Types of Narratives



From drabbles to novels there are many kinds of narratives, my darlings. It’s important for writers to understand them so they know the parameters. Touting your book as a novel, to an agent or publisher, when you’ve only written a novella is like false advertising and it will undoubtedly get rejected. Conversely, seeking representation for a short story, or a novella when you’ve penned a full-length novel is not only selling yourself short, but it is an exercise in futility. Maybe the agent will pass it along, but I wouldn’t count on it.


Let’s break all these terms down!





Traditionally, when writers draft a quick story, of exactly one hundred words, and it’s one they don’t necessarily take seriously, that’s a drabble. The term has changed over the years and the word count can be more than one hundred words nowadays.




Zoning in on a particular character, idea, setting, or other element, and writing a scene or two, using detailed imagery and descriptive words to get the point across, is the definition of a vignette. The writer captures a moment in time that is meaningful but stays away from plot.




This is a brief narrative that contains a quick mention of setting, perhaps in one sentence, a few characters, usually no more than three, simple conflict with an easy resolution, and plot development. Think of it this way, the size of the word count in the story matters less than the size of the story in the word count. So, big story/minimal word count, with a cool twist at the end.




Writers who compose short stories, plunge right in. Everything happens at a fast pace. They introduce the characters, establish the setting, delve straight into plot, initiate the stakes, draw the reader into the conflict, present the resolution, and curtail the word count.




A work of narrative prose that’s in between a short story and a novel, in terms of word count and plot. The plot in a novella is less complex than that of a novel, but more complex than a short story. The word count is significantly lower in a novella as compared to a novel, but greater than the word count for a short story. The novella features fewer conflicts than those of novel-length, but unlike the short story, the writer is afforded more time to develop them. Novellas usually lack subplots, and multiple points of view and are often intended to be read in a single sitting.




A novel is a lengthy story of invented prose that focuses on the human experience in some way, by means of detailed setting, a cast of multifaceted characters, intriguing plots and subplots. It is developed over time and words with stakes and conflicts that require a buildup, along with phases of resolution, before the final and main conflict is resolved. A novel can be a standalone or part of a series and word count varies by genre.


Now you’re in the know my darlings! Keep these terms in mind as you sit down to pen your narrative.



Hi. I'm Liz Ambrico, freelance proofreader and aspiring author. I too am querying agents, editors, and publishers in hopes of becoming a published author.

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I co-founded and managed a successful author and writer group on Long Island for five years. During events with publishers and authors I learned what matters, what agents are looking for, and the benefits and pitfalls of traditional publishing vs. self-publishing.

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