitching up their despair.
The Bowler Hats congratulated themselves on employing the most cost effective placebo since Jesus Christ.
But words got out and spread like a mutating virus:
So in the safety of shelters tucked underground, they bludgeoned and gouged, raged and violated, tortured and brutalised until only their corpses were left to top and tail.
I started at the end. I liked the image of corpses topping and tailing. It felt like a strong image that could incorporate one of the prompts without feeling forced. Then I worked backwards trying to figure out what might have brought those circumstances about. The photo prompt itself got me thinking about vaccination programmes.