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A novella is a narrative prose fiction whose length is shorter than that of most
novel A novel is a relatively long work of narrative fiction, typically written in prose and published as a book. The present English word for a long work of prose fiction derives from the for "new", "news", or "short story of something new", itself ...

novel
s, but longer than most
short stories A short story is a piece of prose fiction that typically can be read in one sitting and focuses on a self-contained incident or series of linked incidents, with the intent of evoking a single effect or mood. The short story is one of the oldest ty ...
. The English word ''novella'' derives from the Italian ''novella'', feminine of ''novello'', which means "new".


Definition

Merriam-Webster Merriam-Webster, Inc. is an American company that publishes reference books A reference work is a work such as a book or periodical literature, periodical (or electronic publishing, its electronic equivalent) to which one can refer for info ...
defines a novella as "a work of fiction intermediate in length and complexity between a
short story A short story is a piece of prose Prose is a form of written (or spoken) language that usually exhibits a natural speech, natural flow of speech and Syntax, grammatical structure—an exception is the narrative device stream of consciousness. T ...
and a
novel A novel is a relatively long work of narrative fiction, typically written in prose and published as a book. The present English word for a long work of prose fiction derives from the for "new", "news", or "short story of something new", itself ...

novel
". No official definition exists regarding the number of pages or words necessary for a story to be considered a novella, a short story or a novel. US-based Writers of America defines a novella's
word count The word count is the number of word In linguistics, a word of a spoken language can be defined as the smallest sequence of phonemes that can be uttered in isolation with semantic, objective or pragmatics, practical meaning (linguistics), meani ...
to be between 17,500 and 40,000 words.


History

The novella as a literary genre began developing in the Italian literature of the early
Renaissance The Renaissance ( , ) , from , with the same meanings. is a period Period may refer to: Common uses * Era, a length or span of time * Full stop (or period), a punctuation mark Arts, entertainment, and media * Period (music), a concept in m ...

Renaissance
, principally
Giovanni Boccaccio Giovanni Boccaccio (, , ; 16 June 1313 – 21 December 1375) was an Italian writer, poet, correspondent of Petrarch Francesco Petrarca (; 20 July 1304 – 18/19 July 1374), commonly anglicized Linguistic anglicisation (or angliciza ...

Giovanni Boccaccio
, author of ''
The Decameron ''The Decameron'' (; it, label=Italian language, Italian, Decameron or ''Decamerone'' ), subtitled ''Prince Galehaut'' (Old it, Prencipe Galeotto, links=no ) and sometimes nicknamed ''l'Umana commedia'' ("the Human Comedy (drama), comedy", as ...

The Decameron
'' (1353). ''The Decameron'' featured 100 tales (named novellas) told by ten people (seven women and three men) fleeing the
Black Death The Black Death (also known as the Pestilence, the Great Mortality or the Plague) was a pandemic occurring in from 1346 to 1353. It is the recorded in human history, causing the death of people in and , peaking in from 1347 to 1351. Bubo ...

Black Death
, by escaping from
Florence Florence ( ; it, Firenze ) is a city in Central-Northern Italy Italy ( it, Italia ), officially the Italian Republic ( it, Repubblica Italiana, links=no ), is a country consisting of a Northern Italy, continental part, delimited by the ...

Florence
to the Fiesole hills in 1348. This structure was then imitated by subsequent authors, notably the French queen
Marguerite de NavarreMarguerite may refer to: People * Marguerite (given name) Marguerite is the French form of a female given name (''English'' Margaret, ''Spanish'' Margarita) which derives from the Greek Μαργαρίτης meaning "pearl"). See also Peggy (give ...

