Michael Fitzgerald tells us more about his trip to the remoter parts of the Falkland Islands, which inspired his piece. An architect, he explains how architectural work, like writing, goes through a constantly evolving process and includes “a finite palette of components”. When writing flash fiction he says to ignore the rules and experiment, which is what he does to great effect in ‘Falkland Island Walk‘. We also like his tip to save your work under a different title if you are struggling, then “go mad on it”.
- In your biography on this site, you said you wrote ‘Falkland Island Walk’ after spending some time surveying the islands for the Historic Buildings Register. Can you tell us more about how the story came into being?
Being commissioned to travel around the remoter parts of The Falkland Islands was like being paid to have an adventure holiday. I was incredibly lucky to land a job like that.
Outside of Stanley there are around 200 people living off-grid, generally in smallholdings, in an incredibly beautiful and harsh environment. There is a story behind every door and the landscape itself is inspiring. I took a lot of photos and notes and made sketches when possible. I look back at these records and I’m straight back in that little boat or land rover. Sometimes the emptiest places can provide the most material.
- You are also a visual artist and an architect. Do these other modes of artistic expression influence your writing style?
I expect so, certainly in terms of the time available. Architecture, like writing, is now planned on computers and so nothing gets lost. It’s in a state of constant edit as a design passes through different phases from conception, planning, regulations and construction. It’s constantly evolving until it is actually emerges as a real 3 dimensional object. I guess you could look at a book in the same way. It’s made up of a finite palette of components (words) and its success depends on how those components are put together. This is also how building succeed or fail. Painting on the other hand is a much more precarious and infinite process, every mark you make is unique and when you make a good one that is it, there is only one copy. If you touch it again you may ruin it. You have to know when to stop – it’s real, there is no ‘save as’ button.
- Do you also write longer prose or poetry?
Yes, both. Like everyone else I’m writing that novel – mine has been with me in some form or another for, well, since the dawn of time. It’s a stream of unedited writing like a sort of repository – the mother ship where poetry, short stories and other articles originate – so it is constantly being plundered and bastardised for material. Maybe it will end up a lean skeleton of a story that runs at pace… or maybe it will fall over and die. I’m working on it…
- Which writers of short fiction do you currently admire?
I started reading a short story collection by Kafka just because it was kicking around. I loved it and found that reading shorter pieces suited my reading style, dipping in and out depending on how busy I am. I am currently reading Best British Short Stories 2015 edited by Nicholas Royle – good mix of styles in this, and Cross Channel by Julian Barnes. Reading Julian Barnes fills me with admiration and despair in equal measure, it’s so accomplished in every way.
- You say you are a ruthless editor of your flash fiction. Where do you begin when you are editing your work?
First draft is just a flow of words. In amongst them one hopes for the making of a few good sentences. Things then get chopped, moved, expanded on, saved as poems, added to other pieces….I can’t imagine writing with a pen and paper, it would take forever. For me, treatment is so important. The subject matter itself is secondary. It’s not what I’m saying so much as how I’m saying it that interests me.
- What’s your best tip on writing the short-short form?
Ignore the rules, experiment, a short story can take it, and so can your waste paper bin. The treatment is so important, sometimes it’s everything. If you’re struggling, save your piece under a different title and go mad on it, then come back later and compare the two. You may have crossed a bridge if you’re lucky.