Flash Novels: The Future of Fantasy Fiction?

flash fiction
Bigger Isn't Always Better

This article is by Leif G.S. Notae.

What if I told you that I could condense The Lord of the Rings or A Game of Thrones into less than 25,000 words? You’d think that I was crazy.

I assure you, this is not my intention. However, it is possible.

Flash fiction, which is a style of writing that emphasizes extreme brevity, is becoming increasingly popular.  While it has been around for years, it has recently been garnering respect in literary circles.  Even conventional novelists find it useful to experiment with flash fiction, as it challenges them to approach writing in new and creative ways.

Some readers equate the quality of a fantasy novel with the number of pages. I fell into this trap when I was younger. If the novel wasn’t 1,000 pages or longer, I wouldn’t give it chance. As a writer, you know that a novel of this length would average approximately 500,000 words.

Now, imagine a sweeping epic in less than 25,000 words. Given the average word count per page, you could end up with a 65 page novel, which a reader could finish in one sitting.

Here are the principles that you need to embrace in order to attempt this:

Have Faith in Your Readers

Many writers are starting to get it. They aren’t bombarding readers with long setups, unnecessary flashbacks, or laborious prologues and epilogues. However, they still want to convey the images that they see in their minds, and attempt to do so through lengthy descriptions.

What they need to realize is this: readers have imaginations.  Give them some direction, and let their minds do the rest.

Poetic Descriptions Save Space

Poetic skill is a great tool to have in your arsenal.  With it, you can capture memorable moments in a few words, while simultaneously conveying deeper levels of meaning. The English language is filled with nuances and subtleties that even the best poet can’t get a handle on. Take a chance and write some poetry in your pieces.

This Isn’t a Full Body Cavity Search

Your reader doesn’t need to know about a young maiden’s freckles.  That is, unless they play a part in the story. Even then, you don’t need to draw out the description.

While you want realism and grit, you also want your reader to use her imagination.  If you allow her to do so, she may see something in your characters that you hadn’t expected. It can feel fantastic when your reader understands a character on a deeper level than you had intended.

The World is a Stage, Don’t Throw Tomatoes

Don’t write unnecessary breakdowns of towns, kingdoms, planets, suns and atoms.  Fall back on your reader, and let her fill in the blanks as she goes along.  What you need to focus on are the basic elements that matter to the scene and the story. Simple words and descriptions will take care of the rest.

It’s About What You Don’t Say

As you can see, writing flash fiction is all about leaving things out.  When writing in this style, I try to keep my descriptions as succinct as possible.  I have to trust that the reader will fill in each scene with his mind, and in the process will visualize a world unique to him.

If my reader’s interpretation of a brunette pirate has longer hair or a slight limp, that’s fine.   If his brunette pirate also appears as a statuesque woman with dubious proportions, that’s all right as well. As a writer, I present my readers with the building blocks of the story, and they construct the rest as they see fit.

The real talent in writing with so few words is deciding what is critical and what isn’t. One hole in a 500,000 word/1,000+ page novel doesn’t destroy the story’s fabric. A glaring hole in a 25,000 word/65+ page novel will sink the ship before it leaves the literary harbor. You must be adept at learning what is important to your world.

Perhaps this is what the modern age of writing is all about: making a personal connection with your reader, and allowing her imagination to play a more active role.  This is certainly preferable to leading her by the hand, and making her feel powerless.

Have you tried writing flash fiction?  If so, what did you find to be most rewarding or challenging about the process?

About the Author:

Leif G.S. Notae writes flash fiction, microfiction, poetry and more while residing in the beautiful Monterey Bay area.  He invites you to read his blog, and to check out one of his published stories.

This article was contributed by a featured author whose details are mentioned above. Are you interested in writing for Mythic Scribes? If so, please check out our submission guidelines.

47 Responses to Flash Novels: The Future of Fantasy Fiction?

  1. As a reader and a writer I love flash fiction. I no longer have the time or patience to read anything else. I also like new serialized fiction.

  2. I haven’t thought of doing a piece of flash fiction. It would be very interesting to try though. It would sort of be like the assembly of your rifle in the military. Your goal is to do it quickly, do it right, and do it as smoothly as possible. I may have to try this technique. 

