Novel – What is it, What is its function, Characteristics and How to write a novel? 


What is a novel?

The novel is one of the most important subgenres of the narrative genre and, together with the short story, one of the most representative of this field of literature. Its development and enrichment through the years has produced a great number of essential works for universal literature, with authors from different parts of the world who have made great contributions to this particular subgenre, highlighting its importance and prestige.

The novel is a literary work that is written in prose and focuses on the narration of real or fictitious events, reaching a certain length, which will allow you to give a greater intensity of time to the central narrative through space to increase its continuity.


The term -novel-, comes from novella in Italian, which refers to “news”. Thus, the term has been used mainly to refer to works of literature that are developed in prose and that narrate real or fictional actions. Hence it was considered in its beginnings as the novel narrative, coming from the Greco-Latin antiquity and that begins to develop fundamentally in Modernity.


A novel is defined as a literary narration that is usually of a fictional character in which a series of events appear that are prolonged in time, which is why it can reach a more or less extensive course. One of the most important aspects of the novel has to do with the fact that its plot is more complex than other texts, such as the short story, since it usually has several main characters and its narrative point can vary.

The term novel is often used to refer to an event as a lie, a hoax, pointing mainly to its fictional power in everyday speech. Thus, the novel has been considered one of the narrative subgenres that most successfully reflects the complexities of the lives of human beings, given that its course takes, in large part, years of the lives of characters in which human conditions are evident.

What is the function of the novel?

The purpose of a novel depends substantially on the writer’s intention, since it can either have the purpose of disseminating experiences, ideas, questions or desires of the author to influence or raise a key aspect in society from the public to which it is addressed. On the other hand, another objective may be focused on the dissemination of customs, lifestyles and life projects of a specific social group, taking into account the era, i.e., the time in which the story takes place.

Origin of the novel 

The novel was born in Greece and Rome between the second century B.C. and the third century A.D.; however, there is knowledge of narrative texts that were part of the oral tradition in previous times, especially in Sumer. The interest in the human character begins to appear within the works of literature and will leave a large number of productions, among which there are several divisions, where there are the romantic novels and travel novels that later will evolve into other categories.

The Genji novel or also known as Genji Monogatari, is one of the oldest literary works in history and is considered a classic novel in Japanese literature and a precursor of the narrative subgenre of the novel. Towards the eleventh and twelfth centuries, the authors of romanticism began to emerge in the West, who would dedicate themselves to writing fictional narratives in verse and bear their name, given that the writing was done in the Romance language. The most frequent themes of these productions will be chivalry. By the 13th century, the first novels of Western modernism appeared, such as Blanquerna and Féliz or the Book of Wonders and another series of smaller texts.

With the emergence of the printing press in the 16th century, the commercialization of novels began and their increased production suggested the need to organize literary works into types of novels, as we will see in a moment.

What is a novel

Characteristics of the novel 

This subgenre of narrative includes resources such as description, dialogue, monologues, epistles and several other writing resources that allow enriching the story of the characters, always taking care of the aesthetics of the words, the development of the characters and the scenarios in which the events occur.

Some other characteristics of the novelistic work are:

Prose writing

Unlike other narrative texts, the novel is not written under the poetic structure, but prose is used, a format or form of writing does not have a specific measure, it develops in a more natural way and comes from certain cadences.

Plausible content

Within the themes addressed by the novel, whether fictional or real, it is characterized by the fact that the facts are presented in a plausible way, that is, there is the possibility that it may arise and it is credible to the reader. This is due to the fact that the relationships and characters go through possible events that give coherence to the facts they recreate.

Diversity of elements

This is another of the keys to the novel, given that it can contain diverse aspects in the same text, which is why it owes its complexity and the fact that it can be considered open-ended. It is precisely this characteristic that allows the writer to include various elements of the characters with fragments of other stories, crossing of events and adventures, jumps in time or other narrative resources that enrich the story and differentiate the novel from other types of text in the narrative genre.

Importance of details

Another important aspect is the connotative load that the novel has, since in it the details usually have a great relevance, even the words and dialogues are a source of interpretation for the reader, as well as the scenario in which the events occur.

