Story Classifications

I’m sure you are probably well familiar with novels, novellas, and short stories, but I wanted to write a post elaborating and expanding on these story types. In school, I don’t think this was ever separated out or clearly defined, so wanted to share what I’ve come to understand about writing classifications.

Keep in mind, that word-counts for these vary from person to person and place to place, so while these are not strict rules, the numbers here are the boundaries I’ve found that make sense to me.

Micro-fiction – 300 or less

Sometimes called Sketch Fiction, micro-fiction involves telling a “story” in, basically, as few characters as possible. Often considered a subcategory of flash fiction.

In really advanced micro-fiction, you find things such as “the six word story” and some stories can be confined to 140 characters or less (twitterature: the length of a tweet). Take for example:

“For sale: baby shoes, never worn” – 6 word story attributed to Ernest Hemingway (unconfirmed).

How did you feel when you read that? My heart skipped a beat; how can these 6 words hold so much punch? This is the beauty of micro-fiction, and also a great way to challenge yourself.

You can find more on micro-fiction on my blog post and at Thinking Big, Writing Small, by Ruby Rae Scalera.

Flash Fiction – 300-1000

A.K.A. Sudden Fiction; sometimes includes micro-fiction as a subcategory. Other subcategories include (according to Wikipedia): dribble (50 words), drabble (100 words), and Sudden Fiction (750 words).

Often, writing prompts / challenges will fall into either this or the Short Story category, and a lot of flash fiction doesn’t hold conventional story-lines or character development.

Short Story – 1,000-7,500

Just about everyone is familiar with short stories. Many fairy-tales or mythological stories are short stories. Often considered prose that features a single event, it generally revolves around a single emotion and can be read in a single sitting; you can read more on the constructs of the short story here.

Novelette – 7,500-20,000 / 20,000 – 40,000

Often overlooked, or simply considered a Novella, Novelette’s are sometimes considered “long short stories”. These obviously contain a lot more story-line and development than many shorter works, but  don’t span across time and events the way a novel does. Novelettes are similar to short stories in that they aren’t divided into chapters or sections and can be read in a single sitting. You can read more on the differences between short stories, novelettes, and novella’s here.

Taking note of the word count, I’ve found many conflicting sources that suggests lengths of novella’s and novelettes are the reverse of other sources. Finding a common consensus on which of these two is longer is difficult and varies across the web.

Novella – 20,000-40,000 / 7,500 – 20,000

Reverse to the Novelette, Novella’s are often considered “short novels”. Generally, defining the difference between novella’s and novelettes comes down to word count, but this also tends to go hand in hand with content; a novella has a lot more happening, spanning more time and action, with more plot and character development.  You can read more on the differences between short stories, novelettes, and novella’s here.

Taking note of the word count, I’ve found many conflicting sources that suggests lengths of novella’s and novelettes are the reverse of other sources. Finding a common consensus on which of these two is longer is difficult and varies across the web.

Novel – 40,000+

If you’re here, on this blog, you’ve probably read dozens and dozens of novels. If you’ve been through high school, you’ve likely picked up at least a half dozen. But what makes a novel?

There’s a whole myriad of constructs that make a novel. Plot lines, story ark, character development, settings, themes, messages. You need characters who have goals, motivations, conflicts, epiphanies.

A novel is a story of conflict develops characters over time; it involves a story ark, at least one plot line, and usually carries a theme or message.

Keep your eyes open for an upcoming post on The Constructs / Aspects of the Novel.

Epic – 10,000+ / 100,000+

If you’ve been to high school, you’ve likely at least heard of The Epic, The Epic Poem, or the Long Poem; it’s also possible you’ve read one or two, such as Homer’s ‘Odyssey’ or ‘Iliad’.

“An epic typically derives from ancient oral tradition, narrating the deeds and adventures of heroic or legendary figures” (quoted from Google Definitions of ‘An Epic’). These do not take the form of the traditional poems.

 

As previously said, word counts vary all across the web. For example:

book-lengths

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6 thoughts on “Story Classifications

  1. I’ve read conflicting info on what constitutes what. I wrote about this once myself. I’ve done a few novellas along with novels, a short story collection, and one epic (around 90k I think). But I tend to judge by how it feels. I just finished a 40k+ story that was meant to be a novella, but it doesn’t feel like a novel. I have other examples too…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Im glad there’s useful information in there!
      One of the biggest things for me is novel length – i want my book to be over 100,000 words, i feel thats what makes it a REAL book (and this logic only seems to aply to my own writing) like 50,000-60,000 is too short to be proud of??? Bizarre, i know

      Like

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