There are certain elements which every novel has and these
* style and presentation.
Most of you will be familiar with all of these, but it
doesn't hurt to revise!
This is what happens in the novel, it's the author's
arrangement of the story.
Key points to note:
- there can be a logical development of events with a careful
linking of scenes or
- there can be a series of apparently unrelated scenes which
are not shown to be connected until the end of the novel - there should be a
beginning, a middle and an end
- the plot should be plausible, but there can still be
room for the element of surprise
- there should be conflict, either within the central
characters or between characters, or between characters and their environment
- the climax of the story is the highest point of
interest; the moment when the conflict is most intense; the time when the
consequences of a character's actions become inevitable; when all the main
points of the plot merge
- the denouement is when all the little mysteries in
the plot are revealed and all the loose ends are tidied up
- the pace of the novel slows with the denouement.
This is a sequence (or sequences) of events that parallels
the main plot; it can closely resemble the main plot or it can diverge in
significant ways in order to highlight the main plot.
The setting of a novel encompasses a number of different, but
* time - day or night; summer or winter; the historical
period (an actual date)
* place - inside or outside; country or city; specific town
and country; real or fictional
* social - the minor characters who take little part in
advancing the plot, but whose presence contributes to the realism of the novel
* mood and atmosphere - eerie; dangerous; menacing; tense;
threatening; relaxing; nostalgic; happy; light-hearted etc.
Characters in a novel are the vehicles by which the author
conveys to us his / her view of the world.
Key points to note:
- we learn about individual characters from their own words
and actions; from what other characters say about them and the way others act
- characters help to advance the plot
- believable characters must grow and change in response to
their experiences in the novel.
This is the central idea which runs through the novel; the
author's purpose in writing.
- it is the point of view from which the author is writing
and there may be a moral to the story - such as the need for social
reform in many of Dickens' novels
- the theme gives the story focus, unity, impact and a
- the theme becomes clear by looking at what happens to the
major characters. If the main character survives while others don't, it shows us
that his (or her) behaviour is being rewarded by the author
These are often used to help clarify a theme and can be
anything from a single object (a key, a necklace, a stone); a place (the beach,
an airport, a house); a repeated type of object (a dark car, a woman in
sunglasses, an eagle flying overhead); a shape (diamonds, circles, crucifixes);
a gesture (wiping glasses, lighting a pipe, a hand in a pocket); a colour; a
sound; a piece of music, poetry; to a fragrance (the smell of new-mown grass,
- symbols are used to give intangible ideas and emotions a
visibility and solidity that makes the reader notice them
- symbols can help to give unity to the plot - a recurring
symbol is used to link different events and characters
This is the revelation of the unexpected consequences of
actions and words.
- irony can add interest, humour and impact to the novel
- it can give depth to characters, tighten the plot, help to
define the characters and contribute to our understanding of the author's theme.
This is the way the story is written.
There are four main ways a story can be presented (and
countless combinations of these):
the central character tells the story in his / her own
a non-central character tells the story
the author refers to all characters in the third person,
but reveals only what can be seen, heard or thought by a central character
the author refers to each character in the third person
and describes what most or all of the characters see, hear and think; the
author can also describe events which do not concern any of the characters
The author can adopt:
- a subjective point of view, which means he / she
judges and interprets the characters for the reader
- or an objective view, in which the author presents
events and allows the reader to make judgements
- an author can use 'flash-backs' to fill in background
The language used by the author also reveals the theme and
purpose of the novel:
- the complexity of sentence and paragraph structure; the use
of humour, satire and irony; imagery and other poetic devices and word choice
all contribute to our appreciation of the characters and events which involve
- the reader can be left totally unconcerned about the fate
of characters or can shed tears when some tragic end overtakes them.
When writing about the novel, you will always be directed to
discuss a particular aspect of the author's work.
* Work out just what the question is asking you to do
* Write a properly structured essay in response to the
AND - always read the question carefully to make sure that an
essay is the required response - if not, organise your information to suit the
requirements of the question, following the same steps for planning.
ALWAYS quote from the novel to illustrate and support
your main points. You're not expected to memorise large sections of the novel,
but it's easy to remember short quotations in a novel. For example, when writing
about a novel like Animal Farm, instead of using your own words to
describe the way the pigs gradually seize control of the farmyard revolution,
you could quote the change in the seventh commandment from: "All animals
are equal" at the beginning of the revolution to: "All animals
are equal but some are more equal than others" at the end.