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Authors/New Voices Notes of Inspiration Writing/Reading

Writer’s Blog: Michael Hampton – Notes of Inspiration

Michael Hampton author of ‘”A” Death’ published in Breve New Stories Issue Zero, talks about the authors and stories that inspire him.

The cautionary tale is as old as the hills and starts orally with your worried parents telling you not to put your hand in the fire. But the format is for grown-ups too as learning is lifelong. My short story ‘”A” death’ fits this profile, its grotesque nature identifying it as a precise literary sub-type: the conte cruel or cruel tale, a refined form that emerged from the fairy stories of Charles Perrault and Brothers Grimm, but was made explicitly modern by practitioners such as Auguste Villiers De L’isle-Adam, Guy de Maupassant and H H Munro, more generally known as “Saki”.BREVE-LOGO

De L’isle-Adam led a bohemian life, and his stories were as A W Rait notes in his 1963 introduction to Cruel Tales, “often written on dirty, crumpled scraps of paper stained with the coffee and wine of the café tables at which Villiers, generally more or less homeless, spent much of his time”, possessing titles such as ‘Flowers of Darkness’ or ‘The Apparatus for the Chemical Analysis of the Last Breath’ that hint strongly at their baroque content.

Contemporaneous with him was the short story maestro Guy de Maupassant. In ‘A Piece of String’, first published in the collection Harriet, 1884, a frugal peasant is unjustly accused of theft after being spotted picking up a bit of string off the road. The police clear him but despite the object in question (a lost wallet) being handed in, the man continues to be stigmatised by the local villagers, who suspect him of involvement come what may. Wholly innocent but unable to clear his name in the community, as a result he suffers an apoplexy and dies insane. This is classic Maupassant: a tragedy based on an impulse to which the reader is an eye-witness, but can do nothing to prevent as it unfolds in slo-mo.

The short fiction of “Saki” however can be lighter in tone, Monty Pythonesque even, but still trades on the uncanny and weird. His favoured locale is the countryside, but more especially the goings-on amongst the doomed upper classes just before the Great War: fox-hunting, card games, garden parties and Christmas gatherings often the backdrop to madness and mayhem. Ironically in “Saki” the pastoral settings are never quite what they seem. In ‘The Peace of Mowsle Barton’, 1911, a holidaying city gent discovers that the place he imagined to be the very picture of rural bliss harbours dark forces, witchcraft in fact, practised by two old women who spend their time cursing each other and everything around them. In one hilarious scene the gent watches in horror as a group of ducks drown one after the other in the village pond, while the farmhouse kettle refuses to boil as if bewitched. In the end he leaves in disgust, relieved to find himself back among the hustle and bustle of Paddington station. Relying on the odd incident rather than the quotidian ‘plotlessness’ of soap opera, the cruel tale discharges a flare into the night sky, often signalling that all is far from well in the universe. Twisted, acid and unsettling (thus sharing traits with the Edwardian English ghost story) it focuses on arbitrariness and malignant disorder, as if undisclosing the contents of a restricted police file.

Perhaps such writing is a prophylactic against insanity? But by focusing on the incident that comes out of the blue, out of nowhere, horror gets sharply etched on the reader’s disbelieving mind; so in a 24/7 news media environment suffocating in wholesale death and destruction, in end-of-the-world speculation, the trivial yet telling moment that appears to have no explicable metaphysical cause, operates as an indexical mark, generating a grim brand of humour. Once upon a time such encounters were superstitiously classified as intersection points, the workings of fate, and might still be if there was an agreed upon framework of meaning amongst human beings; but normality was the very first casualty of the World Trade Center attacks.

Michael Hampton

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Authors/New Voices Notes of Inspiration Writing/Reading

Writer’s Blog: Michael Hampton – The Idea Behind ‘”A” Death’

Michael Hampton talks about what inspired his story ‘”A”Death’ published in Breve New Stories Issue Zero.

