Difference Between Similar Terms and Objects

Differences between Novel and Novella

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Novels and novellas are both forms of fiction. The difference between the two is a matter of debate. Some people consider novellas a separate genre from novels, while others think that the only difference is the word count. It’s not helped by the fact that in different countries, there are different meanings for ‘novella’ or the closest equivalent.

The definition of ‘novel’ is fairly straightforward. They are long fictional stories. Generally speaking, they have plots, characters, and themes. While this is true of most stories, novels have room for more complex plots, they are able to give more characters the ability to change, and they’re able to explore their themes in a more thorough way.

A novella is somewhere between a novel and a short story. Many places have charts for word counts, which tell you at what point a story is a short story, novella, or novel. However, there is not much agreement in these points. Some places will say that after 40,000 words, it is a novel. Others say that it is a novel after 60,000 words. To make matters even more confusing, some people say that the length of a novel depends on the genre, so a 40,000 word science fiction story may be a novella, but a 40,000 word romance may be a novel. Also, some older stories that fall within the wordcount limits of a novella have traditionally been classed as novels, and they are still called novels because of that. Other times, something that the author calls a novella might be judged a ‘short novel’ and thus judged as a novel instead of a novella – even though some people say that novellas are just short novels. Essentially, the English literary world does not have a good definition of novellas.

Stepping away from that, the word ‘novella’ has been used to mean literary genres in other European countries. In Germany, for instance, the ‘novelle’ – as it is spelled there – does not have a specific word count, but it is focused on a single event or crisis, ending when that event does.

There is currently some controversy over the status of novellas. Most of this is due to the fact that novellas are not defined very well. However, others say that it’s because novellas are considered merely short novels when they have a different structure and should be considered a separate literary genre. The one thing everyone can agree on is that novellas are shorter than novels. This means that, unlike novels, they have to focus more on one thing. This is similar to a short story, which is often about one thing, but a novella has the chance to flesh things out a bit more, so they have a different narrative structure to both. Short stories are not merely shorter versions of novels, so a novella shouldn’t be considered one either.

With the above definition, they say that novellas shouldn’t be judged by their length, but by their narrative structure. After all, while a novel has enough length to have a complex plot, multiple character arcs, and thoroughly-explored themes, sometimes it doesn’t. If a 60,000 word story has a focus on one particular thing, while a 40,000 word story has the breadth of a novel, then perhaps it makes more sense to call the former a novella and the latter a novel.

To summarize, novels are long stories that have the ability to flesh out events, characters, plots, and themes, even if they don’t always do that. The definition of ‘novella’ is very conflicted. However, it can be said to be a story that is shorter and more focused than a novel, but broader in scope than a short story.


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1 Comment

  1. “novella” is *not* a genre.

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