Interview, John Lubbock
We're lucky to have John Lubbock on the LISP jury board.
He is a journalist, filmmaker, human rights activist. He writes on British and Turkish politics.
What impresses you the most in fiction stories?
Originality is important to me. I like being taken to places or situations that are unfamiliar, where I don’t quite understand the context and my imagination is engaged to try to fill in the parts I don’t quite understand. Fiction can be like solving a mystery for the reader’s brain.
How do you describe the art of compression?
When I edit journalism I often need to keep a word count below 1000 or 1200 words. That means you get rid of all the words that are unnecessary, which don’t add meaning or content. I often think about whether I need the extra words, or whether it’s simpler and better for the reader to say the same thing with fewer words. There’s an economy and a beauty to reading a sentence a few times and knowing that every word is doing something and no time or space has been wasted. What makes you think that a story is well-edited? Being able to see some kind of structure is useful. A block of text without line breaks, unless such a structure has a function to it given by the narrative, can seem like the author hasn’t thought about what structure would help the reader understand what is happening in the text. The structure can help give movement to the story or urgency to the words, or a sense of time passing. Seeing that the author has put thought into the way the text is read tells me that the story has been well edited.
Some writers are inspired by real incidents or news. Can you give us some tips on how to research a subject, as a journalist?
As well as being a journalist, I used to do communications for the charity that supports Wikipedia, so I may be biased, but Wikipedia is the best place to start your research in my opinion. When news stories break, Wikipedia editors are often the first people to dissect the news and combine different sources in a general summary, which can be very useful for people researching a subject. If you want to go further, look at the references at the bottom of an article, or if it’s a news story which nobody has written about yet, you might have to start talking to people who know about it, or physically go to where the story is happening, if you want to get to facts and stories that no journalist has written about yet.
Finally, what advice would you like to give for the ones wanting to enter our 300-word Flash Fiction and 1500-word Short Story competition?
One of the great things about flash fiction is that the brevity of the form allows writers to try lots of different short ideas. Some of these ideas may not work on the page, but the important thing is to write them because until they’re on the page, you won’t know if the idea works. When you do creative writing it’s important just to write, even if you are out of ideas, you can enter into a dialogue with yourself about your writer’s block. As well as practicing your writing, the other thing you need is an inspiration, and for that, you also need to read, watch films, see art, and remember to find time to live in between.