The 8 Main Characteristics of the Novel

Some characteristics of the novel are prose writing, extensive length, fictional stories, diversity of subgenres and character development.

The novel is a fictional literary text characterized by considerable length and complexity.

story and novel differences

It usually addresses issues of human experience through a sequence of events that occur to a group of people within a specific context.

This genre encompasses a wide variety of sub-genres that has been expanded over the years and are determined by the themes they address and the narrative techniques they use.

The most important characteristics of the novel

As is usually the case with other themes associated with art and literature, there are great debates about the definitive characteristics of the novel.

However, it is possible to establish some that are common to most experts.

Writing in prose

One of the main features of the novel is its writing in prose, that is to say that it is not written in poetic format. This implies that it lacks metric rhythm, repetition or periodicity.

In some novels lines can be used in verse with different aesthetic purposes. However, in all these cases it can be distinguished that the general style corresponds to prose and that the verse is used only as a narrative resource.


The length of novels is one of the most debated features within the literary field. However, in general, the range is considered to be between 60,000 and 200,000 words.

Extension depends on gender and history. At times, when the plot and character development is brief, a novel can be very short.

However, when the development of situations warrants it, it can reach a large extent.

An example of this is the books of the saga of Harry Potter where each one of the novels was longer than the previous one.

This is because as the plot and the stories of the different characters became more complex, a greater extension was necessary.

The length depends on the sensitivity the author has to determine how necessary it is to develop a theme or a character. There is no standard measure and may vary according to the intentionality of each situation.


There is no rule that determines this characteristic, however, throughout the history of the humanity, the novels have been representatives of the innovation. That is to say, through them, the transit has been made to new ways of doing literature.

In fact, his name itself speaks of innovation: it comes from the Latin Novellus meaning"young and new". Which represents its importance within the vanguard of literature for each new generation.

This can also be seen in its continuous transformation over the centuries, unlike other literary genres that have remained stable over time, especially in the realm of poetry.

Fictitious but plausible content

Another fundamental feature of the novel are the themes it addresses. It is considered that these are pieces of fiction, however, his narrative is usually realistic and poses the facts plausibly and coherently.

This realism is given by the characters, their relationships and the coherence between the facts, even if they are fictitious. This implies the existence of a logic underlying the events and the way in which the characters react to them.

Thanks to this logic, the novel can consistently accommodate genres such as fantasy and science fiction. Which, are characterized by convincingly narrating facts that the reader recognizes as unreal.

Development of the plot

The plot refers to the events that unfold throughout history. This is determined by a conflict that raises the author and unfolds through different situations that live the characters of the work.

The extension of the novel allows the plot to be developed widely, giving space to complex situations.

In many cases even the central plot is surrounded by other small stories that are interconnected with the main facts.

Novels may have plots of different complexity. This will depend on the number of characters and situations that are intertwined to shape the facts.

In any case, the quality of a novel does not depend on the complexity of its plot. In reality, it depends on the ability of the author to give each fact and each character the necessary depth in the development of it.

Character development

Thanks to the length and the realistic characteristics of the novel, it is possible that there is also a broad development of the characters.

In some cases this is reflected in the existence of a large number of characters with different incidents within the plot.

However, this possibility also leads to the creation of deep characters to which the author makes known through a Biography details or events that clearly reveal their character.

The depth of character development, however, is always different and depends on the characteristics of each novel.

Publication Practices

The size and complexity of many novels, makes it necessary to publish independently.

This makes a big difference with other literary formats such as poetry or story, which are usually published within anthologies or collections.

Diversity of sub-genera

Over time, the novel has been transformed and evolved into new themes, approaches and aesthetic proposals.

For this reason, at present there is a great variety of sub-genera to the point that in some cases it is difficult to classify a novel in only one of them.

Each sub-genre employs different narrative techniques, different styles and tones to develop themes with very different approaches.

For example, historical novels use the narration of real historical facts but nuanced by fictional characters and events. This is done in order to propose a specific position on the events he narrates.

In contrast, the science fiction novel , create future societies based on orders and technologies that do not exist. This with the aim of illustrating characteristics typical of the current society through comparison or hyperbole.


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