Marguerite de Navarre
, whose ''
Heptaméron 250px, ''The Gentleman's Spur catching in the Sheet''. Illustration from an 1894 edition of ''The Tales of the Heptameron''. The ''Heptaméron'' is a collection of 72 short stories written in French by Marguerite de Navarre (1492–1549), publi ...
'' (1559) included 72 original French tales and was modeled after the structure of ''The Decameron''. The Italian genre novella grew out of a rich tradition of medieval short narrative forms. It took its first major form in the anonymous late 13th century ''Libro di novelle et di bel parlar gentile'', known as the ''Novellino'', and reached its culmination with ''The Decameron''. Followers of Boccaccio such as Giovanni Fiorentino,
Franco Sacchetti Franco Sacchetti (; c. 1335 – c. 1400), was an Italian poet and novelist. Biography File:Sacchetti, Franco – Il libro delle rime, 1936 – BEIC 1908259.pdf, ''Il libro delle rime'', published by Laterza, 1936 Born in Florence or in Ragus ...

Franco Sacchetti
, Giovanni Sercambi and Simone de' Prodenzani continued the tradition into the early 15th century. The Italian novella influenced many later writers, including
Shakespeare William Shakespeare (bapt. 26 April 1564 – 23 April 1616) was an English playwright, poet and actor, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's greatest dramatist. He is often called England's national po ...

Shakespeare
. Novellas were also written in Spain.
Miguel de Cervantes Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra (; 29 September 1547 (assumed)22 April 1616 Old Style and New Style dates, NS) was a Spanish writer widely regarded as the greatest writer in the Spanish language, and one of the world's pre-eminent novelists. He is ...

Miguel de Cervantes
book '' Novelas ejemplares'' (1613) added innovation to the genre with more attention to depiction of human character and social background to the action.Steinhauer, Harry ''Twelve German Novellas'', Introduction, University of California Press, 1977 Not until the late 18th and early 19th centuries did writers fashion the novella into a literary genre structured by precepts and rules, generally in a realistic mode. At that time, the Germans were the most active writers of the ''novelle'' (German: "Novelle"; plural: "Novellen"). For the German writer, a novella is a fictional narrative of indeterminate length—a few pages to hundreds—restricted to a single, suspenseful event, situation, or conflict leading to an unexpected turning point (''Wendepunkt''), provoking a logical but surprising end. ''Novellen'' tend to contain a concrete symbol, which is the narrative's focal point. The novella influenced the development of the
short story A short story is a piece of prose Prose is a form of written (or spoken) language that usually exhibits a natural speech, natural flow of speech and Syntax, grammatical structure—an exception is the narrative device stream of consciousness. T ...
and the
novel A novel is a relatively long work of narrative fiction, typically written in prose and published as a book. The present English word for a long work of prose fiction derives from the for "new", "news", or "short story of something new", itself ...

novel
throughout Europe. In the late 19th century
Henry James Henry James ( – ) was an American-British author. He is regarded as a key transitional figure between literary realism Literary realism is a literary genre, part of the broader realism (arts), realism in arts, that attempts to represent subj ...

Henry James
was one of the first English language critics to use the term novella for a story that was longer and more complex than a short story, but shorter than a novel. In English speaking countries the modern ''novella'' is rarely defined as a distinct literary genre, but is often used as a term for a short novel.


Characteristics

A novella generally features fewer
conflicts Conflict may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Films * ''Conflict'' (1936 film), an American boxing film starring John Wayne * Conflict (1938 film), ''Conflict'' (1938 film), a French drama film directed by Léonide Moguy * Confli ...
than a
novel A novel is a relatively long work of narrative fiction, typically written in prose and published as a book. The present English word for a long work of prose fiction derives from the for "new", "news", or "short story of something new", itself ...

novel
, yet more complicated ones than a
short story A short story is a piece of prose Prose is a form of written (or spoken) language that usually exhibits a natural speech, natural flow of speech and Syntax, grammatical structure—an exception is the narrative device stream of consciousness. T ...
. The conflicts also have more time to develop than in short stories. Novellas may or may not be divided into chapters (good examples of those with chapters are ''
Animal Farm ''Animal Farm'' is an allegorical novella A novella is a short novel A novel is a relatively long work of narrative A narrative, story or tale is any account of a series of related events or experiences, whether nonfictional ( memo ...
'' by
George Orwell Eric Arthur Blair (25 June 1903 – 21 January 1950) known by his pen name A pen name, also called a ''nom de plume'' () or a literary double, is a pseudonym (or, in some cases, a variant form of a real name) adopted by an author and printed ...

