Music singles are to novellas and shorts as albums are to . . . ?

Hint: NOT novels.

But first! On Friday, I guest posted at Janice Hardy’s blog on Five steps to better character arcs! I was a little busy with the blogfest Friday—we had eight great entries in our blogfest! I’m happy to award an Amazon gift card to a participant, chosen at random, and that winner is . . .


On its face, the popular analogy seems apt. In the last decade, although albums are still popular, music has largely broken free of the “form” of the album, with the single coming to dominate. It appears the same revolution is coming in fiction, with novellas, short stories and other short works—even the pertinently named “Kindle Singles” program&madsh;gaining popularity all the time.

And of course that means novels will probably become as obsolete as albums have. I mean, who buys CDs these days? (Hint: people still buy print books. Not sure on CDs…)

This is where the analogy breaks down. A novel (from most authors) is not like an album of music (from most artists). For most artists, an album is a compilation of songs which may mostly or all also be released as singles. Most of the time, the singles aren’t necessarily thematically, stylistically or otherwise related. In fact, I’m sure some artists strive for a lot of variety on an album.

What’s the equivalent of an album of music in fiction, then? A compilation, an anthology or a short story cycle. It’s a collection of shorter works, which might be related through the same characters or themes or settings, but they might not.

How is a novel different?

A novel is more than just a collection of shorter works. A novel (we hope!) develops the characters and plots to a more complex level. Novels can have more depth in characterization, themes, subplots, and exploring all these elements.

If we want to shoehorn this into the music analogy, I’d probably have to say that artists who construct an album as a cohesive whole, rather than writing individual songs as separate works. (Artists like Pink Floyd spring to mind, as well as The Who’s rock operas.)

What do you think? Music singles : Kindle singles :: albums : ??