  3. I suppose there’s a place for flash fiction. I enjoy reading Sidney Sheldon novels, and his are as devoid of extra detail as books come. So, too, are Hemingway novels. I remain devoted to lengthy tomes and thrive on the detail of writers like Steinbeck, Hardy and others. There’s a place for both.

  4. I’ve never thought of myself as someone having an epic novel just waiting to come out.  I do have stories, though, and I think flash fiction just might be what I would enjoy.  Who knows?  Perhaps I can come up with an entire novel, one flash at a time.

  5. Flash fiction has a place. I subscribe to a daily flash fiction site where I get a story in my inbox each day. Reading something that that takes only a few minutes to complete and makes me smile, laugh or dab at a few tears makes for a pleasant break in my day. I agree that turning your hand at this ultra short story format can be a useful way of honing one’s skill.

    But I earnestly hope that we are not heading towards a world where all the good, meaty, carefully constructed fantasy worlds and novels that I love to lose myself in for prolonged periods of time are going to go away and that novels will all be 25,000 words or less in the future. Just because it is technically possible to reduce the Game of Thrones or Lord of the Rings to a “cliff notes” synopsis, doesn’t mean that one should … or that reading such a construct would in any way duplicate the experience of reading the original … any more than watching a a movie version of a novel is a substitute for reading it.

  6. I think the best thing to take away from this post is the importance of BREVITY. I have read a lot of books that had so much fluff that I didn’t believe was necessary. Details are important, but you don’t want to overdo it.

    I know a lot of fantasy people like the fluff, but sometimes it isn’t necessary. I have tried to put brevity in my stories and (at least for me) it works. It can’t hurt to try it out. 😉

  7. I think that both 1,000 plus page books and smaller flash novels have their place in the world. I read both and enjoy them both immensely depending on my mood. I don’t think that flash fiction or longer novels are necessarily for one group over another.

  8. Ah, but a script is but a vehicle for the finished product. Very few people actually seek them out to read for pleasure or entertainment. They are a vessel to be filled with someone else’ images and projected on a screen for the masses, not unlike your proposed flash fiction. This does not strengthen your argument, but rather turns the tables on it.

    As for reviews, you can find someone to put their face on either side of the coin for any work of art. In fact, some might argue that the greatest art creates the greatest divergence of opinions.

    As for faith in readers, I have every faith that readers will find what they like; and I don’t expect everyone to like the same thing. It seems to me, however, that you do not have faith in readers if you suggest we should all consider adopting a form of flash fiction for fear of losing them. For me, as a reader I will continue to seek out fuller, richer works of fiction that transport me to places I might never imagine. And as a writer, I will strive to paint pictures with words and fill worlds with phrases, complex, simple, and sometimes even convoluted… This is my voice. I do recognize that my writing does not appeal to everyone, nay not even to most; but it would be foolhardy to try and change every time someone had something negative to say about it. I write for those that do appreciate my work not for those who would have me change it, and I do not fear I will run out of readers in my lifetime.

    Also, I just finished reading the Hobbit to my 5 year old son. It took several weeks reading every night before bed, but if a 5 year old can be so engaged and inspired by writing as complex as Tolkien’s, I have faith that there is at least another generation of readers out there who will continue to carry the torch for full-length epic fantasy.

    • And yet, this is your son we are talking about. Raised in a home, with a writer there. Don’t you think you are a little jaded because you have the “curse of knowledge?”

      Tell me, when your son decides that video games are better vehicles than a book (which, when you look at codexes and scripts, are many times greater than a book), and he watches the printed form no longer matter; will you tell him then that being an artistic reader is to his benefit?

      What about those families who don’t have writers in their home? Are you going to dismiss them because they don’t have the passion to read “In the beginning?”

      Tell you what; you write a flash novel, and have the reader in mind. When you have people pinging you, telling you how great your stories were, and how they could identify with a characteristic THEY came up with that you never could inspire, you come to me and tell me how great it is when they evangelize your work.

      I have complete faith in my reader. This is why I have my blog, and why I have 25K views a month on my feed alone.

      Unless, of course, my readers are too stupid to understand how reading works, since obviously a five-year-old can understand more complex works than they can.

    • And, might I say, your son is very intelligent for his age. I know plenty of twenty-two-year-old students in my college town writing many thesis’ on the complexity of the Hobbit and how it was analogous to World War II and how humanity can overthrow evil (like the Third Reich).

      Unless, of course, you weren’t actually meaning that, which means your five-year-old just likes to have his father read something to him.

