#Writing: Short Fiction Versus Short Story – Is There A Difference?




I recently listened to a podcast by The Career Author where they discussed about short fiction. The gentleman brought up something I’d never truly thought about before.

That short story and short fiction can mean two different things.


Like I usually do when faced with a new way of thinking, I consulted a dictionary for further clarification.

Short Story: “a story with a fully developed theme but significantly shorter and less elaborate than a novel.” (Oxford Dictionary)


Short Fiction: “any fiction that is shorter than a novel.”  (Believe it or not, I’m unable to find any dictionary that defines what this is so I created my own.)


Well, you can say, what’s the difference? I mean, essentially, they are the same.

Aren’t they?

Short story is short fiction. Short fiction can be a short story, but it can also be more or less than a short story.

Sounds confusing?

Well, it really isn’t.

The way I look at it is that a short story is one form of short fiction. Short fiction also includes the flash fiction, novelette, and novella.

Bottom line, any story that’s shorter than a novel will be considered a short fiction.

For those who are unclear on the word count for each, I’ll break it down for you below:

Novel: is a story that generally has a minimum of 50,000 words and can go as large as 100,000. Each genre has its own preferred word count which is generally anywhere between 60,000 and 80,000.

Novella: is a story with 17,000 or more words but less than 50,000.

Novelette: this form can be considered a really long short story, or a very, very short novel. Generally novelettes run larger than 10,000 words but less than 17,000.

Short story: is a story with the usual word count between 1,500 and 10,000 but most keep around 3,000 to 6,000.

Flash fiction: is a story with less than 1,500 words.


The length of a story also impacts how much you can pack into it. A short story will have fewer characters, settings, and plot lines than a novella would.

Each writer naturally caters to one or more forms of storytelling.

For a newbie, this may not become apparent until they’ve experimented with each form.

One comment

  1. I would look at Sumerset Maugham for short fiction(East and West), although under your listings some of those stories might be considered novelettes.
    A short story involves one character, and a developed story (theme). In essence, a short story is the same as a screenplay.


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