Both novel and fiction refer to a book in which the story is just imaginary. But what's the difference between them and what are the scenarios to use them right?

  • 1
    What about the dictionary definitions of these words was unclear? Jun 11, 2012 at 15:22
  • in essence, Fiction is about content: "not true." Novel is a form factor: a story of considerable plot complexity and length. A historical novel may describe true events, a fictional screenplay is fiction, but not a novel.
    – SF.
    Jun 12, 2012 at 7:36

5 Answers 5


Fiction is a literary genre that includes novels, but it also includes other forms such as short stories.

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    And poems, humour books, my excuses for not delivering on time. All literary work is either Fiction or Non-fiction. Novels are only a part of the Fiction type. Jun 11, 2012 at 8:09

"Fiction" refers to any made-up story, anything presented as not being true but purely for entertainment, education, etc.

Within the broad category of fiction, we divide stories up by length. The shortest are "short stories". A "novel" means a book-length story. In between is the "novella": you might fit 3 or 4 novellas into a reasonable-length book. If a story takes more than one book, it becomes a "series". If there are exactly three books in the series, it's called a "trilogy". (I'm not aware of specific names for a series with four or five books or any number but three. I'm not sure why that gets a specific name.)

Sometimes people attach specific word-counts to these names. Like they will say that a novel is a story of 40,000 words or more, a novella is 20,000 to 40,000 words, and anything shorter is a short story. As far as I know there's no standard in the publishing business, though. These are just ballpark numbers.

These terms all imply prose, as opposed to poetry.

  • "40,000 words" is the description in English, I wonder what they say in other languages?
    – GEdgar
    Jun 11, 2012 at 16:26
  • @GEdgar Sure, in languages where the average word length is longer or shorter, I imagine they'd use different numbers. The "real" definition is that a novel is "book-length".
    – Jay
    Jun 11, 2012 at 18:40

Fiction is the act of writing something that isn't true:

A literary work whose content is produced by the imagination and is not necessarily based on fact.

The word fiction can also as a label refer to longer works of imaginative prose.

The category of literature comprising works of this kind, including novels and short stories.

A novel on the other hand, is a bound written work of length:

A fictional prose narrative of considerable length, typically having a plot that is unfolded by the actions, speech, and thoughts of the characters.

There are two additional things to keep in mind about novel versus fiction.

While several novels are fiction, they do not necessarily have to be fiction to be novels. Truman Capote's In Cold Blood is one example of a non-fiction novel.

Also, imaginative works of fiction can be of just about any length, from a few hundred to tens or even hundreds of thousands of words.

To define and market these written works, the publishing industry has a loose set of guidelines that define writing based on length:

  • Micro-Fiction: Under 100 words
  • Flash Fiction: 100-1,000 words
  • Short Story: 1,000-7,500 words
  • Novelette: 7,500 - 20,000 words
  • Novella: 20,000 - 50,000 words
  • Novel: 50,000-100,000 words
  • Epic: 110,000+ words

(Note: This is just one definition of length, but it is generally accepted that a novel is at least 50,000 words, with 70,000 words being the average length of a modern novel.)

  • I remember learning the difference between Novel and Novelette/Novella is that Novelette has strictly one explicit thread (any side threads may only appear as simple cameo events seen from the main thread). Novel drives multiple threads at once.
    – SF.
    Jun 12, 2012 at 7:33
  • Re: "they do not necessarily have to be fiction," my understanding is that a "non-fiction novel" is actually a combination of fact and fiction and that the term "novel" would not apply to any work that was purely factual.
    – Air
    Dec 18, 2015 at 18:41

Fiction works can be classified based on their style and length of the writing. Fiction is writing based on the author's imagination and invention of a story, characters and/or backdrop.


Novels, novelettes (also known as "novelet") and novellas all contain the same subject matter but exist along a spectrum in terms of word length. Novels, at the far end of the spectrum, may have numerous conflicts, story lines, and chapters, and generally have 40,000+ words.

Fiction refers to a story containing imaginary or made up events. A novel refers to the length of a work of fiction. It's usually considered the longest form of literary prose. Shorter works of fiction would be a novella or a short story. Also, fiction can refer to things outside of writing. Movies and plays, would be considered works of fiction


As against imaginative or fictional, the novel is a realistic form. It represents that segment of life and society, in more or less approximate terms,which has been seen and experienced by actual men and women of a particular period.

While reading a novel, we may feel that we have been transported to a different world with its own rules.Towns and villages etc holds out as actual places with their distinct colouring and feel.Yes,the emphasis is on actuality.

Fiction on the other hand denotes an unreal thing, a 'creation' of the mind of a person gifted with an unusually inventive with powerful imagination. It denotes that the account presented in a work bears no relation with the reality of life as we know it- it is imaginative and more, it is fictional.

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