Short Story vs Novel: 7 Key Differences in 2024

The Novel as a form of fiction has been around for a long time.

 This is not to say that the short story is newer when compared to the novel.

The short story has been around in the form of fables, anecdotes, other ancient forms of Story.

 Ever since, the short story has been more of sketches and excerpts like a concubine in a house with the novel being the lady of the house.

When we talk about short stories, what we often consider as the period when short story originated is the time short stories were officially recognized. 

Magazines started publishing short stories and not just novel excerpts.

Writers were writers solely because they wrote short stories not needing to publish a novel to get the validation of being a writer.

So the question is what is the difference between the short story and the novel?

Before we go into the data and examples comparing the short story to the novel and highlighting the differences, let’s start with a basic definition of both terms.

1. Definition

Short Story is a form of fiction that is between 1500 words to 10,000 words with characters, conflict, theme, plot, and a setting. It is a complete story.

A novel is a form of fiction that is that starts from 50,000 words and more depending on the genre and length of the story.

The Novel reaches up to 300,000 words for epic pieces.

2. Popularity

Generally, we know that novels are more popular than short stories. Well, this is an assumption. How do you know that this is not my opinion? I could be wrong or right. Who can tell?

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How about we do it this way I present the data to you and then state my conclusion.

Based on the objective data you can decide which of the two is more popular.

If at all popular 

Using Semrush, a keyword tool that provides estimates of how many times a word is searched on Google.

This result includes all variations of these words alone with other words.

We have these results

  1. Short Story: 1.7 million times per month
  2. Novel: 9.6 million times per month

Using Google Trends to compare the relative popularity from 2004 to 2022. At the time of this blog post.

We see from the chart that the novel is relatively more popular than a short story.

However when we consider the two words at the topic level.

Short Story happens to be more popular.

3. Characters

A short story has characters that might be two and other times more than that while the novel has more characters sometimes covering more than five generations.

Why are the characters in a short story less than that of a novel?

The word count. Short Story does not have the luxury(words) for characters.

You can mention many characters but you can’t go as deep as you would with a novel.

4. Setting

The setting is the indication of the place and time of the story.

Both Short Story and Novel have settings.

Here’s the difference.

Short Stories have a simple setting and if there are multiple places in the story it is small when compared to that of a novel.

In a novel you have world-building  with the construction of a whole new language and religion.

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The novel has the words to create multiple and complex settings.

5. Theme

The theme answers the question of why.

Short Story has a simple theme. Sometimes one or more small themes.

A novel has multiple themes intertwined together in the book.

Why the difference you say?

Words. A Novel has the words to have multiple themes and conflicts in the same book.

While Short Story can hint at multiple themes but not as deep as a novel.

Most Short Story pick one or two themes to paint with words.

6. Reading Time 

Novels take longer time to read compared to Short Story.

The average reading speed is 200 to 250 words per minute.

A short story is 1500 words to 10,000 words.

It will take from five minutes to forty minutes to read a short story. About an hour to complete.

A novel is between 50,000 words and above.

The Reading Time for a novel using 250 words as the average reading speed is 200 minutes (3 hours 20 minutes) and above to read a novel.

7. Writing Time

More words, more time to write.

More depth of fictional elements.

Short Story takes less time to write when compared to a novel

At the average typing speed of 40 words per minute a short story will take 100 minutes (1 hour 40 minutes) for a 4000 word short story.

Of course there are other stages of writing that take time.

You can write a short story within a week.

Novels take within a month to years to write .


It’s been a long time since the demarcation between a short story and novel was made.

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Time has allowed the form of short story to flourish and be distinguishable from the novel not just in word count.

If the demarcation is based solely on word count them it is not different from a novel excerpt that is of the same word count.

While this blogpost states the difference between the short story and the novel , let’s not forget that they are both fiction. This common thread of fiction leads to a  whole lot of similarities.

On the basis of the characteristics of fiction like characters, plot, conflict ,theme etc.

What we see is that the differences can become the similarities depending on how you look at it.

Which of the forms of fiction do you read the most?

What form should you be writing?

Writing Short Stories has its benefits in a lot of ways.

An example of such benefits is practice.

Writing Short Stories would help you practice and hone the craft of writing flash fiction.

I would love to know let me know in the comments section.

If you have any questions concerning the differences let me know in the comments section.

By Onyemechi Nwakonam

Hi ,I write poetry and short prose. I am excited to help you organise your writing journey.

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