Throughout the month I'll be posting definitions of a novella from many authors and editors and publishers that have had their hands involved in the publishing of a novella or many novellas. One such individual is the author Josh Weil, whose own trio of novellas just found its way into my house this past weekend.
I like to define a novella by what it does that’s unique, by the unique way in which it can touch a reader and the way that it opens up a story that’s different from how a short story or a novel works. When I talk about that, the best I can do is this: If a short story typically looks through a narrow lens at a precise part of the world with an intense focus and a novel looks through a wide lens at a large swath of the world, approaching it with a generosity of scope, then a novella, I think, looks through the narrow lens of a short story, and with a short stories intense focus, at a small, precise part of the world, but it treats what’s within that lens with a novel’s generosity and care. So there’s room for back-story. There’s room to sit with a character for a while, to get to know him or her – and the landscape of the life – in a way that’s not typically possible in a short story. You can fall in love with a character and not be booted away so soon. And yet there’s the drive, the intensity of the short story in a way that a novel just isn’t built for. Which is part of why I love the novella form so much: For me, it combines some of the things I love most about novels and short stories. You kind of get the best of both worlds. Except, of course, it can’t do what either of those other forms do, not fully – because it’s doing its own thing – so I’m certainly not placing it above either of those forms. It’s just different, and deserves to be taken as seriously as either of the other forms.