      • We could start an entire new thread on parenting and the impact of reading versus video games and various other screen time; but I don’t think that conforms to this forum, nor do I really wish to get into that.

        When I was referring to the complexity of the Hobbit, I was really referring to the imagery and sentence structure. As for the story being analogous to WWII, I believe you (or the twenty-two year old students) are confusing that with LOTRs.

        I wish you success with flash fiction.

  9. Leif, you keep referring to audiences driven by movies, but
    you’re not connecting the dots. These movies to which you are referring were made because the books were compelling enough not only to garner a following but also to capture the attention of a Hollywood type who was either inspired by the book itself or at least by the money they thought they could make from adapting it to the screen. Last time I checked, the grand sweeping epic length novels were running the tables on flash fiction with respect to inspiring such adaptations. But the larger point that you are missing, even though you do yourself indicate that the only way these books are gaining new audiences is through the movies. Do you think a film adapted from a piece of flash fiction could drive readers back to the original work? What would such a work have to offer someone who had already seen the film? Yet, if you have traveled by air recently, you probably noticed many people either reading Hunger Games either prior to seeing the film for the first time or after having seen the film. Why is this? Because books of substance will always convey more than the film, no matter how well it is adapted. In a sense, the film is the flash fiction. If you know anything about screen plays, the average length is 1 page per 1 minute of screen time. That means Game of Thrones was reduced to about 50 pages of script per episode, or 500 pages for season one which covers the 1000+ page book. The script probably reads very much like you would expect a piece of flash fiction to read, format not withstanding. Again, not many people would see the HBO production and then seek out the script. Yet, I have talked with several people just in my office that started reading the books because of the HBO production.

    That said, I do believe there is value to applying flash
    fiction practices in a some circumstances. Foremost, it is great as a first draft of a novel. It lets you quickly work through the entire story without worrying about the finer details. Flash fiction is also more appropriate for certain age groups, particularly those making the leap to their first chapter
    books. And there are, of course, those readers in every age group that prefer this short form fiction over epic length novels. While I prefer a more lengthy piece, I do feel some authors (Stephen R Donaldson comes immediately to mind, as well as GRRM) would benefit from some pairing down their works.

    Finally, readers are by no means diminishing (at least not
    in the States according to sales data), and there is no empirical data to suggest abbreviated fiction has a growing appeal. As for the hypothetical “bro-guy” person, if you are suggesting writers dumb down their work to accommodate the lowest common denominator, then I would suggest this would indeed bring about the decline of readership.

    • And I submit to you that you have no faith in your reader, nor do you understand the true value of communication and connection in the modern age, Aiden.

      While that might be great that you know the script breakdown, it still doesn’t drive VIEWERS to enjoy BOOKS.

      Tell me, when a Twilight mom gives Bram’s Stokers Dracula ONE STAR because it isn’t like Twilight, what does that tell you?

      When I see ONE STAR reviews on Ferinheight 451, where they say it would be GREAT if books were burned so they didn’t have to read them, does that mean readership is picking up or decreasing?

      When I talk to people who WATCHED A Game of Thrones on HBO and then READ the novel and they hated it, does that mean they love books or they thought it was something different?

      Don’t get me wrong, what you are saying has some merit… But many writers and readers are stuck in the past, and hold the general population in contempt at best, in murderous rage at worse when they don’t understand the “artistic” view you have.

      And since it appears you have no faith in your reader, thanks to your ‘dumbing down to the lowest common denominator’ comment, I should say you should take up the flag to get these readers back into the fold and help them understand what reading is all about.

      Would you rather have a million people read your books without the aid of movies (I’ve talked to many who waited until Hunger Games, GoT, and Harry Potter first came out in visual form before they read the books), or have a few dying artists appreciate a form that will die out?

      I submit to you that having a million evangelists who will bring more readers to your flock is better than bedridden and dying artists.

    • Oh yes, and let’s not forget, since we are obsessing on scripts… Tell me, how long is a script? Maybe 30K words tops?

      Oh wait, is that the same length (give or take) that I’m proposing to create a “flash novel”?

      So wait, you mean you can create some great work with little words?

      Amazing, isn’t it?

  10. I’m not sure that I could write a flash fiction novel but it would certainly be an excellent writing exercise.  A friend of mine does something similar but in a much smaller form.  He practices writing 100 word stories.  He comes up with some unique and enjoyable twists in those brief vignettes.

