Here on Daily (w)rite, as part of the guest post series, where I interview writers, editors, and agents, it is my absolute pleasure today to welcome S. Mickey Lin, who provides insights on writing fiction.
- Your background is in scriptwriting so when did you start writing fiction? What prompted you?
I’ve always been interested in storytelling which is why I got into film. When I moved to Asia, I wanted to improve my writing by exploring different formats and genres. I started to write short stories and poetry and I’ve been fortunate to find publishers willing to publish them. I’m still writing screenplays and I find that my experience in different formats strengthens my understanding of writing overall. It’s still a learning process though.
2. How has your background shaped your work?
Well, screenplay has a lot more white space than prose and so I’ve been adjusting the amount of descriptions I would use in prose versus a screenplay. Also, short stories are a lot shorter than screenplays. It’s been a terrific learning experience in that I have think about the different requirements and considerations for each format.
3. Then do you prefer one format over another?
Surprisingly, no. I think every format has a unique obstacle that a writer has to overcome. For a short story, the obstacle is how to introduce a relatable character in a very short period of time and dramatize an event to accentuate a conflict which they will need to overcome. For film, you have more time than a short story, but the obstacle is to keep the story entertaining throughout the entire 90-140 minutes. They’re both equally difficult, just in different ways.
4. In your opinion then, what makes a successful short story?
A solid structure that introduces an interesting conflict, a relatable character, and hopefully, an ending that is deserved. I won’t say happy ending because not all stories need a happy ending, but an ending that is fitting and appropriate for our protagonist.
5. Do you have an ideal reader in mind as you write?
Not really. I write mostly to try and understand the world around me. It’s through writing that I can think through things and hopefully the readers will enjoy some of the stories that arise from my curiosity.
6. Marshall Cavendish recently published Uncanny Valley, your short story collection. What were some of your considerations when planning your short story collection?
For me, I wanted the short stories to be interrelated so that it would feel bigger than just a single story. For Uncanny Valley, some of the characters mentioned in one story become the main protagonist in another. I was very conscious about this when I was writing the short stories. I imposed a personal creative challenge — to link the stories in some way or another — when I started to plan my collection and that became a major consideration when I wrote the stories.
7. You were recently on a panel about local literature at the Singapore Writers Festival. Can you name five Singaporean authors that people should read?
I can name more than five but if I have to limit it to just five, it would be: Alfian Sa’at, Amanda Lee Koe, Audrey Chin, Josephine Chia, and Suchen Christine Lim. There are plenty more and I truly hope that more Singapore-based authors will get the recognition they deserve.
8. What advice would you give to aspiring/emerging writers?
• Read as much as you can to find out what works and what doesn’t work.
• Take notes — keep a notebook and jot down lines or phrase you like and why you like it.
• Write daily — doesn’t have to be a story but write so that you can either discover your voice or maintain your voice. Think of it like a piece of muscle — if you don’t use it, you’ll lose it.
• Find a supportive community — sometimes you need to hear what other people think about your work. You don’t have to like what people say about your work, but you should at least have an idea of what people think. Also, I use the word ‘supportive’ because you want to find a community that brings out the best in you.
• Pay it forward — help out other writers when you can. It’s just good karma.
S. Mickey Lin is a graduate of the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts, a writer and entrepreneur who spends time between Los Angeles and Singapore. His work has been published in the US, Hong Kong, and Singapore. Uncanny Valley is his first short story collection.
Are you a reader, a writer, or both? Do you read more short stories or novels? As a reader or writer, do you have questions for Mickey Lin?
I’ll be giving away a signed copy of S. Mickey Lin’s collection of stories Uncanny Valley to one of the commenters!
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