Endings

David Aichenbaum Decompresses David Aichenbaum

David, you were the managing editor of Matter Journal for Compressed Creative Arts. Now you’re not. So talk to me about endings, about closure. In terms of compressed creative forms, specifically fiction, what makes an ending an ending?

David, I feel like Stephen Colbert. You sir are a formidable opponent I want to say. When I came up with the idea for this “decompression” feature in, when was it, November? December? I wanted for the writers interviewed, decompressed, to send me wild, crazy, rapid-fire loose cannon responses. Why did I want this? My compressed writing had become inhibited. Self-defeating. I couldn’t write two words of a flash before thinking no David no those are bad words to be writing so write good words already why don’t you? This got me thinking. Was inhibition a necessary or likely effect of compression? Was my writing stalling because I was writing small? Does compression as an activity induce life-flow congesting side effects?

Now I am Colbert again. Introducing VaxaCompress, side effects may include life-flow congestion, fiction inhibition, backspacing of backspaces.

So really, the “decompression” feature was my idea of an impromptu prescription for writers of flash who were suffering, perhaps, the stymieing consequences of living around (very) tiny work; who were becoming problematically static; who could use a dose of decompression to stretch the taffy of their thoughts, their fingers, before returning to the rewards–there are many–of writing small.

Of course, projecting my ache to decompress onto all writers of flash was a peculiar leap of imagination on my part. But it was a good and happy leap, I think. Decompressions sent in to the journal have been uniformly wonderful. Here’s something from Sean Lovelace’s (the journal’s first) that has to do with endings. You were asking, so I quote:

I couldn’t finish the stories. The best flash fiction I ever wrote—at least it contained some of my best stuff—there’s about a million drafts of it in this drawer here, I couldn’t finish it. I found that I was faking things all the time, dodging issues and letting my characters dodge them. Maybe.

Is that the way to end? Charge head-on your character’s issues? Your own?

Yes, I think so. And my guess. Writing an ending is about beginning to fill in space. Filling in the matter you’ve chipped away at. Because writing, I think, is about chipping away, or digging up, or unsettling the material we tend to pack down. So one way to end, maybe, is to try to fill in some of that dug-up matter in the mind of the writer, the reader, and those of our characters. But I think we can only begin to fill in, and in this way to end is to begin again, and to begin, to chip away, is to make possible the partial reconstruction that constitutes an ending.

True story. I was in a college fiction course once and the professor had to admit we were all writing crap endings. It was getting painful. We were cringing openly, and sometimes laughing, and sometimes hissing, and as readers we were beginning to take the intensity of our hatred to heart. To take it personally. We were feeling pretty lousy. And so the teacher stood up and he said to us. Listen. Pause. Everyone. Pause. To write a good ending, do this.

What he said next I have no idea.

About David Aichenbaum

David Aichenbaum's fiction has appeared in SmokeLong Quarterly, Hobart Pulp, decomP Magazine, Dogzplot Flash Fiction, and Diddledog Magazine.
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