    • I do that all the time on my blog, but I also write 25,000 words in a day at times as well.

      We get so tripped up in our obsession to make people see what we are seeing that we often forget, in this day and age of communication and connection, these people won’t feel as great about our works if we are telling them they should root for the good guy and boo the bad guy.

      Let them work for it, they can imagine it and feel the same emotions while associating the finer details and making it appear as their own creation.

      Thanks for the comment Kaylee, much appreciated!

  11. First, I do not understand why the term Flash Novel is used to describe a novella-length work. While one might quibble about how many words equals a novel, novella, novelette, short story or flash fiction, as this is a fantasy site, possibly referring to the SFWA’s guidelines, at least with respect to the Nebula awards would be useful.
    There is more to brevity in descriptions and counting on reader imagination to fill in the blanks (what author doesn’t count on that to occur?) that distinguishes one length piece from another. It is also structure. Just as one cannot expand a short story to a novel without structural and plot changes, one cannot condense an epic novel (you say 500,000 words–although the math used between descriptions of novel length and novella length based on pages vs. word count odd) down to 1/20th of its original length without changing structure (beyond removing epilogues and prologues). How is the structure of a ‘flash novel’ different from the structure of a novella?
    There is nothing wrong with writing shorter pieces to fit the desires of a particular audience, and certainly nothing wrong with advocating for it.  Common terminology to describe such advocacy would be helpful.  
    Write a novella or a short story. With epublishing, such pieces are now not constrained by cost of print and distribution–requiring inclusion in an anthology or magazine to be viable.

    • The structure of a flash novel is just what it means, a full novel instead of a “short story”. 3 acts, all the fittings, none of the waste.

      That’s great that you are using SFWA, Nebula Awards and everything else. What does that mean to someone who doesn’t care so much about that? Sure, I would love to be involved, but only the genre niche and the writers would care about it. The “average” reader wouldn’t.

      While you might think this is a non-issue, it will be quite soon. Sooner than you might realize. People read non-fiction of a thousand plus pages because it is teaching them a skill. People do not read a thousand plus page novel for recreation as much.

      Thanks for your comment though. I am not sure if it were to be a backhanded compliment or not, but I appreciate your interest.

  12. Short and highly poetic works requiring a small amount of words certainly are an important form of art but claiming that they’re going to appeal to a mass audience while longer books don’t, is, sorry to be that blunt, absurd. The number of people prepared to put that amount of effort into understanding a few words is very small no matter how many of us might be unhappy about it.

    You’re writing in this style yourself, Leif, as I’ve seen looking at your profile and it’s only natural that we all prefer what we like best ourselves but that doesn’t have to mean that it’s right for everyone.
    I do agree that attempting to write such works can be an interesting task for a writer helping his or her ability to work with words.

    • And because my blog is flash fiction invalidates my 5 100K word WIPs sitting on my hard drive or the 25K words I crank out in a day at times?

      Again, you are looking at this with the curse of a writer writing for readers. Readers, professional or otherwise, are a dying breed. You must accept that people will be looking for multipurpose effort (movies, games, books, etc).

      Before you assume that I ONLY do flash fiction, perhaps you should investigate a little more.

      Thank you for the comment.

  13. I haven’t tried writing flash fiction but it is an interesting concept and writing with brevity yet depth is always a challenge.  I disagree that flash fiction will become absolutely necessary or that epics are impossible to market; I just see it as an alternate art form that some will appreciate and some won’t.  

    • Thank you for stopping by and commenting, Lyrie

      While I can appreciate where you are coming from on your point of view, what happens when those teens/young adults become middle aged people who look back at this time and wonder why the world has gotten faster? Will those people, who never really vested much interest in reading, go out and buy 1000+ page novels?

      I was not just referring to now, but in the future. In order to survive and thrive (as a writer, artist, profiteer, whatever), you must adapt to your environment and accept your audience is somewhat limited as far as a resource.

      Heck, I’ve heard many people say they can’t or don’t want to read Game of Thrones because, much like Twilight moms reading Dracula, it isn’t the same as watching it.

  14. You have explained something that I wondered about and I thank you. I cannot read epics any more, though I did in my youth. I much prefer what I now know is flash fiction and I’m so glad I discovered it.

