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Classification of Fiction by Length

by Ron Kurtus (revised 15 February 2014)

Fictional stories can be classified according to their length in pages or number of words. Classification by length includes short-short stories, short stories and book-length stories. Typically, a writer will start off writing short pieces and then build up to writing a book as his or her skill increases.

Questions you may have include:

This lesson will answer those questions.



Short-short stories

A short-short story is usually between 500 and 1500 words in length. It tells a complete story, including characters, setting, conflict, and resolution. Often they have surprise endings.

A subset of the short-short story is micro-fiction, which only consists of around 300 words. This type of writing requires that every word be essential to the story. There is no room for detailed description.

Vignettes, as seen in a play, are similar to short-shorts to a degree. A vignette is a short scene that focuses on one event or gives one impression about a character. The big difference is that the vignette has no real plot or story.

The market for short-short stories typically consists of magazines that carry short stories, as well as online fiction websites.

Short stories

A short story is one that is meant to be read in one sitting. Typically, a short story ranges from 2000 to 7500 words in length.

Short stories are less complex than novels, often focusing on a single incident. They have a small number of characters. As with short-shorts, short stories may have a surprise ending.

The market for short-short stories is typically magazines that carry short stories or online fiction websites. Some authors have compiled their short stories into books.

Novel

A fiction novel or book typically runs from 60,000 to 125,000 words. The plot and characters are complex and often need many pages to be developed.

Romance and western paperbacks usually run around 60,000 words. There are also epic novels that are over 250,000 words.

A rule of thumb is that 120 pages of material written on 8 1/2 X 11 inch paper in 12-pt Times New Roman will result in about 200 pages in a 6 X 9 inch paperback.

Summary

Fiction can be classified as short-short stories, short stories and book-length novels, according to length or number of words. Some writers specialize in the short forms, while others prefer very long novels.


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