In Twenty-Five Words Or Less

(I'm actually going to write about writing! Don't faint.)

Came across an interesting concept (and vague guidelines) for a new anthology, opening for submissions on December 20th: Twenty Epics, to be edited by David Moles (of All-Star Zeppelin Adventure Stories).

The concept is for an anthology of stories, under ten thousand words each, that will give the flavor, the appeal, the frisson of reading epic fantasy and/or literature, without having to slog thru yet one more five-volume trilogy.

As it happens, earlier this year I made some attempt at writing a "one-volume trilogy", a fantasy that would have the depth, and detail, and plot of a full triple-decker, but do it in about 150,000 words or less.

(Hasn't worked out too well, and it's been stalled for a few months while I do some re-thinking about what I want to write. And about whether I have the discipline to write a completed novel; I've started "novels" several times in years past, without success.)

To try and do that in an even more extreme manner... hmmm, interesting.

So, what are the characteristics of an epic? Off the top of my head:

  1. An extended journey, quest or battle
  2. Set against a "deep", well-developed background, society or world
  3. Against multiple obstacles and/or opponents
  4. By a protagonist who is also representative of his/her society or world/worldview
  5. For high stakes.

So, how to do that, in a maximum of ten thousand words? I can think of a few things that might work:

-- Set the story at what would be the climactic scene in a traditional epic, with multiple, brief flashbacks by the protagonists about the chain of events that led to that climax. Throw in a hat trick, and have the flashbacks in reverse chronological order, so that the story's final resolution is presented simultaneously with the story's beginning.

-- Make the story an "internalized" epic, one centered on emotional and psychological conflict and changes, rather than physical events.

-- A metafiction epic, where the background would be the writing/filming of an "epic" book/movie, with the story's own epic nature being the struggle to bring that "epic" to completion.

-- Consider that "epic" may be in the eye of the protagonist. Relative to that protagonist, something like cooking a Thanksgiving dinner for a large number of people might be an epic task. For "high stakes", make it that the success or failure of the dinner will determine the success or failure of the protagonist's marriage or relationship.

(On that last possible approach to a story: On looking over the various stories I have in inventory, I found, rather to my surprise, that the unsold story of mine coming closest to fitting the various criteria I listed above is the sole non-SF, non-fantasy, non-mystery, thoroughly "normal" story I've written, one about a lost cat trying to find its owners. [The owners are dead, so it's not as easy as it might sound. And, yes, it is a nonfantasy story.] Barring some more specific inspiration [possible], and time to write a story before closing deadline [less possible], I may try submitting the cat story to Moles.)

Twenty Epics opens for submissions on December 20th.

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