    • Thanks for commenting Dottier, I am glad you did.

      The flash fiction movement is, as many people said, not something for profit. However, that is as of this moment. With articles trimmed down to a standard of 500-600 words with videos and pictures involved to capture people’s attention, flash fiction is the way fantasy (or any other genre) will go.

      I hope you find some great flash fiction that tickles your fancy, there are plenty of great writers out there.

  15. I have a friend who recently discovered flash fiction and now she is writing nothing else. I’ll be honest and say I didn’t really understand the concept, but this article has helped with that. If nothing else, trying this out would hone a writer’s skills.

    •  If anything, it helps you be more direct while still having complex ideas and tones. Word real estate is valuable, even when the interwebs didn’t exist.

      Thanks for comment Riviera, I appreciate it.

  16. I am going to be the rebel that whole-heartedly agrees with you.  Three points:  The great classics that were thousands of words long were necessary for readers historically because they hadn’t ever ‘seen’ a Russian ballroom or a Spanish bullfight.  Today, for example, if you mention Vatican City, most readers have some clue what it looks like, over describing is unnecessary (and boring….)  We have visual references, thanks to TV and the internet, whereas in early 1900’s and before, not so much.  2) My favorite books, ever, are all very short, the author using language as an art.  One example, The Lover by Marguerite Duras.  Another, River Notes by Barry Lopez.  I can read these again and again and find another beautiful passage, another hidden meaning, like an old friend.  3) As a reader, I haven’t picked up a book over 500 pages in a long, long, long time.  Why not?  Well, the answer to that would be “why should I bother?”  I would rather read two very well written, tight 200 pagers than bother with someone’s ‘world’ that they feel they have to describe every detail.  I tend to skip all that fluff, anyway.  I have a great imagination, and like to use it.  If I want it handed to me so I don’t have to think, I’ll just go to the movies.  :)

    •  Thank you Kelly, we had somewhat the same discussion on my Facebook page with another individual who understood what was going on if anyone wants to read it.

      All in all, we are writing for readers instead of writing for viewers or watchers. When you accept this, and understand you can make more of an impact when others use their imagination instead of being forced to see something in this age of instant communication and gratification, you will understand this is the future.

      Glad to see there are people that get what I was trying to say.

  17. I don’t care much for this kind of thing as a reader. If I want to use my own imagination I don’t have to spend money for it. If I do spend money to find out about another person’s imagination I want to do so.

    I want to see this person’s ideas of their imaginary landscapes, of beatuy, of good and evil… I want to know which kind of person they’d put into specific situations. I want to leave the bounadries of my own mind and experience and dive into those of someone else. As great as your own mind is, it’s also always limited by things not limiting others.

    The popularity of You Tube videos can’t be compared to that. I’m watching plenty of those as well, but for completely different reasons.

    Maybe you can make more money with so called “flash fics”, but I actually doubt it. Many of the short pieces of art are for free or cost very little money. And without wanting to offend anyone, something where the creator isn’t interested in sharing something more profound isn’t worth any more either.

    What did the richest author of our time (or at least I assume she is) write? A story made of seven long books which captured millions of people long before being made into a movie.
    In her case, it was the fact that many people could relate to her characters and setting, which isn’t the case for medieveal epics, that made her success. There’s never one singular reason for this kind of thing. Even before the computer age, medieval fantasy didn’t enjoy universal popularity. Quite the opposite, fantasy books are actually more accepted now than they used to be.

    • And yet, these children also had movies to get excited about, I know some adults who waited until the first movie of HP to read the rest of the series. Which, in turn, plays into writing for viewers instead of readers. Sure, it was great to have new readers in the system, but what happens when the more “complex” novels don’t fit in the HP style of writing?

      What is the main tone for YA novels? Focusing in on something and making it epic. The Queen of Adverbs let her manuscript get out of control because of money, not “art”.

      So, when you bring a rather tired and old argument of “Harry Potter is teh bombz”, you are going to have to keep in mind it is invalid due to the movies that brought in more readers than the actual books (not to mention, that whole being released in the UK starting a buzz over here. I doubt it would have been as buzzworthy in the states alone).

      And before we argue about Hunger Games, it was a Japanese movie in the early 90’s and there is a dispute as to where the “idea” originated from.

