Janelle Franz is a graduate of Northern Michigan University where she earned her BA in English/Writing. Her poem “The Barnburner” was a recipient of the Legler Memorial Poetry Prize. On her website, she enjoys exploring elements of the writing craft and inventive thinking. Originally from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, she currently lives in the greater Grand Rapids area. She loves swing dancing, family, a good cup of coffee, and a great story.
If you haven’t taken the time to read “As for Adventure,” treat yourself to this story about a young woman who is challenging herself to be adventurous.
WOW: What was the inspiration for your story “As for Adventure”?
Janelle: Life can put us situations that we don’t expect and scare us, but we always have a choice. In my story, Alethea and Henri were both faced with some difficult decisions as events continued to unfold. People who make hard choices, even when the outcome is unknown, inspire me.
WOW: Flash fiction is so spare. For example, you only hint at the relationship, or lack thereof, between Alethea and Henri. How do you decide what details to include and what to leave out?
Janelle: When I read a story, I hunger for the clues that indicate who the character is beneath the surface. I enjoy flash fiction because every word bears a lot of weight, and, just like real life, silence can sometimes speak louder than words. Writing Henri was challenging for me, but in the end, I kept the details that pointed to pieces of his past, heart, and conflicted motives because they were most relevant to the story. If a detail doesn’t add to the story, it takes away.
WOW: If it doesn’t add, it subtracts. Definitely something to keep in mind. Creating a satisfying ending is so hard to do. What advice do you have for writers who are new to this form? How did you know where to end “As for Adventure”?
Janelle: The key to end, at least for me, was when Alethea shifted from following Henri’s lead to taking a path of her own. There was a debate in my critique group about whether or not Alethea survived the swim to the shore. For me, she became a survivor the moment she made her decision, and all else was secondary. For writers looking for the ending, look at your character and see how they’re different from who they were at the beginning. That’s a good indicator for whether or not you’re close to the finish line.
WOW: I never thought of using that to help define where to end a story. What a helpful tip! One of the things that I hear a lot of editors comment on is the lack of setting in people’s stories. What advice can you give our readers about creating a rock solid setting for their stories like you did in “As for Adventure”?
Janelle: I worked on Presque Isle when I was in college, so I had a lot of memories to draw from to help me paint that picture. But setting is much more than a location, and it should never be idle. Whether you’re creating a story from a familiar place or dreaming up a new one in your mind, give your setting a voice in your story. Everything - a rock, a wave, a thistle - can speak in its own way. Concrete, mindful details create clear images and add depth to writing.
WOW: Your bio says that you like to explore inventive thinking. Can you tell us what that is and how it relates to writing?
Janelle: I love to look at what is and simultaneously imagine what could be. My daughter made a phone out of a hot dog bun at dinner tonight. That’s inventive thinking. Invention is a discovery or finding. A productive imagination. A process or device originated after study or experiment. The act of inventing.
I believe it’s at the heart of writing. We write to discover, to meet someone new, to scale unfathomable heights and to solve problems through uncharted terrain. Sometimes the terrain is a rocky cliff, and other times it’s the salt molecules of a mother’s tear. When I write a story, the joy is in inventing it, and I love encouraging others to do the same.
WOW: Discovery is definitely a theme you hold close both in encouraging your fellow writers and in your stories. Thank you for sharing your story and these ideas with us!
Interview conducted by Sue Bradford Edwards.