- I. Definition
A novel is a book of long narrative in literary prose. The genre has historical roots both in the fields of the medieval and early modern romance and in the tradition of the novella. The latter supplied the present generic term in the late 18th century.
Further definition of the genre is historically difficult. The construction of the narrative, the plot, the way reality is created in the works of fiction, the fascination of the character study, and the use of language are usually discussed to show a novel’s artistic merits. Most of these requirements were introduced in the 16th and 17th centuries in order to give fiction a justification outside the field of factual history. The individualism of the presentation makes the personal memoir and the autobiography the two closest relatives among the genres of modern histories.
The novel, however, arises from the desire to depict and interpret human character. The reader of a novel is both entertained and aided in a deeper perception of life’s problems.
The word “novel” (which wasn’t even used until the end of the 18th century) is an English transliteration of the Italian word “novella”–used to describe a short, compact, broadly realistic tale popular during the medieval period (e.g. The Decameron).
The novel deals with a human character in a social situation, man as a social being. The novel places more emphasis on character, especially one well-rounded character, than on plot. Another initial major characteristic of the novel is realism–a full and authentic report of human life.
The traditional novel has:
- a unified and plausible plot structure
- sharply individualized and believable characters
- a pervasive illusion of reality
The present English (and Spanish) word derives from the Italian novella for “new”, “news”, or “short story of something new”, itself from the Latin novella, a singular noun use of the neuter plural of novellus, diminutive of novus, meaning “new”. Most European languages have preserved the term “romance” (as in French, German, Croatian and Swedish “Roman”, and in Portuguese “Romance”) for extended narratives.
The English and Spanish decisions came with the 17th-century fashion of shorter exemplary histories. See the chapters “Petites histoires” or “novels”, 1600–1740 and The words “novel” and “romance” in the following.
- II. Explanation of Characteristics of the novel
- A novel is a work of fiction: Refers to where its events take place: is it in the city or the country; the past or the future; here or in space?
- A novel has a plot: Means the people who appear in the story and whose actions and reactions are essential parts of the novel.
- A novel has a setting: It might be love, courage or cowardice; loyalty or disloyalty; growing up or seeking individuality.
- A novel has a theme or a main concern: A novel is not true, but comes from the writer’s imagination. (It could be related to true events, however.)
- A novel has strong characterisation: Refers to the plan of the novel, or what actuall happens. It contains complications to create tension in the novel.
- A novel must use expressive language: A novelist has no visual aids and so must ‘paint’ characters and settings with words.
III. Elements of a novel
Theme is simply the moral of your story. It is the message you wish to convey or the lesson you want the reader to learn. Theme is revealed through the values of characters when confronting obstacles and resolving conflict in pursuit of their goal. It can be considered the foundation and purpose of your novel. Without purpose, the story becomes trivial.
Perhaps the single most important aspect of a good novel is characterization. The reader must care about your characters in order to care about what happens to them. To achieve this, your characters must be three-dimensional. Like real people, characters have hopes and fears, strengths and weaknesses, and one or more objectives. Even if you don’t use all of the information, it helps to write down as many details about your characters as possible.
Before you even write a book, you should have a good idea of what it is going to be about. You have everything well thought out, and you are bursting with ideas that you can’t wait to put on paper. In your mind, you can visualize the events, and you very well know the way your story should flow. You want it to end in a certain way and you desire the reader to be affected in a certain manner.
Yes, you have a rough idea of how the events should flow from the very beginning down to the very end. Your story will not simply be a combination of unrelated and haphazard events. Rather, these events will be arranged in a certain pattern, with discernable logical transitions between them. Indeed these events are bridged, so that your reader will ‘journey’ on without encountering confusing gaps.
This in essence, is what a plot is: a flow of events in a story. The plot has five parts to it, and these are:
- rising action
- falling action
Let us discuss each of these in detail.
This is where you introduce the characters, the setting, and the conflict. This is where you set the stage, so to speak that proverbial stage where your characters are going to act and where all the action is going to take place.
The exposition is the part of the novel of least action, but that does not mean it is not important. It is in fact the most important part of your plot. This is because it is where you set the ground work; the foundation of your whole book. A poor foundation will render your whole weak useless. Is it not true that most of us put books away because the first few pages are downright boring? So pay particular attention to the exposition.
- Rising Action
Ah! This is where the novel starts getting interesting. The characters start acting. They get caught up in problems and/ or move to solve these problems. The reader is gripped by the action. The transition from exposition to rising action should happy early on so as to engage the reader and keep her reading. If this transition does not happen early enough, your reader will get bored and won’t see the point of reading on.
This is where the action reaches its peak. The conflict is highest. At this point, the reader cannot simply put the book down.
- Falling Action
After the graph of activity reaches its maximum, it rapidly starts dropping. During this period, the truth is brought out, and all the mysteries are solved.
The conflict is resolved, and the story comes to its end. The reader responds with a sigh, a chuckle, a sniffle, a frown whatever response you intended.
For a work of fiction to be worth reading, something has to happen by the end. You have to take the reader to from Point A to Point B. This journey might be:
- a change in the character (for example, the character matures or overcomes a challenge).
- a change in the situation (for example, zombies take over the town).
- a change in the readers’ understanding (for example, in the beginning, readers think the protagonist was falsely accused of murder, and at the end, readers understand that he is guilty).
- d. Setting
Setting is where your novel takes place. Your setting might be a room, a forest, a battlefield, a spaceship…
- Create atmosphere for your fiction, help your reader imagine the scenes.
- Convey information about a character. For example, if your character’s life is in chaos, you could express this by showing her in her messy home.
- Provide plot opportunities. For example, if your setting is a Florida swamp, and you put a hungry alligator in your character’s path, then something interesting is likely to happen.