  18. Leif, thanks for this, it is an interesting post. And the points you raise are very useful for writers of all fiction. I do know flash fiction is growing in popularity. I haven’t read any yet, so I’ll reserve my judgement. But I will say, I do enjoy a bit of detailed description too.

    • As we all do, but that is a format from many years ago. If writers cannot adapt and accept the times we live in, we will watch as people read 500+ word articles, watch 2-5 minute YouTube vids and accept the trite writing of Holy-wood as the bible for writing.

      Adapt or die, it is the way nature stands.

      If you give them something they can imagine, they will see something different than the other readers or the author formulated. It is the individual experience and expression that makes Flash Novels so unique.

      So much left to interpretation, so little to interpret it from.-

  19. Sure, you could write a story in 25,000 words, with all the same major events that took place in Game of Thrones, but it’s not the same thing. It would be a synopsis. I LIKE reading those long books, because I get to spend more time inside of a character’s head. If I wanted a gigantic book like that in 25,000 words, I’d just read cliffnotes…

    • And you are a dinosaur, much like myself and many other people who appreciate what authors have done.

      However, when you compete with other items to entertain people, you either make it so they are entertained right here, right now or you let them go and watch sales suffer.

      Compare your ASoFaI or LotR and you’ll see, they had to rely on movies, television series or video games to capture new audiences. Do you think for a moment those mediums will tolerate sweeping epics of 125000+ words?

  20. Thanks everyone for the input. I understand where everyone is coming from, but there is something you are competing against that puts books deep in the freezer: Options

    In this day and age, you have options to entertain you. Would the casual reader (which should be a target audience, not just the core fan) sit through Frodo’s pain or the endless backstabbing Westeros, or would they play two levels in Angry Birds before watching a funny video that makes them feel better?

    It is the latter.

    Sweeping epics are great, they have a place in this world that is valuable to someone. However, this is slowly dying. We live in an age where capturing someone’s attention in the bells and whistles of life is a miracle.

    As far as the “novella” term goes, it really doesn’t quality. A novella is a mini story that could or could not have been a novel. A Flash Novel is a full novel condensed into the 25K range (though I have seen more words or less words required).

    •  Sadly, you are right. I’m left to wonder if my children will ever take the time to read a truly great story, or if most stories will be considered boring to them unless they are less than a few hundred pages.

      • When you look at the numbers involved and where the entertainment is going, you might be right. I know plenty of people who won’t touch a book, but will read small articles and magazines with a passion.

        Reading is out there, just make sure you take time with your kids and point out what is good and what is dreck.

        Thanks for commenting Jackelynn, much appreciated!

  21. Best tread lightly when it comes to Lord of the Rings. I know many either love it or hate, but I don’t truly believe you could reduce the story down to a mere twenty-five thousand words. The point of reading such long descriptions is to feel as though you are part of the story. You should be feeling Frodo’s pain and agony, it is necessary!

  22. I think the points you make are valid, but following them wouldn’t necessarily result in reducing Game of Thrones to 25000 words.

    Besides which, do fantasy readers WANT to read an epic saga in one sitting? I don’t. It’s taken me twenty years to read The Wheel of Time (and it’s still not finished) averaging three days for each new book. If I had read it in one sitting, I would have missed the enjoyment of so much anticipation, as well as the pleasure of long chats with my father (often on horseback) about what would happen next. I wouldn’t trade those memories for the world.

    You can compare Brandon Sanderson’s Wheel of Time books to Robert Jordan’s for an example of more brevity when writing, but it hasn’t noticeably shortened the book.

    • We’ve had our issues in the past, but this is where I would offer a truce for the sake of a dying industry. Sweeping epics are great, but they are not as great as the tripe Holy-wood movie that makes $2 mil. or the YouTube video that reaches 1 mil. hits.

      Writers are a dying breed when it comes to sweeping fantasy epics. If you cannot target your casual audience to buy into your words and keep reading, you are only targeting an ever shrinking audience that will never give the same amount of money.

      • But I don’t write to make money, to appeal to the casual audience. I write what I love, what I feel like. That’s why I write, that’s why I want to write. It isn’t about the cash, but creating entire worlds and filling them with interesting characters.

        Now, why would that bro-guy who plays two levels of angry birds before watching a cat video on Youtube want to read even more than a ten-page short story? Not only that but you ask him to use his imagination to fill in blanks? I’ve met people that can’t even vaguely describe a memory…

        Description should never be dry nor should it be shallow. A ‘brunette pirate’ is the absolute minium description for a minor character. Not only that but you run an even graver risk, your fantasy world becoming cliche or even worse (I consider unintentional genre switch bad 😉 ), just regular fiction.