Description of the characters

In addition to the multiplicity of characters that may appear in the novel, the author describes each one of them, giving characteristics not only about their physical appearance, but also about their personality and psychology, in a way that increases the credibility of the story and the reader’s knowledge to get into the story. This, added to the dialogues, reveals even more of the characters.

Text length

The novel exceeds the length of a short story, however, there are also short novels, which have a length close to that of a short story. In order to differentiate them, it is key to take into account the elements, the course of events and other novelistic characteristics that allow differentiation, since the length can vary. The novel can be read over a longer period of time and its complexity is greater due to the varied explorations into which it is divided.

What are the Parts? 

Due to the great variety of formats that the novel can take, as we will see in a moment in the types of novels, the structure and its parts can also undergo variations according to the author’s intention.

The parts of this subgenre of narrative are mainly divided into the narrative elements, which are:


The beginning of the story is stated. Here the author announces the theme or introduces the characters developing actions or situations in which he proceeds to make physical and psychological descriptions in a certain environment that, in most cases, will have a great importance in the course of the story.


This is the central area of the story in which the course of the initial events have led to the climax that grows in this part. Here events such as conflicts, problems, obstacles, misunderstandings and other key moments take place until the climax is reached.


The final part of the story begins to develop with the resolution of the conflicts raised in the knot of the novel after having reached its peak. This is how pleasant or unpleasant situations develop for the characters of the story and will lead to the final goal set by the writer with the situations that are generated.

Essential elements of the novel

Essential elements of the novel

The main elements of the novel are:


Particularly in the novel, one or several narrators may appear within the events. These figures will be in charge of telling the story and the course of events. The narrators can be witnesses within the narration, they can be the protagonists themselves and they can even not be within the same story.


Within the novel there are a greater number of characters, who develop the actions and whose lives or experiences are told within the text. The characters, as we mentioned, also have the power to be the narrators of the novel.


They are very important in the novel, they are the transcriptions of the conversations that the characters have in their different moments. In these appearances, the narrator does not intervene to tell but they are said directly from the characters.

On the other hand, there are:


It is built from the narration of the events, where it reaches its maximum points to find, later, a resolution within the same text. In the course of the actions the rhythm can vary in cadence and speed, coherence must be maintained within the transitions to give correct continuity to the events and not give rise to contradictions or disconnections of time.

Scenic frame

This is the physical environment in which the events take place, which must be properly described by the writer so that the reader can make mental images of the place where the characters are and most of their conditions. It is one of the most important elements for the novel, since it is in these scenarios that the stories and the course of events emerge. It must be of great importance.

Types of Novels 

One of the most important aspects of the novel is related to the fact that it can have a great number of forms and, therefore, its classifications are very varied within the literary world. However, in the process of its development, a list of types of novels that are now known worldwide have been highlighted.

These are:


Short novel

As its name indicates, it is a narrative that has the same characteristics of a novel but differs in its length, it is often confused with the short story. Although it is shorter in length, it contains a central plot and the presence of several characters around which the subplots or secondary plots revolve.

Adventure novel

It is one of the most important types of the novel, where the story narrated within its structure from beginning to end is based on a vital event of a character related to a journey. It is characterized because in the course of the text, a series of events take place that, at the end of the novel, the character is not the same and transforms several aspects of his own person.


Police novel

In recent years it has been one of the most important. A detective novel is mainly associated with the resolution of crimes, so that its characters, especially its protagonists, are usually police officers, characters with charges before the law, detectives, among others.


Science fiction novel

Another type of novel that has a large number of references is science fiction, in this category the authors explore different possibilities of realities, where they can mix aspects such as technology, scientific knowledge, advances, etc., that impact the lives of human beings and propose new options based on invention.

Fantastic novel

This type of novel specializes in developing a possible world that is built from the imagination, in which the rules of this scenario are on the rise, as well as the appearance of creatures completely different from those of the real world as we know it.


Realistic novel

Unlike fiction and fantasy novels, this type of novel is centered on events that are set in the real world, where there is no presence of supernatural figures or magical creatures.

Romance novel

Novels of this type revolve around love and sentimental events of characters, who will be the protagonists of the story. This category also usually includes eroticism as one of its most important axes.


