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What is a Novella?

By Kathy Hawkins
Updated May 23, 2024
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A novella is the name given to a work that is longer than a short story, but too brief to be listed as a novel. Typically, most novellas can range from anywhere between 50 to 100 pages, though length can vary. Some literary critics characterize the maximum length of a novella to be 100,000 words. Today, the novella is rarely sold as an individual work. More frequently, several novellas are compiled into one book, or a novella will be grouped with a number of short stories by the same author.

The first novella writer was probably Giovanni Boccaccio, who wrote The Decameron in 1353. The book was a collection of one hundred novellas, narrated by characters attempting to escape from the Black Plague in Italy. Many centuries later, in the 1800s, the novella became a popular literary form in Germany.

Many famous works could be characterized as fitting the genre of the novella. Among them are Franz Kafka's Metamorphosis, George Orwell's Animal Farm, Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, and Ernest Hemingway's Pulitzer Prize-winning The Old Man and the Sea.

A more recent example of the novella form is Stephen King's Different Seasons, which is a collection of four novellas. The works in this book were more literary and realistic than King's horror fiction books. The novella "Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption" was later made into the critically acclaimed movie, The Shawshank Redemption. Another novella from the book, called "The Body," was turned into the coming of age film, Stand By Me, which has been a cult classic and popular favorite since its 1984 release.

Although most publishing houses would not be interested in publishing novellas by new authors, there has been a resurgence in the form's popularity, to some extent. Actor, comedian, and writer Steve Martin wrote a novella called "Shopgirl"; several years later, a film version was made, in which he played a main role.

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Discussion Comments
By anon10728 — On Apr 01, 2008

please can someone tell me how many pages long the original novel "Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption" was......

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