- e. Point of View
Narrative point of view is the perspective from which you tell a work of fiction. From what angle do the readers see the action? Are they at the police station? Looking over the murderer’s shoulder? Inside the murderer’s brain?
Another way to think of point of view: If your novel were a movie, the point of view would be the location of the camera.
Your narrator is the voice that’s telling the story.
- A first-person narrator tells the story using the words “I” and “me,” as if he/she were actually there.
- A third-person narrator tells the story from the outside and doesn’t use the word “I” and “me” to describe the story’s events because he or she isn’t a participant. Instead, this type of narrator describes the characters as “he/him” or “she/her,” etc.
Dialogue is your characters’ conversation presented directly on the page. If I tell you that Marcia asked John out, that’s not dialogue. Dialogue is when I show it to you in Marcia’s exact words. Example: “Want to go to a movie?” Marcia asked John.
– How to Write Dialogue
Do you hear voices in your head? If so, I’d recommend against mentioning that at a job interview or on a first date.
How do you show who’s saying what? Often, fiction writers start a new paragraph each times the speaker changes. You can also include dialogue tags such as “he said,” “she murmured,” “I asked.” But you can skip the dialogue tags when it’s obvious who’s talking without them.
Take some fiction books off your shelf and looking at the dialogue format. There are no unbreakable rules for writing dialogue (it’s called “creative writing” for a reason), but there are some common practices, and I’d suggest following them unless you have a good reason not to.
– Dos and don’ts for writing dialogue
- Pay attention to each character’s different speaking style.
- Edit dialogue to trim off most of the fat. A lot of what people say is just blah-blah-blah, but you don’t want to bore your reader.
- Show how the character speaks instead of telling it. If the character speaks angrily, you can make this come through in her words — it’s therefore often not necessary to add an expressive dialogue tag such as, “she said angrily.” The same if a character is shouting or crying, etc. Keep the reader’s attention on your character’s speech, not your explanation of it.
- Don’t get too colorful with the dialogue tags. “Hello,” she shouted; “Hi there,” he cried; “How are you?” she queried,” “Fine thanks,” he shrilled”… too much of this stuff gets distracting fast. Put your thesaurus away. The basic dialogue verbs “say,” “tell,” and “ask,” have the advantage of fading in the background, letting the reader focus on what your character is saying.
- Don’t feel obligated to add a tag to every bit of dialogue. If it’s clear who’s saying what without them, then you can leave them off.
- Don’t let your reader get disoriented. Use dialogue tags when they’re needed to prevent confusion. There’s nothing worse than stopping in the middle of an exciting scene to retrace the dialogue and try to figure out who’s saying what (“Okay, it’s the killer speaking here, so this must be the detective who’s answering him, not his sister…”)
– Some reasons for using dialogue
- To let the reader hear your character’s voice.
- When the conversation is a key event in the story. In other words, if your characters are chatting about the weather while they’re waiting for the bus, that might just be background. But if your story’s about a pregnant teenager, the conversation where her boyfriend proposes marriage is probably a critical event that will change the direction of the story. Show it.
- (In small quantities) As background, to set a scene.
In other cases, dialogue’s not the best option, and it’s better to summarize the conversation.
- “She repeated to her husband everything that had just happened. He listened to her for hours, until the sun started to come up.”
- “We almost died of boredom as Aunt Bertha went on and on about her poodles weight loss program.”
Those are two conversations you probably don’t want to write out as dialogue.
- g. Conflict
The conflict, tension or problem is what makes the story move. Of the elements of a novel, this one is one of the most important. The characters move to solve this conflict, and their Endeavour’s to solve these problems are what make the story worth reading. Without conflict, there is no story.
Here is the blue print of a normal story:
A problem arises à character(s) move to solve problem à Problem solved.
You will find this sequence in all stories. It is all about problems…
IV. Genres of novel
Some major genres:
- Mysteries – A mystery is about a crime, usually a murder, and the process of discovering who committed it. The hero (ine) is usually a detective or an amateur doing detective work.
- Science fiction – Science fiction is fiction that imagines possible alternatives to reality. It is reality + “What-if.” For example: What if the world ended? What if there were lives on other planets? The imaginary part of science fiction is based on known scientific facts. For example, if there is time travel in a science fiction book, it would be done with technology, not by waving a magic wand.
- Fantasy – Like science fiction, fantasy is about imaginary worlds. But the imaginary part of fantasy novels usually involves magic, where the imaginary part of science fiction involves science or technology.
- Westerns – Westerns normally take place in the Western U.S. (although sometimes in other locations), most often during the 19th century. Common elements include cowboys, ranchers, the difficulties of frontier life, frontier justice, and conflicts between natives and settlers.
- Horror – Horror fiction gets its name because it is focused on creating emotions of terror and dread in the reader. Horror fiction often accomplishes this through the use of scary supernatural elements or gore, but, according to the Horror Writers Association, these elements are not required.
- Thrillers – Like horror, a thriller gets its name because of the feeling it creates in the reader. Thrillers are designed to make the reader’s pulse race, to keep him or her turning pages. Often thrillers are about a crime that is going to be committed or a disaster that is going to happen… if the hero(ine) doesn’t prevent it.
- Romance – Romance fiction is about love and passion. Normally, the focus is on two characters who fall in love but have problems or obstacles keeping them apart, and there is a happy ending.
- Historical – Historical novels are set in a past time period, normally at least fifty years before they were written. They combine a made-up story with realistic details of that time period.
These are many other fiction genres in addition to these! And each genre has sub-genres, or sub-categories. For example, the romance genre includes historical romances,erotic romances, young adult romances, and more.