Interlude: Illustrations and Flash Fiction from the Editor’s Standpoint

You just read my account of settling some of the big questions related to the artwork for Fictive Dream‘s Flash Fiction February 2019  in my recent post. How about hearing it from the editor’s perspective?

Laura Black, editor of Fictive Dream, has very kindly given me her notes on the project. I read them over with the idea of including them in one of my posts, but I think they deserve their own. I’ve set them out below, just as she wrote them to me.

It is interesting to have the insight of the person who is responsible for producing an event featuring 28 days of flash fiction. While I concerned myself only with the 28 stories she sent me and considered the artwork on a case-by-case basis, Laura read all the story submissions, chose those to be published, and selected art.

Not only did she need to manage things at the individual story or artwork level but she also had to act with an eye to how all the stories and the art interacted with each other, and how they carried out her vision for the competition and for the magazine.

What a big task! That’s what I think. Take a look at what she says about it in her own words.

Notes on Flash Fiction February 2019 artwork

In commissioning illustrations for Flash Fiction February 2019 my prime considerations were:

1. for the project to have an identity that differentiated the flash pieces from the standard stories;
2. for the text, ‘Flash Fiction February 2019’ to be incorporated into the illustrations as part of the identity;
3. for the identity of this event to be different to the identity that you had created for September Slam.

I had one other request and that was for the artwork to be abstract and for it to have the feeling of simplicity. I felt this approach would better suit the nature of flash fiction. I couldn’t be more delighted with the outcome. Artistically the standard of this year’s Flash Fiction February exceeds last year’s by far.

For this project I felt we had an advantage in that we knew from September Slam 2018 that we worked well together. (Note from Claudia: I had done pen and ink drawings for this previous event in 2018). I had every faith is this second collaboration so from that point of view I was in a very secure place. However, this was a bigger project and I realised that you, in particular, would be working to a tight schedule. The point of September Slam was to choose seven stories of between 1,000 to 2,000 words. For Flash Fiction February the size of the project had escalated to 28 stories of a shorter length (200-750 words) but nonetheless, one to be published on each day of the month.

Choosing the right image for each story.

I remember suggesting that maybe, for this project, it wouldn’t be necessary for you to produce alternative options. Again, I was grateful that you did although the final choice of artwork wasn’t always easy to make. On many occasions, it could have gone either way. Because of the tight schedule I felt it was important for me to make my decisions quickly.

I followed this procedure: I uploaded the options and tried each image on the story. Frequently, I’d test the images over a few days. Sometimes the right choice was very clear and I made it. My aim was always to choose the image that best encapsulated the theme of the flash.

Variety in the artwork

Although readers of Fictive Dream will only see the 28 illustrations that were chosen, I’m so pleased that you will be displaying the much wider range of artwork that you created for the project because, for me at least, the variety of work couldn’t be more satisfying.

For September Slam variety was particularly important because the writers were writing to a prompt, which means there was an inherent restriction within the project, and therefore the potential for repetition both in text and artwork (although in practice that didn’t happen). I feel that for this project there was much greater freedom for both of us. Nonetheless, in choosing the illustrations I still had to consider the overall effect on the Home Page (thumbnails views in my case).

Overall effect of the artwork

By this I mean the overall look on the Home Page (thumbnails views in my case). Specifically, how would the artworks with their own particular palettes sit alongside each other? Would there be a balance between say, vibrant and less vibrant colours? Dark versus light? Monochrome versus colourful? Also, I had learned from last year that the stories show a predisposition towards red, blue and green. Indeed, it is quite surprising how frequently a story mentions a specific colour and in these cases that is an important influence in choosing a palette. And all the while I had to make sure I didn’t interfere in your creative process.

Choosing a specific piece of artwork to accompany a story is one aspect. The other is arranging the illustrations so that they sit well alongside each other. This process, however, must also recognise numerous other factors that are important in scheduling material, ie., story theme, tone of story, variety in POV, gender of writer, (not essential but worth considering). It was definitely the case that, on a handful of occasions, I altered the schedule to better accommodate the artwork.

Interested in reading some of the stories? Take a look at Flash Fiction February at Fictive Dream here.

3 thoughts on “Interlude: Illustrations and Flash Fiction from the Editor’s Standpoint

    1. Claudia McGill Post author

      Yes, and I think much more for her. I focused just one story at a time (though I did of course need to stay in my guidelines as to style and so on) but she had to see the overall composition of words and art together. It’s a really difficult job and one you don’t think of when you are following the magazine and just enjoying the day’s offering.

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