Short Story vs. Novel: What's the Difference?
A short story is a brief, focused fictional piece, while a novel is an extended, more complex narrative.
A short story is a genre of literature that tells a fictional tale in concise form, typically focused on a single event or a series of connected events, requiring a single sitting for reading. In contrast, a novel is a longer work of fiction, often involving multiple plots, characters, themes, and settings, and is designed to be read over a longer period.
The short story, due to its length, generally revolves around one or a few characters and is usually centered on a single, impactful event or moment, demanding precise, economical writing. Conversely, a novel offers a broader scope, allowing for detailed character development, subplots, and a variety of settings and themes, thanks to its extended length.
Short stories often aim to evoke a single emotional response or effect in the reader, delivering a cohesive narrative without the need for substantial background information. Novels, however, have the luxury of depth and time, providing comprehensive backgrounds, evolving characters, and intricate plots that develop through various twists and turns.
In a short story, every word must contribute to the overall effect or theme, necessitating a disciplined and selective approach to writing. On the other hand, the novel’s length affords the writer the freedom to explore tangents and complex relationships, both among characters and within the narrative structure itself.
Short stories, with their brevity, are known for often having open-ended conclusions or a sudden twist, leaving the reader pondering or imagining what comes next. Novels, in contrast, generally provide a more thorough resolution due to their length, resolving most, if not all, plot points and character arcs.
Typically under 7,500 words
Generally over 40,000 words
Limited due to brevity
Extensive, with depth
Centers on a single incident or event
Multiple plots/subplots possible
Usually one dominant theme
Several themes can be explored
Often open-ended or abrupt
More comprehensive conclusions
Short Story and Novel Definitions
A brief work of fiction, usually focusing on a single event.
Her short story captured the chaos of love at first sight.
A fictional book, usually over 40,000 words, exploring characters in depth.
In his novel, even minor characters were vivid and fully realized.
A tightly woven narrative that typically requires one sitting.
The short story’s suspense was so intense, she couldn’t put it down.
A lengthy work of fiction with a complex plot.
Her novel wove three generations' tales into a single, captivating narrative.
A narrative no longer than 7,500 words, often with a twist.
The short story ended with an unexpected, haunting revelation.
A book-length narrative in prose, telling a story about imaginary events and people.
The novel's intricate plot twists caught every reader by surprise.
A concise, impactful piece of literature with few characters.
His short story, rich with symbolism, left readers in profound contemplation.
A fictional prose narrative of considerable length, typically having a plot that is unfolded by the actions, speech, and thoughts of the characters.
A short, fictional narrative, often focusing on one theme.
The short story explored the theme of forgiveness in tight, emotive prose.
The literary genre represented by novels.
Strikingly new, unusual, or different.
Newly made, formed or evolved; having no precedent; of recent origin; new.
Original, especially in an interesting way; new and striking; not of the typical or ordinary type.
A work of prose fiction, longer than a novella.
(historical) A fable; a short tale, especially one of many making up a larger work.
(obsolete) A novelty; something new.
A new legal constitution in ancient Rome.
Of recent origin or introduction; not ancient; new; hence, out of the ordinary course; unusual; strange; surprising.
That which is new or unusual; a novelty.
News; fresh tidings.
Some came of curiosity to hear some novels.
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.
A extended fictional work in prose; usually in the form of a story
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
Of a kind not seen before;
The computer produced a completely novel proof of a well-known theorem
Pleasantly novel or different;
Common sense of a most refreshing sort
An extended narrative, often with a variety of themes and subplots.
The novel delved into themes of love, betrayal, and redemption.
A literary work with a well-structured plot, character development, and varying settings.
The novel took readers from tranquil suburbs to bustling, dystopian metropolises.
What’s the average length of a novel?
Novels are usually over 40,000 words.
Are short stories always fiction?
Predominantly, though they may contain factual elements.
Can a short story have chapters?
Rarely, due to its brevity; it's usually one continuous narrative.
Do novels need multiple characters?
Most have several characters to build a complex narrative.
Do short stories lack character development?
Not necessarily, but development is concise due to length.
Are subplots a requirement in novels?
Not a requirement, but they're common due to novels' complexity.
How long is a short story?
A short story is typically under 7,500 words.
What’s a common theme in short stories?
Themes vary widely, from love to betrayal, or transformation.
Are first-time authors better off writing a short story or a novel?
Short stories can be less daunting due to their shorter length.
Can a novel be non-fiction?
No, novels are works of fiction, though they can include real-life elements.
How quickly can one read a short story?
Typically, in one sitting of a few minutes to a couple of hours.
Do all novels end with a resolution?
Most do, but some are intentionally left open-ended.
Why do some short stories have open endings?
To provoke thought and allow readers’ interpretation.
Can the narrative pace differ between a short story and a novel?
Yes, short stories often have a faster pace due to their length, while novels develop more gradually.
Do short stories contain dialogues?
Yes, though usually limited due to brevity.
Can novels have multiple narrators?
Yes, providing varied perspectives on the story.
Can a short story be part of a larger narrative?
Yes, sometimes they're part of a collection or interconnected series.
Are novels better suited for series?
Yes, their length and complexity facilitate series.
Do short stories require extensive world-building?
No, the focus is often on the plot and immediate setting.
How important are settings in a novel?
Very; they establish context and influence the narrative.
Written bySawaira Riaz
Sawaira is a dedicated content editor at difference.wiki, where she meticulously refines articles to ensure clarity and accuracy. With a keen eye for detail, she upholds the site's commitment to delivering insightful and precise content.
Edited bySumera Saeed
Sumera is an experienced content writer and editor with a niche in comparative analysis. At Diffeence Wiki, she crafts clear and unbiased comparisons to guide readers in making informed decisions. With a dedication to thorough research and quality, Sumera's work stands out in the digital realm. Off the clock, she enjoys reading and exploring diverse cultures.