Maud Casey Tends to the Gaps of Her Story Materials

Maud Casey didn’t take a delicate approach to her first 100-word story. In fact, she says she crashed around, confident that such a small and contained form could take the bashing.

As with several of our featured authors, Casey had never written a 100-word story before—and hadn’t written a story this short, in fact. She’s pondered economy in fiction, though, and knows how the material of a story tends to find its form—because of, not despite, of the crashing around.

What was your approach to writing a 100-word story?

I started as I always do—crashing around. What emerged was a kind of elegy and so it was very much about trying to capture the essence of the person. Once something started to take shape, it felt as though I was making a sculpture, tending to the gaps as much as to what was there. I’m envious of visual artists who get to work with real stuff you can lay your hands on, so the feeling of whittling away at this thing was pleasurable. I often wish I could make fiction out of clay, or marble, or wood. It would be nice to be able to incorporate the use of a saw somehow.

What’s the shortest story you’ve ever written?

This is it.

Do you have any favorite flash fiction authors?

It’s hard to come up with a comprehensive list but Lydia Davis would be on it, of course. In his essay, “Quickness,” from the invaluable Six Memos for the Next Millennium, Italo Calvino said he wanted to edit an anthology of one-sentence pieces. That would have been something. One of his favorite one-sentence stories was by Augusto Monterroso. Translated from the Spanish: “When I woke up, the dinosaur was still there.” I love that.

As a teacher of creative writing, have you taught flash fiction?

I sometimes teach a class on economy in fiction, which often includes very short pieces, but I like to think about fleetness, agility, and speed in longer pieces as well. The novella, for example. Or even the way imagery in a novel serves to create a kind of swift coherence. What’s essential in order to tell a story? Before you can answer that question, you have to wrangle with the questions at the heart of the story itself. The material finds its form.

In a culture where succinctness becomes more and more pronounced, where do you think concepts like “the great American novel” fit in?

I’ll answer succinctly. Great? American? Novel? The longer answer would require a tome.

As a novelist, do you write toward a word count when you start a new novel?

Never. I just crash around. And around and around and around.

One Response to “Maud Casey Tends to the Gaps of Her Story Materials”

  1. Patrick Nelson says:

    Finally an answer to something I have been wondering about since I began wading into this new pond: micro, short story or novel? Thank you for the answer…”The material finds its form.”
    Perfect.
    Let it crash and roll. When it stops you wil know.

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