George Orwell
and ''
The War of the Worlds ''The War of the Worlds'' is a science fiction File:Imagination 195808.jpg, Space exploration, as predicted in August 1958 by the science fiction magazine ''Imagination (magazine), Imagination'' Science fiction (sometimes shortened to sci- ...

The War of the Worlds
'' by
H. G. Wells Herbert George Wells"Wells, H. G."
Revised 18 May 2015. ''The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction'' (sf-ency ...

H. G. Wells
) and are often intended to be read at a single sitting, as is the short story, although in a novella white space is often used to divide the sections, and therefore, the novella maintains a single effect.
Warren Cariou Warren Cariou is a writer and associate professor of English at the University of Manitoba The University of Manitoba (U of M, UManitoba, or UM) is a non-denominational, public research university A public university or public college is a univ ...
wrote: The novella is generally not as formally experimental as the long story and the novel can be, and it usually lacks the subplots, the multiple points of view, and the generic adaptability that are common in the novel. It is most often concerned with personal and emotional development rather than with the larger social sphere. The novella generally retains something of the unity of impression that is a hallmark of the short story, but it also contains more highly developed characterization and more luxuriant description.


Versus novel

The term ''novel'', borrowed from the Italian ''novella'', originally meant "any of a number of tales or stories making up a larger work; a short narrative of this type, a fable", and was then many times used in the plural, reflecting the usage as in ''
The Decameron ''The Decameron'' (; it, label=Italian language, Italian, Decameron or ''Decamerone'' ), subtitled ''Prince Galehaut'' (Old it, Prencipe Galeotto, links=no ) and sometimes nicknamed ''l'Umana commedia'' ("the Human Comedy (drama), comedy", as ...

The Decameron
'' and its followers. Usage of the more italianate ''novella'' in English seems to be a bit younger. The differenciation of the two terms seems to have occurred only in the 19th century, following the new fashion of the novella in German literature. In 1834,
John Lothrop Motley John Lothrop Motley (April 15, 1814 – May 29, 1877) was an American author, best known for his two popular histories ''The Rise of the Dutch Republic'' and ''The United Netherlands''. He was also a diplomat, who helped to prevent European interv ...

John Lothrop Motley
could still speak of "Tieck's novels (which last are a set of exquisite little tales, novels in the original meaning of the word)". But when the term ''novella'' was used it was already clear that a rather short and witty form was intended: "The brief Novella has ever been a prodigious favorite with the nation…since the days of Boccaccio." In 1902,
William Dean Howells William Dean Howells (; March 1, 1837 – May 11, 1920) was an American realist novelist, literary critic, and playwright A playwright or dramatist is a person who writes plays. Etymology The word "play" is from Middle English pleye, from Ol ...

William Dean Howells
wrote: "Few modern fictions of the novel's dimensions…have the beauty of form many a novella embodies." Sometimes, as with other genres, the genre name is mentioned in the title of a single work (compare the ''
Divine Comedy The ''Divine Comedy'' ( it, Divina Commedia ) is a long Italian narrative poem by Dante Alighieri Dante Alighieri (), probably baptized Durante di Alighiero degli Alighieri and often referred to simply as Dante (, also ; – 1321), w ...

Divine Comedy
'' or
Goethe Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (28 August 1749 – 22 March 1832) was a German poet, playwright, novelist, scientist, statesman, theatre director, critic, and amateur artist. His works include: four novels; epic poetry, epic and lyric poetry; prose ...