It is a pleasure to be asked by Breve’s editor to add a gloss to my short story ‘“A” Death’, due to be published in issue zero.BREVE-LOGO

The narrative was written during a miserable period of my life when I was on a work placement at an office in south-west London. This involved a tedious red bus journey which was occasionally brightened up by spotting some of the physical details recounted in the text, whilst the central phantasmagoric incident described here is the result of extending certain logical possibilities, or hidden dangers present in the fabric of every day life; a random suburban event against which no insurance policy can safeguard. Recently the traditional short story has been joined in the literary landscape by flash or micro fiction, even nanofiction, that differ in wordcount terms yet also bear family resemblances, certainly stylistic traits and structures that distinguish them from the novel, especially the contemporary blockbuster. ‘“A” Death’ is a minimal story, its format low on packaging, yet still capable of maintaining suspense and conveying horror in a dry, understated way, without much psychological elaboration. It is a cliché but here the facts speak for themselves, revealing life as subject to grotesque contingency, the individual despite their best efforts destined to end up as a tragicomic victim, robbed of agency. My tale is the product of daydream related with an almost administrative detachment, the sudden temporal shifts not only representing a discontinuity of experience but also the gaps between writing sessions; evidence of a slow sort of plotting, and fastidious revision.

Michael Hampton

 

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Introducing Breve New Stories Submissions

Submissions for Issue Zero are now Closed

Dear all,

Thank you for submitting your stories to Breve New Stories. We are amazed by the great response and it is going to be tough to pick the two authors to feature in our first issue. Submissions are now closed, but don’t worry if you couldn’t make it this time, we will be open for entries again very soon.

These two months of Breve confirmed  what we already believed: out there it’s full of new talented writers looking for more challenges and opportunities. This inspires us in our project and makes us want to reach further, hoping that one day Breve will be acting as a springboard for succesful literary careers and as a reference point for all those starting.

August is going to be a month of intense work here at Breve and while we get ready to send Issue Zero to the printers we welcome your support, so if you don’t follow us already, please do! You can follow our blog or find us on Facebook, and on Twitter (coming soon).

Keep watching this space!

 

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Introducing Breve New Stories Submissions

Don’t miss the deadline: submissions close on 31 July!

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Time for procrastination is over: submissions for Breve New Stories Issue Zero close in less than two weeks!

Enter your best short story and/or flash fiction by July 31st and they might be published in the very first issue of Breve. Selected authors will also have the opportunity to write for Breve’s blog and hold printed copies of their work in September:  not a bad way to welcome autumn, hu?

For more info and guidelines click here.

Don’t forget to follow us on facebook and on brevenewstories.wordpress.com.

Good luck!

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Notes of Inspiration Writing/Reading

The Fiction Behind Flash Fiction

Does fiction start from word one? Where is the fiction in a Flash Fiction piece?

Flash Fiction is very much a by-product of our times, as much as fiction is about what it is to be a human being-quoting D F Wallace. Therefore, as contemporary human beings flash fiction represents one form of evolution of fiction writing in a high-speed, over crowded, information-saturated, present.

Flash fiction is no poetry, no aphorism and no mere sentence. A six-words sentence can be a piece of flash fiction, as much as much as a 100,000 words volume can be a novel…provided that both contain fiction. The secret ingredients are imagination and creativity, which are indispensable to tell a story.

There is often some weariness of this form, a sense of limit represented by brevity and the perplexity around a piece that, by giving only very few strategic details about what happens, forces the readers to do for themselves. To put the pieces together and to stage them in the theatre of  the readers’ minds, in all its complexity, it is indeed a great deal of work for a five minutes read.

Flash fiction is a very powerful pill of fiction: you swallow it on the run while you do your thing and slowly it releases its properties. Flash fiction authors face a unique challenge in creating these undiluted pieces of fiction.

This reflection on the essence of flash fiction was inspired by a conversation with a keen reader and book industry professional with many questions regarding the relationship between brevity and fiction.  Every fiction reader and/or writer is welcome to contribute.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

http://www.theguardian.com/books/2012/may/14/how-to-write-flash-fiction

 

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Introducing Breve New Stories

So, What Happens Now? We Read, We write.

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Breve New Stories is up and running!

Last Thursday we decided it was about time to go live and let people know Breve is born. We had such a good response and we really want to thank each and every person that took some time to  have a look and signed up to our new blog and Facebook page.

So, we are doing this.  Breve is out on the hunt for the best new short stories and flash fiction.  We really look forward to get to know all the new and emerging authors out there, that share the same passion for storytelling and are ready to take the plunge. This is the opportunity to be part of a new exciting project and it is the moment to be brave.

 

While making our first steps, while waiting for you to finish editing your stories, we do what we like the most: We Read and We Write.

These are the books  inspiring Breve in these promising summer days: The Penguin Book of the Beach  and  The Penguin Book of the City, both edited by Robert Drewe. Both packed with some of the most brilliant international authors, giving us the thrills with their short stories over the themes of The City and The Beach.

If you are running out of steam or you think you deserve a treat for your hard work, these are the books you are looking for!