Sarah Evan’s story,”Mistaken,” Every Day Fiction‘s top story for June, takes readers on a common city street with Ralph, an identical twin who is mistaken for his brother. Written in first-person with phrases such as “We used to think this was funny” and “I stand and wait and let it hit me,” readers are immediately drawn into the intriguing exchange between Ralph and Dave, an old friend of Ralph’s brother who is taken aback at their striking similarities. In less than 900 words, author Sarah Evans skillfully builds an intriguing scene that could take many avenues.
Flash Fiction Chronicles talked with Sarah Evans to gain insight on this moving piece, which triggered active discussion on Every Day Fiction‘s message board.
FFC: What compelled you to write “Mistaken”?
Evans: I’d been reading a non-fiction book about the experience of being a twin. The chapter on bereavement – one twin losing their other twin – had some very poignant stories.
FFC: What are the greatest rewards to writing flash fiction, in your opinion?
Evans: Usually I write things that are longer – but it’s always good to play around with different lengths. Managing to write something very succinct, which nonetheless gets the reader involved enough to care (hopefully) is very rewarding. I was very encouraged by many of the reader comments.
FFC: What are the greatest challenges?
Evans: Challenges are a bit the flip side of rewards. I find it hard to keep things quite so short and at the same time create convincing characters and tell their story.
FFC: I think what makes this piece particularly strong is your word choice — it seems as if each word was selected and placed carefully. After you finish a first draft, what is your rewriting process?
Evans: A very first draft is often a free write with lots of superfluous bits that might or might not eventually fit in. The first ‘readable’ draft pins down the structure but still has too many words. From then on, it’s about trying to hone things down, getting the sentences to flow, saying things in the best possible way. Often it’s about deciding what can go, but sometimes things need to be fleshed out as well. The process can go on for some time. Reading out loud sometimes helps.
FFC: Much of the discussion about the story centered around the gender of the main character. Some readers took exception with the fact that you wrote in first-person from a male POV. What are your thoughts on this? Do you think the story would have been different if the main character had been a woman?
Evans: I generally write from both male and female points of view. Just as I also write from the point of view of people of different ages and very different circumstances to my own. Usually I know from the first line / initial idea which gender I want to go with – though I have occasionally started with one and then redrafted using the other. I’m not sure the ‘what is different’ is a conscious thing – but I’m sure if I’d started from a female point of view the story would have taken a different direction in some way. Maybe a woman would have been more open with the friend who mistakes her for her twin – rather than being completely unable to talk about it.
Over the last five years, Sarah Evans has had dozens of stories published in magazines, competition anthologies and online. ‘On such a night’ was a runner up for Bridport 2008. ‘His Mother Tongue’ won first place in the 2009 Legend Writing Award. ‘Afterwards’ won first place in the Oct 2010 Writers’ Forum monthly competition. Several of her stories have appeared in Earlyworks Press anthologies, and most recently she read from The Chose at the launch for Ways of Falling.
Sarah has a Diploma in Creative Writing from the Open University. She lives in Welwyn Garden City with her husband and apart from writing, her interests include walking, opera and dancing.