Goethe
's '' Das Märchen''). Austrian writer
Stefan Zweig Stefan Zweig (; ; 28 November 1881 – 22 February 1942) was an Austrian novelist, playwright, journalist and biographer. At the height of his literary career, in the 1920s and 1930s, he was one of the most widely translated and most popular wr ...
's ''Die Schachnovelle'' (1942) (literally, "The Chess Novella", but translated in 1944 as ''
The Royal Game ''The Royal Game'' (also known as Chess Story; in the original German ''Schachnovelle'', "Chess Novella") is a novella A novella is a short novel A novel is a relatively long work of narrative A narrative, story or tale is any account of ...
'') is an example of a title naming its genre. This might be suggestive of the genre's historicization. Commonly, longer novellas are referred to as novels; Robert Louis Stevenson's ''
Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde ''Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde'' is a Gothic fiction, Gothic novella by Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson, first published in 1886. The work is also known as ''The Strange Case of Jekyll Hyde'', ''Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde'', or simpl ...
'' (1886) and Joseph Conrad's ''
Heart of Darkness ''Heart of Darkness'' (1899) is a novella by Poles in the United Kingdom#18th–19th centuries, Polish-English novelist Joseph Conrad about a narrated voyage up the Congo River into the Congo Free State in the ''Heart of Africa''. Charles Marlo ...

Heart of Darkness
'' (1899) are sometimes called novels, as are many
science fiction Science fiction (sometimes shortened to sci-fi or SF) is a of which typically deals with and futuristic concepts such as advanced and , , , , and . It has been called the " of ", and it often explores the potential consequences of . Scien ...

science fiction
works such as H. G. Wells' ''The War of the Worlds'' (1897) and Philip Francis Nowlan's '' Armageddon 2419 A.D.'' (1928). Less often, longer works are referred to as novellas. The subjectivity of the parameters of the novella genre is indicative of its shifting and diverse nature as an art form. In her 2010 ''
Open Letters Monthly ''Open Letters Monthly'' or ''Open Letters Monthly: an Arts and Literature Review'', was an online arts and culture magazine. It was founded in 2007 by Sam Sacks, John Cotter, and Steve Donoghue, and published its last issue in 2017. It features lon ...
'' series, "A Year With Short Novels", Ingrid Norton criticizes the tendency to make clear demarcations based purely on a book's length:
On a web search engine, input "novels" and "length" and you will find tables of word counts, separating out novels from novellas, even from the esoteric and still shorter "novelette"—as though prose works were dog show contestants, needing to be entered into proper categories. But when it comes to writing, any distinctions that begin with an objective and external quality like size are bound to be misleading. The delicate, gem-like jigsaw of
Thornton Wilder Thornton Niven Wilder (April 17, 1897 – December 7, 1975) was an American playwright and novelist. He won three Pulitzer Prizes — for the novel ''The Bridge of San Luis Rey'' and for the plays ''Our Town'' and ''The Skin of Our Teeth'' — an ...

Thornton Wilder
's '' The Bridge of San Luis Ray'' could not be more unlike the feverishly cunning philosophical monologue of
Albert Camus Albert Camus ( , ; ; 7 November 1913 – 4 January 1960) was a French philosopher, author, and journalist. He won the Nobel Prize in Literature at the age of 44 in 1957, the second-youngest recipient in history. His works include ''The Strange ...

Albert Camus
' '' The Fall'', but both novels are about the same length.
Stephen King Stephen Edwin King (born September 21, 1947) is an American author of , , , , , and novels. Described as the "King of Horror", a play on his surname and a reference to his high standing in pop culture, his books have sold more than 350  ...
, in his introduction to ''
Different Seasons ''Different Seasons'' (1982) is a collection of four Stephen King Stephen Edwin King (born September 21, 1947) is an American author of horror fiction, horror, supernatural fiction, Thriller (genre), suspense, crime fiction, crime, science-f ...
'', a 1982 collection of four novellas, has called the novella "an ill-defined and disreputable literary banana republic"; King notes the difficulties of selling a novella in the commercial publishing world, since it does not fit the typical length requirements of either magazine or book publishers. Despite these problems, however, the novella's length provides unique advantages; in the introduction to a novella anthology titled ''Sailing to Byzantium'',
Robert Silverberg Robert Silverberg (born January 15, 1935) is an American author and editor, best known for writing science fiction. He is a multiple winner of both Hugo Award, Hugo and Nebula Awards, a member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame, an ...

