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It’s critical to understand these elements and how they are related.

A. Plot — There are many definitions of plot, but plot is essentially the story, or the events that make up what the book is about. Plot, of course, is defined by conflict, either internal (Coming to terms with the loss of a spouse, for example) or external, (A stalker is watching through the window), and the best plots are both original and interesting. Complexity of the plot is a matter of taste, so is the setting (such as time period).

B. Character Development — Bringing the characters to life in the reader’s mind. They can range from thumbnail sketches to deep, wordy, highly detailed biographies of each character. It’s important to note that different genres and stories require different types of character development.

C. Writing Style — How the novel is written. Is the writing style efficient or complex? Does the author use an extensive vocabulary or get straight to the point? Are words used appropriately with regard to meaning, or do they seem written to showcase the “sound” of a sentence? Style should always be appropriate for the genre or story. An appropriate style adds to the texture of the novel; an inappropriate style does just the opposite. Literary fiction tends to lean toward complex sentences with original language. Thrillers tend to use shorter, more efficient sentences, especially as the pace quickens in the novel.

D. Length — Just what it says. How long is the book? The length should be appropriate to the genre and be appropriate to the story. The Notebook, which in its final form was 45,000 words, was originally 80,000 words before I edited it down. Why did I cut so much? Because the story was so simple (only two main characters and two settings, and the majority of the novel was devoted to only a couple of days) that the additional words didn’t add much; in fact, all they did was slow the story to a crawl. In The Rescue, I cut 20% from the original draft for the same reason. In A Bend in the Road, I cut 25%. In Stephen King’s book, On Writing, he says his general rule of thumb is to cut 10%. According to what I’ve heard about Hemingway, his advice was to take the first fifty pages of your novel and cut them down to five pages. Sometimes when writing, less is more. (Ignore the use of the cliche, but it’s appropriate here.)



A novel is a fictional piece of prose usually written in a narrative style. Novels tell stories, which are typically defined as a series of events described in a sequence. The novel has been a part of human culture for over a thousand years, although its origins are somewhat debated. Regardless of how it began, the novel has risen to prominence and remained one of the most popular and treasured examples of human culture and writing.


There have been stories and tales for thousands of years, but novels must combine a few unique characteristics in order to be defined as such. First, a novel is written down. rather than told through an oral account. Secondly, novels are meant to be fictional in form, differentiating them from myths, which are said to have their basis in reality or theology. Although some modern scholars argue differently, there is no truly established guideline for length, point-of-view, or even establishment of a moral or philosophical point in novels.

Although an earlier Sanskrit story called Dasakumaracarita may in fact be the earliest example, an 11th century Japanese book called The Tale of Genji is more commonly accepted as the origin of modern novels. Written by Lady Murasaki Shikibu, a minor court member, The Tale of Genji traces the heroics and female conquests of a Japanese Don Juan. It is perhaps here that novels gained their reputation for being a bit silly and trifling, despite numerous examples throughout the centuries of superlative writing in the style.

Naturally, novels could not receive wide distribution until the use of printing presses became common throughout the world. Even so, a few fictional works from the medieval and early modern periods stand out as landmarks of literary style. Chaucer‘s Canterbury Tales is still taught to lecture-halls full of English literature majors today as one of the earliest celebrated novels.

Throughout the centuries, the novel stumbled along with great waxing and waning in popularity. Many modern examples held up as great novels were written throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, when novels finally gained a permanent position as an acceptable form of literature. Since that time, novels have become the most common form of published literature, far outpacing the published plays, poetry, and works of non-fiction that once held sway over the literate world.

Novels are often beloved for their creation of spectacular worlds, empathetic characters, and carefully thought-out arguments. They are often seen as a boundless realm of exploration and creativity, with subgenres springing up to include nearly every type of subject that can be written about. The literary style remains cost-effective despite the range of imaginary things that can be put into novels; unlike the soaring costs of special effects and computer graphics needed to make a fantastical movie, a novel requires only imagination and talent to create massive worlds and detailed characters.

At times, novels have greatly influenced societal behavior; the abolitionist novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, is sometimes cited as a major influence that drew the United States toward the Civil War. In the late 19th century, it was not uncommon for people to jam boatyards and mob newspaper stands, desperate for the next chapter of Mr. Charles Dickens‘ latest serialized novel. In recent times the success of J.K. Rowling‘s Harry Potter series sparked hundreds of midnight bookstore openings and lavish parties around the world at the first release of each book.// //