Horror novels

Horror literature, as it is also known because it acts within the novel subgenre, extends in horror stories that include monstrous and supernatural characters or entities about which there is no knowledge and are causing the fear of the characters, passing it also to the readers.

Psychological novel

They are a type of novels that point to themes with existential and transcendental character plots, which can be set in an event or series of specific events that promote them.


Epistolary novel

This type of novel expresses the story from the reproduction of letters, although it also usually links the revelation of diaries, e-mails and a series of other correspondence contents that happen between the characters of the novel and that direct the course of events.

Novel of chivalry

This type of novel is one of the oldest and most important within this narrative field. It is characterized because it focuses on the life of a knight belonging to the Middle Ages of the European continent and with him, adventures and events through which he passed victorious.

Types of Novels 

How to write a novel?

Now, writing a novel is not a simple process, because in addition to taking into account the above points, everything else is up to the writer. That is why we have put together a series of points that should be taken into account to get started:

Know and research

Writing a novel implies having several elements in mind beforehand, such as the central plot on which the story will focus and which will lead to the end. However, having all this in mind depends on the creativity and personal interests of the author. That is why, in principle, you should know the subgenre very well and previously research key data for the verisimilitude of the novel.

Remember that writing a novel requires having read some texts of this type, because in this way you will have more knowledge about the possibilities that you can implement and enrich your work.

Pitch the idea 

Now, the next step is oriented to the construction and presentation of the idea, which, in many cases, is already established by the writer. The central idea will be the center of plot twists and from where the main characters, settings and others appear. Around it, you should consult the precise data and put it as a reference point to guide the path of the story.

Establish the narrative voice 

Remember that in subgenres such as the novel, the narrative voice can be located in one of the characters, in first, second or third person, but not necessarily the protagonist is the one who narrates his story. Try playing with giving it to other characters, you may discover great treasures as you write. It is crucial to pay attention to who will narrate the story, especially when it is within the characters, because it has particular characteristics in the way of telling it that you must take into account and evaluate if it will meet the objective.

Keep in mind that the narrator can know a lot about the story, can intervene in it and you can choose the point of view from which it is told, as this will have a great influence on the reader.

Define the characters

Once the above is done, it is time to define who the characters will be and their most important characteristics. Each of the characters is very important, so you must identify biographical aspects, preferences, age, origin, tastes, ways of relating to other characters, daily activities, among other key data that allow them to have a way to develop in the story.

Explore possible sub-plots

Much of the magic of the novel is nourished from the small stories that happen around a central plot, as happens if we look at our daily lives. These are subplots that take place and function to strengthen the central plot, explain some previous events or nurture the characterization of the characters. To find them, you can look at the lives of the characters you have previously detailed.

Examine key moments 

The story you are going to tell must have situations or events that trigger changes in the turn of the story and that are key for each of the characters, such as deaths, departures, change of lifestyle, among others. Ideally, a novel should have about three events like these for the final resolution and they should be consistent with the story being told.

Prepare the ending 

In many cases, writers are clear about the ending of their novel, but the detailed exploration of the characters, the course of the plot and other aspects can influence the final process. That is why it is necessary to have a starting point for the final action, fine-tuning details that you feel must be clear to close the story. Be sure to choose the ending that fits with everything that was happening in the story, an encounter, a change of life, a discovery, among other events depending on the story.

It is important to keep in mind the importance of keeping the reader’s attention for writing a good novel, where there is balance between the course of events and the characters. Avoid too many unexpected twists and make sure that those that do exist are coherent with the central story, land the path and do not deviate too much, as it is about a solid central plot. And remember to write drafts and revise constantly.

Most important authors and works 

Among the most important works and authors of this narrative subgenre, we find Rayuela by Julio Cortázar, Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes, Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky, One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez, For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway, Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert, The Trial by Franz Kafka, among others. There are also other representative authors such as Mario Vargas Llosa, Romulo Gallegos, Fernando Vallejo, Carlos Fuentes, Juan Carlos Onetti and Juan Goytisolo.

Nowadays, the novel continues to be one of the most important narrative texts and for this reason, the production of this type of texts has not ceased with the passing of time. It continues with great strength, providing diverse stories that appeal to a wide variety of audiences.