Fri 16 Dec 2011
Some view fiction as a mental escape — the chance to disappear into another world which does not include all of our daily chores and obligations. Others relate to the realities that such a medium provides; an opportunity to use another person’s words to delve deeper into our souls and witness things we had not noticed before. “Bulletproof“ by Divya Raghavan is just such a story: One that serves as an escape into an otherwise mundane life event of another person and causes us to reflect on our own life choices.
The story was voted by readers as Every Day Fiction‘s top story for November. Flash Fiction Chronicles recently interviewed Divya about her story and the motivations behind it.
FFC: What inspired this piece?
Raghavan: I wrote this piece for a fiction-writing class I was lucky enough to take with author Amy Hempel, so the piece has benefited incredibly from her and my classmates’ feedback. I wanted to start a story with “riddle me this,” so I did, but in the writing process the story turned into something unexpected, and the first line didn’t fit anymore. But the underlying theme is from a few friends’ experiences with dating, and observations I’ve made from trying to understand others’ situations.
FFC: What I found most interesting about this piece — and most works of great short fiction — is how it’s able to convey a range of emotional depth during an otherwise mundane life event. Some of the most extraordinary works of short fiction are set during ordinary daily life. What are your thoughts on how everyday life speaks to us and how it has spoken to your narrator here?
Raghavan: I think ordinary life is much more interesting than our extraordinary experiences. The things that I end up repeatedly mulling over are always mundane life events, every day conversations, etc., rather than once-in-a-lifetime events. In this story, I intended for this event from everyday life to serve as an indicator of how her everyday events tend to go, how she is repeatedly hiding things and giving up little parts of herself.
FFC: What do you find uniquely fulfilling about writing flash fiction?
Raghavan: Well, it’s always satisfying to finish something. And people are much more willing to read your writing and give you feedback if it’s short. But I am always surprised by the amount of characterization an author can fit into a short piece. I love when you feel like you have created a full, three-dimensional character in so few words.
FFC: What do you find uniquely challenging about it?
Raghavan: It’s tough to get a character to really resonate with readers in short fiction. In longer pieces, it’s more likely that people reading it will find something in there that they can relate to. There are plenty of books where I don’t like one scene, and flash fiction is just one scene.
FFC: A few of the readers pointed out that this piece has more telling than showing, which is typically a fiction-writing sin. Yet it works well in this piece. In your opinion, how would the story have changed if you’d have depicted the couple interacting? What makes the “telling” work in this piece, in your opinion?
Raghavan: I think the “telling” works because the piece is less about their actual interactions and more about how she interprets their interactions. And I think that staying in her head the whole time allows readers to relate to her more than they would if it had been a third-person story. I focused on the character more than the story itself, so it made sense to stay with the character the entire time. But maybe it would have been more interesting if there had been more action. I think those reading it would have felt less close to the narrator, though.
Divya Raghavan grew up in Cleveland, went to college in Boston, and now lives in England, where she is working towards a Master’s degree in psychology. She enjoys writing, music, and spending time with all the wonderful people in her life. She is 22.