Thu 23 Jun 2011
In his piece, “Hat Trick,” Barry Friesen allows readers to spend a sweltering Fourth of July with an impatient father and his newly defiant son. The piece was the top story in May for Every Day Fiction, with readers describing it as a charming, sweet and nostalgic piece that offers a “good portrait of life” inside the relationship between a brutish father and his tender-hearted son. In less than 850 words, Friesen takes us on a compelling and emotional journey through anger, discomfort and compassion.
Flash Fiction Chronicles caught up with Barry Friesen to ask him about this piece.
FFC: When you started writing this piece, did you know how the story would end? Do you typically sketch out your flash fiction pieces before you start writing?
Friesen: I’m so spatially dyslexic that I need a trail of bread crumbs to find the bathroom, so I get lost in the dark forest of story too easily. I have to light a candle at the ending first, or I’d never get out of the forest.
This was my first flash for the Flash Factory; I’m far more used to longer stuff, where I do a lot of sketching first, yes. Flash is so short that I liked being able to keep it all in my head for once, no sketching.
FFC: Based on the comments that followed the story, the ending was taken a lot of different ways. I found that the ending completely changed the dynamic of the story in a deeply personal and moving way. What was your intention with the ending?
Friesen: The father-son dynamic is loaded with conflict naturally, I think, so a story resolution for that needs a brushstoke of some kind of tenderness to convey a mutual acceptance. I hoped the hydrogen balloons, and the father’s willingness to be easygoing about their being tied to the three hairs on his bald head, accomplished that. But readers (and one EDF editor) suggested that trope be seeded at the top, and I think they’re right.
FFC: What is your goal as a flash fiction writer? What do you hope to convey?
Friesen: I’m not happy with my stuff until it makes me cry or laugh. If I’m moved by it, I figure some readers might be moved, too. That’s all I want–the moving moments.
FFC: What do you find uniquely satisfying about writing flash fiction versus longer-verse prose?
Friesen: Very fun to try to tell a complete storyline in such a short space, but tough! Like dancing in a phone booth. For me, it’s like living indoors when I’m not really suited for that.
FFC: In your opinion: What are the elements of a strong piece of short fiction?
Friesen: I’m an emotion-fiend; I want to be blown away by the emotional impact of a story. Short fiction seems more suited to the delight of word-play and delicious images, but a strong, short drama still needs a solid conflict, stakes that count, emotional risk–all that. It’s all about personal taste, though.
Barry Friesen is a former psychotherapist and child protection lawyer and playwright who has been published in New Plains Review, Flashquake, SnipLits and The Toronto Quarterly. He has three sons — a novelist, a screenwriter and one who has legitimate work.