Flash Fiction, Short Story, Novelette, Novella and Novel

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Relative Concepts of Novel

      As prose texts are concerned, there are several literary genres which are related items but differ to some extent - be it for subject or size or otherwise. The genres related to novel are flash fiction, short story, novelette, novella and novel. Number of words has a great role in differentiating these literary texts from one another. Word counting may be needed when a text is required to stay within certain numbers of words. American novelist Jane Smiley (1949) suggests that length is an important quality of the novel. However, novels can vary tremendously in length; Smiley lists novels as typically being between 100,000 and 175,000 words, while the National Novel Writing Month requires its novels to be of at least 50,000 words. There are no firm rules to distinguish the boundary between a novella, novel and other such genres. The issue is an arbitrary one and so a literary work may be difficult to categorize.

      However, nowadays, these are often distinguished according to the specific word lengths as suggested by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America for its Nebula Award categories. It is also true that this way of differentiation is actually very simpler especially for the beginners (readers or writers).

Flash Fiction: 53-1,000 words
Short Story: 3,500-7,500 words
Novelette: 7,500-17,000 words
Novella: 17,000-40,000 words
Novel: 40,000 + words

Difference of - Flash Fiction, Short Story, Novelette, Novella, Novel

1. Flash Fiction (53-1,000 Words)

      Flash fictions are also known as stories, short stories, micro fiction, or postcard fiction. The lengths of flash fiction may range from 53-1000 words. These works were generally used to be referred to as ‘short short stories’ until around the turn of year 2000. According to Wikipedia — the free encyclopedia, flash fiction is an umbrella term used to describe any fictional work of extreme brevity, including the Six-Word Story, 140- character stories, also known as literature, the dribble (50 words), the drabble (100 words), and sudden fiction (750 words). Some commentators have also suggested that some flash fiction possesses a unique literary quality, e.g. the ability to hint at or imply a larger story. Steve Almond’s But a Minute and Honey Reviewed are the two examples of flash fiction.

2. Short Story (3,500-7,500 Words)

      A short story is one of the most common forms of prose literature. The short story emerged as a distinct literary form in response to a fundamental need of the human spirit for creative utterance arising out of “its milieu and the moment in the history of the race”, according to Taine’s famous formula. An average short story usually has at least 3,500 words and not more than 7,500. Traditionally, short stories were meant to be read in a single sitting. They are usually published individually in magazines and then collected and published in anthologies. It is often used to describe a single event, a single episode, or a tale of one particular character. A short story does not usually involve major twists and conflicts. The involvement of various sub-plots and multiple characters are not common. A short story is basically fictional prose, written in a narrative style. However, the narrative style may either be first person or third, or whichever the author chooses. Episodes or incidents in the short story exhibit speedy turn from one to another. Every paragraph possibly speaks of the subjective points, which is likely to have close relation to the central theme or story. The theme is simpler than that of the other bigger genres as depicted below. The exaggerated explanation of situations, such-plots, minor characters etc. are often removed from short stories. Short stories are not time killing, and it is easier to understand and take moral lesson from it, if any. Most importantly, for the shortness and directness of the themes of short story, it has better number of readers in relation to other such prose texts. As a special form of literary art it is usually considered as an American product of the 19th century. It is the new era of scientific discovery when the vast forces of aged-old superstitions were beginning to crumble and were being driven below the threshold of the consciousness of the American mind for the first time by the touch of popular education and the spread of scientific knowledge. In America, Edgar Allen Poe, — “the father of the short story” — whose influence on the development of this new literary form was as wide as that of Gogol, the “father of the realistic” short story of ordinary life, Tolstoy, Turgenev, Chekhov in Russia and of Maupassant in France. The social milieu did not offer any such opposition from the drama or the novel. Edgar Allen Poe’s The Tell Tale Heart and The Lottery Ticket by Anton Chekhov are good examples of short story.

3. Novelette (7,500-17,000 Words)

      A novelette is also a narrative fictional prose. Back in the day, the term ‘novelette’ referred to a story that was romantic or sentimental in character. In modern times, the term is rarely used, and novelettes are rarely published singly. A novelette is longer than a short story, but shorter than a novella. The word count is usually between 7,500 words to 17,500 words. Da Kink in My Hair (2001), a play by Trey Anthony is an example of novelette.

4. Novella (17,000-40,000 Words)

      Novellas were first introduced in the early Renaissance (1300s), but the genre did not become firmly established until the late 18th and early 19th century. A novella is longer than a novelette and is sometimes called a long short story or a short novel. The novella was a kind of enlarged anecdote like those to be found in the 14th century Italian classic Boccaccio’s Decameron, each of which exemplifies the etymology well enough. The stories are little new things, novelties, freshly minted diversions, toys; they are not reworkings of known fables or myths, and they are lacking in weight and moral earnestness. Although in the past, novellas were commonly written and published, in recent times the genre is very rare. It can involve multiple sub-plots, twists, and characters. Turns of episodes and conflicts are fewer than these are in novel, and more than these are in the short stories. Novellas are more often focused on one character’s personal and emotional development rather than with large-scale issues. In the past, the novella was often written with a satirical, moral, or educational purpose in mind. Therefore, it usually depicts the tale or story of a single character along with a few other characters. Unlike novels, novellas are usually not divided into chapters, and like short stories, they are often meant to be read in one sitting. Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea (1952) is great example of novella ever written in English literature.

5. Novel (40,000+ Words)

      A novel, as also defined earlier in the chapter, is a long prose narrative in a considerable length including some fictional characters, events, and certain complexity that deals imaginatively with human experience. The novel is one of the more common works of fiction that we encounter. A novel often involves multiple major characters, sub-plots, conflicts, points of view, and twists. Due to its considerable length, a novel is meant to be read over a period of days. The plot moves forward through many characters, actions, thoughts, time periods, and situations. The reader often feels that the story deviates and is affected by the involvement of different sub-stories and sub-plots, by the passage of time, or by the involvement of new important characters. The word count of a novel is really debatable. This is because different genres have different requirements. However, a novel is usually no shorter than 40,000 words. For modern publications, editors often consider a novel one which is spread over 80,000-120,000 words. Romance novels, however, can be shorter than that. On the other hand, a fantasy, horror, and science fiction usually see works of greater lengths. The word count for fantasy novels often touches the 240,000 mark. Some famous books, like the Lord of the Rings series, are famous for containing so many words. The Harry Potter series has 1,084,170 words; Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix itself has 257,045 words.

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