Discussion Topic

Defining a novel and its elements


A novel is a long, fictional narrative that explores human experiences through a connected series of events and characters. Key elements include plot, setting, characters, theme, and point of view. The plot is the sequence of events, while the setting provides the time and place. Characters drive the story, the theme conveys underlying messages, and the point of view shapes the narrative perspective.

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How would you define a novel and its elements?

A novel is a work of long prose fiction.

There are many types of novels.  Novel is not a genre in itself, but rather a form.  There are two main basic modes of writing: prose and poetry.  A poem focuses on meter and language, and prose focuses on speaking-like sentences.

The main elements of a novel are the same as all prose fiction.  They include characters and point of view, setting, plot, and theme.  Novels also usually have chapters, and are significantly longer than short stories.  This allows a novel to have more depth and complexity, more fully-developed characters and settings, and multiple themes.

Characters are the people who populate the novel.  A novel will typically have one or more main characters, as well as secondary characters.

Point of view refers to how the story is narrated.  This can include first person (I, me, my, we), third person limited (one perspective, he, she, them, names) and third person omniscient (same as limited, but with an all-knowing narrator).

Setting is where the story takes place.  This consists of the time and place, but also includes local customs and traditions and time periods.

Plot refers to what happens in the novel.  We describe plot as exposition (introduces the story), rising action (the problem develops), climax (the turning point), falling action (wrapping up), and resolution (ending). 

Theme is the message of the story, or the moral.  This is essentially the reason for telling the story, to explore human nature and deeper meanings.

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What defines a novel?

Defining the term 'novel' is no easy task because this word means different things to different people. Novels do share some common characteristics, though, as outlined here by Carson-Newman University:

  • A novel is usually a piece of extended fictional prose.
  • It is generally longer than 50,000 words which helps us to separate a novel from a novella (a piece or prose with less than 50,000 words) or a short story. 
  • It has a set of primary characters as well as secondary characters.

In addition, there is no specific genre for a novel. From mystery and science fiction to romance and thrillers, a novel can belong to any genre. Similarly, a novel is not limited to specific themes or ideas. Novels can deal with any subject from any perspective and can be situated in any time and space.

For more information, please see the reference links provided.

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