Short story and novel

The difference between a short story and a novel lies in the length, since the story is defined as a short story while the novel is defined as a longer story.

In addition, there is a space-time difference in the story and the novel that determines the precision, accuracy, and harmony that characterize each of these literary genres.

According to the Argentine writer Julio Cortázar (1914-1984) the difference between short story and novel can be compared with the relationship between cinema and photography. For the author, photography is like a story that reflects a snapshot of life, saving facts, characters and words, while the cinema is like a novel that tells a story that reflects life or society at a personal pace.

DefinitionLiterary genre characterized by a short narrative of usually fictitious events.Literary genre characterized by an extensive narration of fictional or real events.
  • Oral tradition.
  • Literary.
  1. They are short.
  2. Use of fantasy.
  3. It has a central plot.
  4. The narrative is simple.
  5. It has a linear structure.
  6. The time and space of the story does not usually vary.
  7. Your goal is to leave a teaching.
  1. They are extensive (generally).
  2. The story can have several plots.
  3. The narrative is complex.
  4. It has a variable structure.
  5. The time and space of the story may vary.
  6. Their goal is entertainment.
ExampleHansel and Gretel , from the Brothers Grimm.The steppe wolf, by Hermann Hesse.


The story is a literary genre in which the narration has a short length. Generally, the stories are based on fictional stories and characters, however, that does not rule out that in other cases real elements are used.

In terms of origin, the tale can come from two sources:

  • Oral tradition: myths, legends, songs, romances and popular ballads
  • Literary tales: stories expressed through a more cultured language, whether they are fictitious or real.

Characteristics of the story

Although various authors have suggested that the differences between a story and a novel can be very diffuse, it is also true that there are a series of elements that allow us to recognize a story:

1. It’s brief

Although this characteristic is not so rigid, in general the narratives of this type are quite short, since they come from oral tradition and it was necessary to synthesize the story as much as possible to be able to remember and transmit it.

2. Use of fantasy

The story has fantastic elements that can be seen represented in a place of the narrative action (a magical kingdom), in the characters (fairies, supernatural beings) or in the plot itself.

3. Focuses on a central fact

Usually the story has a central plot around which the characters carry out their actions (searching for treasure, rescuing a princess, finding a castle, etc.).

4. It is easy to understand

The plot of a story is usually very simple, this allows its oral or written dissemination to reach more people.

5. Has an identifiable structure

The story usually has a linear structure divided into:

  • Start : it is the presentation of the characters, the space and time in which the story will unfold.
  • Climax : it is the core of the story, where a situation is presented that must be faced by the characters.
  • Outcome : the characters resolve the conflict and that leads to the end of the story.

6. The plot takes place in the same place

Usually, the story takes place in the same place (a castle, a field, a neighborhood, etc.).

7. Has a teaching

The objective of the story is to convey a sobering message or moral, which consists of a teaching on essential values ​​in the human being (love, justice, freedom, compassion, etc.).


The novel is a genre based on the narration of fictional or real events in an extensive way, and making use of sophisticated literary resources, such as educated and written language, prose, verse, literary figures, among others.

The origin of the novel is always literary since it not only uses resources from formal language, but it can also combine them freely depending on the complexity of the story to be told.

Characteristics of the novel

1. They are long stories

This characteristic is not entirely rigid because it is possible to find narratives in the novel genre with a short length. However, in many more cases, the novel is characterized by the length of its story.

2. Can have multiple frames

A novel can have a single plot, but it can also develop parallel or secondary plots.

3. The stories are complex

Due to their length, the use of multiple resources and, in some cases, the abundance of characters, novels can have a higher level of narrative complexity than other genres.

4. The structure may vary

Although a novel can have a traditional structure (beginning, climax, ending), the truth is that it is also possible to manipulate that structure in multiple ways.

A novel can begin at the end (as is the case with My Name is Red, by Orhan Pamuk), it can have several beginnings or endings, or several plots can be developed simultaneously – it all depends on the creativity and purpose of the author.

5. Spatio-temporal conditions may vary

In a novel, the times and places in which the story unfolds can vary constantly. In this way, a novel can begin in one historical period and end in another, the characters can move through different cities, countries or real or fictional settings, etc.

6. Its purpose is to entertain

The novels do not usually have a teaching or moral because their objective is the entertainment of the reader. However, this characteristic is quite subjective, since each reader gives his own interpretation to what he reads.

In any case, it can be said that many authors do not write with the aim of giving an exemplary lesson, but that it is the readers who rescue some learning.

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