        Now why I say this is because a reader’s imagination requires a reference point. A ‘tower that kissed the very clouds’ is a reference point but what makes this tower unique from the Two Towers or from any Tower in fantasy ever? You need to trim the details but place it in a setting, set the mood, and set the defining characteristics (more than one if the tower occupies more than a paragraph of a scene). And what if the reader’s imagination places this in a normal medieval world and only imagines a few mages slinging spells like a fireball when you set out to create an immense battle? I throw away anything that has so little soul in it.

        People will disagree with me because everyone believes there are counter-points to my argument and there are. I could write a research paper on this interesting article, but I don’t have the time. I believe flash fiction has it’s place (mostly as fiction when it’s amazing, not fantasy) but if I want to read something short that’s fantasy, I find a short story.

        Another problem with a flash novel is the fact that it’s counter to what modern fantasy is, escapism to an alien world. We keep some realism in there for comfort’s sake, but modern fantasy is about raising above Tolkien’s world (which was already depicted as like ours only with magic and true myths). Even George RR Martin’s political play already has flash fiction elements in it that largely help it, but the tone of the series is so established and the style of it is so evident it’s hard to imagine something trite, but it’s easy to imagine something because it’s set in a world styled after freudal Europe. It’s a danger of Flash Fiction, trying to make something flash fiction that really shouldn’t be.

        Everything has it’s place, especially fantasy. Fantasy has always been niche in a way. People like to read erotica more than anything else (by a vast margin) so if you’re trying to make money in writing, why not write that? Fantasy is about the exploration, it’s about stepping into every aspect of a character’s mind, a world’s setting, and a day in the life of these different people. It has to be unique, it has to be the author’s world, not mine, not the other guy’s.

        There will always be an author that will make fantasy work with flash fiction, but there will always be someone who yearns for something epic like ASoIF.

      • And yet, these people you openly dismiss as “Bro-guys” will be your customers soon.

        The notion that reading as an art and all things are suffering and 150K word manuscripts or it didn’t happen is a misnomer to say the least.

        Writers live in their own world, myself included, that hopes and dreams our words will be accepted by the masses. We have stars in our eyes (even if it isn’t for money) about the movies that will be made and the people that will give hushed whispers on their lips as though we are demigods.

        Those people are slowly dying, fading away into the past along with other “professional readers” and “writing readers”.

        We are dinosaurs.

        If you do not accept that people these days, the ones that will eventually be your customers, do not want the 150K word epics but perhaps a book that ties into a movie, a video game, a drinking game, etc.; then you are watching the asteroid streaking toward us without a care in the world.

        And when those people are old, and they look back at the times they read 25K word novels and wonder how kids can get the most value out of a 10K word novel, you’ll understand where I am coming from.

      • And one more thing, since I was violating company policy to respond earlier, I want to go over this “bro-guy” concept.

        This “bro-guy” might be a father with two jobs to barely put food on his family’s plate. He’d love to read something, but he is tired. You know what? He can just as easily kill time playing on the iPhone he can’t afford to kill time rather than read that thousand page “art”.

        This “bro-guy” could be a mother of five, so strung out by tending to her kids that she can’t sit down with Tolkien like she used to, but really wants to read fantasy. Might as well play that Hunger Games video again while she cooks her kids that meal.

        This “bro-guy” very well could be a close friend of yours, someone who hasn’t touched a book since they left school (statistics verify this is normal for people these days), and maybe they want to get a quick read instead of having that horrid flashback to the time Sister Mary rapped his knuckles one too many times for drooling in his book.

        This “bro-guy” is your customer, your target you want to have evangelize for you. What better way of free advertising and devotion will you have when a “amateur reader” tells his  or her buddies you helped them get back into reading.

        Think this “bro-guy” has no value now?

        You may think I’m taking this too serious, but readers are cherished individuals, no matter what form they read or how they read. Don’t be a nose-up-in-the-air artist, be a grateful author or writer who really appreciates that they took time away from their lives to read YOUR book.

  23. Is flash fiction the new name for novella?  Or would a novella be longer than this?  My understanding has always been that a novella is the step between a short story and a novel.


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