Story, narrative, tale, anecdote, yarn all denote a recital of happenings less elaborate than a novel.
Story is the most general and the familiar word and may be interchanged with any of the others of the group, except in its generalized sense of legendary lore. A story may be oral or written, factual or fictitious, in prose or in verse, and designed to inform or to entertain but characteristically treats of a connected series of events or incidents rather than a single incident.
The short story and a newspaper story may treat of but one incident.
Narrative in its common use is more often factual than imaginative. As a literary composition narrative usually suggests a plot or causally connected series of motived incidents; thus, a chronicle or a diary is not ordinarily called a narrative .
Tale suggests, in consequence of its historical connection with oral telling, a more leisurely and more loosely organized recital, characteristically treating legendary or imaginary happenings, often those of ancient times, and may be in verse.
Anecdote , retaining something of its original sense of an unpublished item, applies to a brief story of a single detachable incident of curious or humorous interest, often illustrative of a truth or principle or of the character or foibles of a notable person.
Yarn often suggests a rambling and rather dubious tale of exciting adventure, marvelous or incredible, ingenious or fanciful, and not always reaching a clear-cut outcome.