What Are Novels?
Novels are fictional works that are written in narrative form and published as books. They have been a part of human culture for centuries, and they remain one of the most popular forms of literature around the world. Whether it is a classic like Tolstoy’s War and Peace or a contemporary bestseller like Harry Potter, novels are a way for people to escape the realities of life and engage their minds with a poetic mechanism that entertains and informs.
Unlike short stories and novellas, novels have the scope to develop characters and plots in more depth and detail. The story often progresses through an arc of character development, a plot of conflict and resolution and an overarching theme. In some cases, the story may also address larger social or philosophical issues and questions. While some authors will treat their novels seriously, others use the format as a vehicle for lightheartedness and frivolity.
There are many different types of novels, depending on the genre and setting. The story could revolve around a romance, an adventure or a crime. Some novels focus on historical events, while others are set in modern times or even in the future. Some are written in the language of poetry, while others are written in prose. The word novel derives from the Latin novem, meaning new thing or novelty. It is thought that the earliest novels were simply reworkings of old fables or myths, but they gradually developed into their current form.
A good novel should be able to captivate its readers and draw them into the story, a task that is made easier with a strong plot. There are some well-known plots that are used repeatedly, such as the ‘hero’s journey’, in which the protagonist is forced to face a challenge, and then overcome it. Examples of this type of plot include Beowulf, The Count of Monte Cristo and Harry Potter. Another popular story is the’rebirth’ plot, in which the protagonist experiences some kind of loss or suffering and returns, a changed person, to the community. This is evident in The Chronicles of Narnia and The Grinch Who Stole Christmas.
The advent of printing technology in the 16th and 17th centuries allowed the novel to expand into a more popular format. Novels became the most widely-read genre of literary work, far outpacing plays, poetry and non-fiction. They have remained the most popular form of literature worldwide.
A good plot will have a clear cause and effect relationship between the events that happen. For example, the king dies and then his wife dies out of grief, is a simple but compelling plot. Novels can have any scheme of events that holds together the who, what, where and when of a story — from raw action to hidden syllogism to prolonged solipsist contemplation, as in Marcel Proust’s great roman-fleuve A la recherche du temps perdu (Remembrance of Things Past). The key is to create a world and characters that are sufficiently engaging to hold reader attention.