Interview with Delaine Smith, Runner-Up in the WOW! Spring 2017 Flash Fiction Contest

Tuesday, November 07, 2017
Delaine Smith is a classically trained singer and a lifetime writer with a collection of unusual day jobs. Her publishing credits include poetry, a gothic romance novel, and a song cycle for children’s chorus recently performed at the Voices of Canada 150 concert series. In her volunteer work and her writing, women and girls are always the focus. According to her niece, Delaine’s favorite phrase is, “Don’t panic, we can figure this out.”

If you haven’t read Delaine’s story, “The Safety of Eve,” check it out before you read her interview about writing this timely piece of fiction.

WOW: What was the inspiration for this particular story? It is so timely!

Delaine: The inspiration is my niece, who is now thirteen years old. The world being what it is, I feel a great anxiety that she will have the coming-of-age experience that so many women and girls share of being objectified and harassed on public transit.

It is so difficult for a young girl, just beginning to be a woman, to speak up for herself in a bad situation, since we have been trained from birth to be polite all the time. I find that women are sometimes reluctant to ask for help even in the worst situations, because we've been taught that our bodies and our feelings are taboo. It silences us in every way when we should be able to speak. Society has come a long way, but we still have a long way to go.

WOW: Most stories change as we work on them. How did this story change and grow as you rewrote it?

Delaine: The story changed as I worked on it because at first, I was determined to have Eve solve the problem, in effect, to rescue herself by herself. But it just didn't work in the story. It felt fake. And I began to realize that the public nature of the setting almost demanded that another character be involved on Eve's side of the equation.

WOW: That would be tough because you’re breaking one of the oft-quoted rules of writing. “The POV character needs to overcome her own problem.” How did you empower her while allowing her to accept male assistance?

Delaine: This leads to the next problem, which is how to expose the villain's behavior without vilifying men in general? Enter the supportive male.

But how to have him be helpful without making the story about him?

And how to get Eve to realize that it's okay to admit that you need help without making her artificially needy or reducing her to a caricature? Her fear is justifiable - but so is her natural anger in a society that silences female anger. This story was a minefield. I was actually going to call it The Minefield. That was my working title for a long time.

WOW: You’ve done a great job in working around so many potential problems in this short form. What advice do you have for readers who are tempted to try flash fiction but are intimidated by the low word? What do you wish you had known before you started writing flash fiction?

Delaine: As to the brief length of the story, it was a challenge. I had to focus on the characters. I needed a clear line to express good and evil without making too much of the evil. It was a personal choice, but I didn't want the story to be about the bad guy, for want of a better term. He is simply the physical expression of everything that scares me in our society.

Just because the word count is low, a person just starting to write flash fiction should not make the mistake of thinking that a story can be hammered out in a day. I worked on this story over a period of two months before I could read through it and feel like it was true to the characters. It demanded a piece of my heart in edits.

WOW: You’ve written poetry, a romance novel and a chorus. How many writing projects do you have going at any one time? How do you keep them all straight?

Delaine: At any given time, I have two or three projects that I am seriously working on, as well as a large artist's notebook bulging with ideas scrawled on napkins and scraps of paper. I love to feel the creativity flowing. I keep every tiny scrap with the full understanding that not every idea will become something more. Sometimes the idea on that tiny paper is just a stepping stone on the long road to the next problem I absolutely must talk about.

I don't think I have kept things straight in my mind at all times, but some overlap of ideas is okay with me as long as I don't repeat myself. And since certain genres have their own built-in framework, like sonnets in poetry, similar ideas can be explored and expressed differently.

WOW: Thank you to Delaine for taking time out of her busy schedule to answer our questions. Good luck with your current projects. We will definitely have our eyes open, looking for more of your writing.


Anonymous said...

Delaine Smith's story is one of the best I've read on WOW. I'm a long-time worldwide editor and teacher of writing as well as a published writer in my own right. She did a super job on this story. Congratulations. Linda the WriteWatchman

Angela Mackintosh said...

GREAT interview, ladies! Delaine ~ it's so interesting hearing about your writing process and how you had tried to have your protagonist solve her problem but ended up changing it. What you did works well. It felt natural and organic to the story, and as a writer, I know how much revision goes into a story(!), but it just flowed. It's also a topic that I'm sure every girl can unfortunately relate to. I know I'm no stranger to this situation! I agree with Linda's comment. :)

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