According to the Encyclopaedia Britannica, the novella is defined as follows:
Novella, short and well-structured narrative, often realistic and satiric in tone, that influenced the development of the short story and the novel throughout Europe. Originating in Italy during the Middle Ages, the novella was based on local events that were humorous, political, or amorous in nature; the individual tales often were gathered into collections along with anecdotes, legends, and romantic tales. Writers such as Giovanni Boccaccio, Franco Sacchetti, and Matteo Bandello later developed the novella into a psychologically subtle and highly structured short tale, often using a frame story to unify the tales around a common theme.
The Encyclopaedia goes on to explain that the novella was introduced to England with Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales and says that playwrights such as Shakespeare often used plots ripped Italian novellas as the source material for their plays.
Today, in our commercial age, we categorise a novella as a piece of fiction that sits between 15,000 to 40,000 words. It’s longer than a short story, it’s shorter than a novel.
In an article for the New Yorker, Ian McEwan says:
I believe the novella is the perfect form of prose fiction. It is the beautiful daughter of a rambling, bloated, ill-shaven giant (but a giant who’s a genius on his best days). And this child is the means by which many first know our greatest writers. Readers come to Thomas Mann by way of “Death in Venice,” Henry James by “The Turn of the Screw,” Kafka by “Metamorphosis,” Joseph Conrad by “Heart of Darkness,” Albert Camus by “L’Etranger.” I could go on: Voltaire, Tolstoy, Joyce, Solzhenitsyn. And Orwell, Steinbeck, Pynchon. And Melville, Lawrence, Munro. The tradition is long and glorious. I could go even further: the demands of economy push writers to polish their sentences to precision and clarity, to bring off their effects with unusual intensity, to remain focussed on the point of their creation and drive it forward with functional single-mindedness, and to end it with a mind to its unity. They don’t ramble or preach, they spare us their quintuple subplots and swollen midsections.
All of which is mentioned here to introduce my latest title: Fearless (a novella).
I’ve gone with the form of the novella for three reasons.
First and foremost, I believe a story should be as long as it needs to be. When commercial publishers say they publish novels between 80,000 and 100,000 words, I find it curious that so many well-written stories fall neatly into that word count. Is it possible that there are writers with great ideas for 70,000 word stories who’ve padded out an extra 10K so that a piece is more marketable? Is it likely that an author with an idea for a 120,000 word story has had to remove a masterful subplot so that a piece doesn’t go beyond some publisher’s prescriptive limitation? The novella, too long to be a short story, too short to be a novel, is testament to a story being as long as it needs to be.
Secondly, and this is an important point, Fearless is a horror story. I think there are some genres that allow an author to ramble, and some genres that require a focus on concision. Horror is one of those genres where less is so much more than more. That’s not to say there aren’t some wonderful 100,000+ word horror novels out there. But when we think what’s been accomplished by shorter works in the genre, such as A Christmas Carol at 29,000 words, The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde at 25,500 words and Stephen King’s The Mist at 46,255 words, we can see (as the Cosmopolitan articles have been saying for years) size really doesn’t matter.
Third, and a point that I think is essential: a novella can be offered at a more attractive price than a novel.
So, welcome to my novella: Fearless. This is going to be the first in a series of stories that all occur in and around the same place – Innsmouth. I look forward to sharing more details with you over the coming weeks.