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What Are the Different Types of Online Fiction?

By Lee Johnson
Updated May 23, 2024
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Many different types of online fiction exist, and they can be classified in a variety of different ways. The lengths of the various stories available online can be used to classify them as either a short story, novel, novella, flash fiction, or even “nanoism.” In addition, several different genres of online fiction can be found, which stretch to more than the familiar genres of romance, thriller, science fiction, fantasy, and drama. Different genres found in online writing can also include post-apocalyptic, steampunk, and space opera. It could be argued that the ease of publishing online has led to this myriad of different styles and genres.

The easiest method of classifying the types of online fiction is to do so by the length of the story. There are online short stories, novelettes, novels, and novellas — the same types of story that are also familiar in the printed fiction world. Short stories are generally considered to be stories of between 1,000 and 7,500 words, novelettes are between 7,500 and 20,000 words, novellas are between 20,000 and 50,000 words and novels are anything longer. These types of stories can be used to classify the various types on online fiction.

More internet-specific genres of fiction dictated by length include flash fiction and nanoism, or micro-fiction. Flash fiction as a type of online fiction is anything that is between 100 and 1000 words in length. Generally, this lends itself to succinct storytelling and is often published quite readily due to the small amount of space and resources it requires. Nanoism or micro-fiction is anything less than 100 words. These are truly bare-bones stories, and some are even published in the 140 characters allowed by social networking site Twitter.

Genre is an effective way to categorize most fiction and will give readers more of an idea what a piece of online fiction is going to be like. Traditional genres of story still survive online, such as romance, mystery, science fiction, thriller, fantasy, and drama. Science fiction, for example, is generally set in the future and may features different alien races and futuristic technology. Mystery stories are generally centered on a crime, or bizarre event which the story dedicates itself to uncovering.

The ease of publishing online fiction has arguably led to a myriad of various specific genres of fiction to evolve. Some online genres of fiction include niche genres such dystopia, steampunk, space opera, and space westerns. Dystopia stories are set in a futuristic, nightmarish world like the one found in George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four. Space westerns are essentially westerns, like the classic movies, but set in space, and so have a clear link to science fiction.

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Discussion Comments
By bythewell — On Dec 29, 2014

@croydon - I like webcomics, but I find that the more experimental ones are almost always just annoying. I'd rather read a good story than sit through endless scrolling or multiple endings or whatever.

The same goes for visual novels or interactive novels. I've never found one that actually seemed worth reading as a story. The interaction doesn't seem to add to the telling, but detracts from it.

I'm sure it's possible to do this well, but I just haven't seen it managed yet.

For me, online fiction means reading the classic novels that has been uploaded for free dispersal because they are no longer under copyright.

By croydon — On Dec 28, 2014

@umbra21 - I guess another advantage of it is that you can connect directly with the author of the piece and it's likely they will actually see your message (if they are managing their own account, that is). And new authors can get feedback they might otherwise miss out on.

I know that's what a lot of people like about online comics as well. I find they often get overlooked when people are discussing online fiction, but there are some amazing authors out there crafting incredible stories (and artworks) that are basically free for anyone to see online.

Some of the most experimental fiction of modern times has been done in comic form online, using the medium of technology.

By umbra21 — On Dec 27, 2014

Nanoism is how I got into using Twitter. I found a little competition for a story that would fit into a tweet and joined the site in order to enter. I've had a few stories published on Twitter now and it's always a little bit of a thrill.

It takes a surprisingly long time to refine the stories to the point where they are suitable for the medium. You have to fit so much nuance into such a small space. But there is some amazing work out there.

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