Robert Silverberg
writes: In his essay, "Briefly, the case for the novella", Canadian author George Fetherling (who wrote the novella ''Tales of Two Cities'') said that to reduce the novella to nothing more than a short novel is like "insisting that a
pony A pony is a small horse The horse (''Equus ferus caballus'') is a domesticated odd-toed ungulate mammal. It belongs to the taxonomic family Equidae and is one of two Extant taxon, extant subspecies of wild horse, ''Equus ferus''. The horse ...

pony
is a baby horse". The sometimes blurry definition between a novel and a novella can create controversy, as was the case with British writer
Ian McEwan Ian Russell McEwan, (born 21 June 1948) is an English novelist A novelist is an author or writer of novels, though often novelists also write in other genres of both fiction and non-fiction. Some novelists are professional novelists, thus make a ...
's ''
On Chesil Beach ''On Chesil Beach'' is a 2007 novella by the British writer Ian McEwan Ian Russell McEwan, (born 21 June 1948) is an English novelist and screenwriter. In 2008, ''The Times ''The Times'' is a British Newspaper#Daily, daily Newspaper#N ...
'' (2007). The author described it as a novella, but the panel for the
Man Booker Prize The Booker Prize, formerly known as the Booker Prize for Fiction (1969–2001) and the Man Booker Prize (2002–2019), is a literary prize awarded each year for the best novel written in English and published in the United Kingdom or Ireland. T ...
in 2007 qualified the book as a "short novel". Thus, this "novella" was shortlisted for an award for best original novel. A similar case is found with a much older work of fiction: ''
The Call of the Wild ''The Call of the Wild'' is a short adventure novel by Jack London John Griffith London (born John Griffith Chaney; January 12, 1876 – November 22, 1916) was an American novelist, journalist, and social activist. A pioneer of commercial f ...
'' (1903) by
Jack London John Griffith London (born John Griffith Chaney; January 12, 1876 – November 22, 1916) was an American novelist, journalist and social activist. A pioneer of commercial fiction and American magazines, he was one of the first American authors ...
. This book, by modern standards, is short enough and straightforward enough to qualify as a novella. However, historically, it has been regarded as a novel.


Versus novelette

Dictionaries define ''novelette'' similarly to ''novella''; sometimes identically, sometimes with a disparaging sense of being trivial or sentimental. Some
literary award A literary award or literary prize is an award An award, sometimes called a distinction, is something given to a recipient as a token of recognition of excellence in a certain field. When the token is a medal, ribbon or other item designed for ...
s have a longer "novella" and a shorter "novelette" categories, with a distinction based on
word count The word count is the number of word In linguistics, a word of a spoken language can be defined as the smallest sequence of phonemes that can be uttered in isolation with semantic, objective or pragmatics, practical meaning (linguistics), meani ...
. A range between 7,500 and 17,500 words is common among awards. According to ''The Writer'', a novelette is approximately between 7,000 and 20,000 words in length, anything shorter being considered a short story.


Notable examples

This list contains those novellas that are widely considered to be the best examples of the genre, through their appearance on multiple best-of lists.


Word counts

Some
literary awards A literary award or literary prize is an award presented in recognition of a particularly lauded Literature, literary piece or body of work. It is normally presented to an author. Organizations Most literary awards come with a corresponding award ...
include a "best novella" award and sometimes a separate "best novelette" award, separately from "best short story" or "best novel". The distinction between these categories may be entirely by
word count The word count is the number of word In linguistics, a word of a spoken language can be defined as the smallest sequence of phonemes that can be uttered in isolation with semantic, objective or pragmatics, practical meaning (linguistics), meani ...
.


See also

* Chain novel *
Conte (literature) Conte () is a literary genre of tales, often short, characterized by fantasy or wit. They were popular in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries until the genre became merged with the short story in the nineteenth century. Distinguishing cont ...
*
Light novel A is a style of Japanese young adult A young adult is generally a person in the years following adolescence. Definitions and opinions on what qualifies as a young adult vary, with works such as 's significantly influencing the definitio ...
* List of novellas


References


Further reading

*


External links

{{Authority control Fiction forms