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Novel vs. Fiction: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Janet White || Updated on October 4, 2023
A "Novel" is a lengthy fictional prose narrative, while "Fiction" is a literary genre encompassing narratives that are not based on real events.

Key Differences

The "Novel" and "Fiction" are terms intrinsically linked to the realm of literature, but they occupy distinct roles. A "Novel" refers specifically to a long form of written, fictional narrative, typically in prose. These are extensive narratives that explore intricate plots, characters, and themes. "Fiction," on the other hand, is a broader term encompassing any literary work that springs from the imagination rather than fact.
Diving deeper into the term "Novel," it's apparent that its definition is bound by length and form. While there are short stories and novellas in the literary world, the novel stands out due to its extended nature, providing a canvas for writers to delve deep into the psyche of characters and the intricacies of plots. Contrarily, "Fiction" is an umbrella term that includes not only novels but also short stories, novellas, and even fictional poetry.
The beauty of a "Novel" lies in its depth and expansiveness. It allows for the detailed development of settings, intricate plots, and layered characters, often exploring multifaceted themes over hundreds of pages. "Fiction," encompassing a larger spectrum, can be as short as a few lines in the form of flash fiction or as extensive as a lengthy novel.
In essence, while every "Novel" is "Fiction," not every piece of "Fiction" is a "Novel." The former is a subset of the latter. Both terms, however, celebrate the power of the human imagination, allowing readers to venture into worlds different from their own.

Comparison Chart


A long, fictional prose narrative
Imaginative literature not based on fact


Specific to longer narratives
Broad, includes short stories, novels, etc.


Can be any length


Can be prose, verse, or even drama


"Moby Dick", "Pride and Prejudice"
Fairy tales, novellas, sci-fi stories

Novel and Fiction Definitions


An extended fictional prose narrative.
War and Peace is a renowned novel by Leo Tolstoy.


Literature created from the imagination, not presented as fact.
Children are often drawn to tales of fiction.


A fictional prose narrative of considerable length, typically having a plot that is unfolded by the actions, speech, and thoughts of the characters.


A type of literature comprising narratives not based on reality.
Her bookshelf was filled with works of fiction.


The literary genre represented by novels.


Narrative content, whether in books or media, that's not factual.
The film was based on a work of fiction.


Strikingly new, unusual, or different.


A literary realm encompassing non-real events.
Fiction allows us to escape our daily lives.


Newly made, formed or evolved; having no precedent; of recent origin; new.


The category of literature, drama, film, or other creative work whose content is imagined and is not necessarily based on fact.


Original, especially in an interesting way; new and striking; not of the typical or ordinary type.


Works in this category
The fiction of Virginia Woolf.


A work of prose fiction, longer than a novella.


A work within this category
The shorter fictions of Faulkner.


(historical) A fable; a short tale, especially one of many making up a larger work.


Narrative, explanatory material, or belief that is not true or has been imagined or fabricated
The notion that he was at the scene of the crime is pure fiction.


(obsolete) A novelty; something new.


A narrative, explanation, or belief that may seem true but is false or fabricated
"Neutrality is a fiction in an unneutral world" (Howard Zinn).


A new legal constitution in ancient Rome.


(Law) A verbal contrivance that is in some sense inaccurate but that accomplishes a purpose, as in the treatment of husband and wife as one person or a corporation as an entity.


Of recent origin or introduction; not ancient; new; hence, out of the ordinary course; unusual; strange; surprising.


(literature) Literary type using invented or imaginative writing, instead of real facts, usually written as prose.
I am a great reader of fiction.
The fiction section of the library


That which is new or unusual; a novelty.


A verbal or written account that is not based on actual events (often intended to mislead).
The company’s accounts contained a number of blatant fictions.
The butler’s account of the crime was pure fiction.
Separate the fact from the fiction


News; fresh tidings.
Some came of curiosity to hear some novels.


(legal) A legal fiction.


A fictitious tale or narrative, longer than a short story, having some degree of complexity and development of characters; it is usually organized as a time sequence of events, and is commonly intended to exhibit the operation of the passions, and often of love.


The act of feigning, inventing, or imagining; as, by a mere fiction of the mind.


A extended fictional work in prose; usually in the form of a story


That which is feigned, invented, or imagined; especially, a feigned or invented story, whether oral or written. Hence: A story told in order to deceive; a fabrication; - opposed to fact, or reality.
The fiction of those golden apples kept by a dragon.
When it could no longer be denied that her flight had been voluntary, numerous fictions were invented to account for it.


A printed and bound book that is an extended work of fiction;
His bookcases were filled with nothing but novels
He burned all the novels


Fictitious literature; comprehensively, all works of imagination; specifically, novels and romances.
The office of fiction as a vehicle of instruction and moral elevation has been recognized by most if not all great educators.


Of a kind not seen before;
The computer produced a completely novel proof of a well-known theorem


An assumption of a possible thing as a fact, irrespective of the question of its truth.


Pleasantly novel or different;
Common sense of a most refreshing sort


Any like assumption made for convenience, as for passing more rapidly over what is not disputed, and arriving at points really at issue.


A fictitious prose narrative of considerable length.
The novel delved deep into the protagonist's psyche.


A literary work based on the imagination and not necessarily on fact


A book-length work of fiction.
Her favorite novel was always close at hand.


A deliberately false or improbable account


A work of fiction that depicts a universe different from our own.
The dystopian novel presented a bleak future.


An invented story or explanation.
The story, though presented as truth, was pure fiction.


A narrative form representing characters and actions with some degree of realism.
The historical novel explored Renaissance Italy.


How long is a typical Novel?

Novels vary but usually exceed 40,000 words.

Can Fiction be based on real events?

Fiction can be inspired by real events but contains invented elements.

Is every work of Fiction a Novel?

No, fiction includes short stories, novellas, and more.

Is there non-fictional Novel?

No, by definition, novels are fictional, but there are non-fiction narratives.

What's the main difference between Novel and Fiction?

"Novel" is a form, while "Fiction" is a genre.

What's the origin of the word "Novel"?

It derives from the Italian "novella" meaning "new."

What distinguishes a Novel from a short story?

A novel is longer, allowing for more detailed character and plot development.

Can Fiction be poetic?

Yes, there's fictional poetry and prose poetry.

How do Novels impact society?

Novels can shape cultural narratives and reflect societal values.

Is every Novel a piece of Fiction?

Yes, every novel is a work of fiction.

Can a Novel be based on a true story?

It can be inspired by real events, but it contains fictional elements.

Does Fiction only belong in books?

No, fiction exists in movies, plays, songs, and other media.

Is there Fiction in news or journalism?

News should be factual, but "fake news" is a form of fictional reporting.

Are Novels only for entertainment?

Primarily, but they can also educate and inform.

Which is more versatile, Novel or Fiction?

Fiction, as it covers a broader range of works.

Are all Fictional works considered literature?

Not all, but many are deemed literary based on merit and significance.

Is Fiction always completely untrue?

Fiction can have elements of truth but is fundamentally imaginative.

How do Novels differ culturally?

Themes, styles, and narratives can differ based on cultural contexts.

Do Novels always have happy endings?

No, novels can have varied endings based on the author's intent.

Can Fiction be educational?

Yes, through themes and context, readers can learn from fiction.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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