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Flash novella – or Bath Novella-in-Flash contest with Ad Hoc Fiction

A Christmas Carol, a novella
“Marley’s Ghost”, Original illustration by John Leech from A Christmas Carol

Flash novella, or as Bath Flash Fiction, an International rolling flash fiction competition, call it a Novella-in-Flash contest. The Ad Hoc flash fiction is an arm of Bath Flash Fiction.

 “Flash novella” may sound like an oxymoron, but Meg Pokrass and other writers in this anthology [see link] make clear why a confounding genre can have such impact. It offers “A Brief Crack of Light” (the title of Aaron Teel’s craft essay) or “A Truth Deeper than the Truth” (Chris Bowers).

A novella can be hard to define at the best of times, so the requirements for this flash novella contest are interesting. For the purpose of the contest, each flash must be no longer than 1,000 words. The total word count for the flash novella should be between 6,000 and a maximum of 18,000 words.

The judge for the contest is American writer, Meg Pokrass, and I read her interview on the site. She recommends reading the following flash novellas because they ‘…succeed in keeping us at the edge of our seats through the brilliant use of connected fragments.’

“We, The Animals” by Justin Torres
“Why Did I Ever” by Mary Robison
“Mr. Bridge” and “Mrs. Bridge” by Evan Connell
“Monkeys” by Susan Minot
“The Autobiography of Red” by Anne Carson.

You can read her interview at this link

Flash fiction has no predetermined length. It can be as few as forty words, as  for the Bangor Literary Contest, , or as many as a publisher or competition organisers set.

I cannot help but think of Dickens and his extended works. I understand many of his stories were serialised for which he was paid, so he had no motivation to reduce his word count. He wrote novellas too, A Christmas Carol being popular today which, ran to about 29,000 words and 70 pages. Not a flash novella.

Some of our most familiar stories are novellas: Animal Farm, The Third Man, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (second favourite), The War of the Worlds, Of Mice and Men, The Turn of the Screw, A Clockwork Orange, Death in Venice, and my favourite, Breakfast at Tiffany’s. As a child, I read what I thought were short stories and novels. I knew of no other forms.When I read those books, I never thought about their length or classification. You can find many  lists on the Internet, of course. And you have your own favourites.

What makes a novella? How is it different from a novel?  Wikipedia (I know) describes it thus:

A novella generally features fewer conflicts than a novel, yet more complicated ones than a short story. The conflicts also have more time to develop than in short stories. Novellas may or may not be divided into chapters …. and are often intended to be read at a single sitting, as is the short story, although in a novella white space is often used to divide the sections, and therefore, the novella maintains a single effect. Warren Cariou wrote:

The novella is generally not as formally experimental as the long story and the novel can be, and it usually lacks the subplots, the multiple points of view, and the generic adaptability that are common in the novel. It is most often concerned with personal and emotional development rather than with the larger social sphere. The novella generally retains something of the unity of impression that is a hallmark of the short story, but it also contains more highly developed characterization and more luxuriant description.

Now the novella has another tentacle, a flash novella.

The deadline is the end of the month, so I must hop on my skateboard and start writing. I have an idea.

Published inWriting

One Comment

  1. Good luck, and thanks for the timely reminder about this excellent competition.

    Nice post with some useful pointers.

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