A novel can be described in the following ways.
A work of the imagination. A novel is a work of fiction. Fiction means a story which is created or made up by the author. It is not a true story. The events, incidents or people in it have been drawn out of the writer’s imagination or thinking.
A story that is rather long. A novel is quite long, at least 150 pages, often longer than that..
A novel has a plot. The plot of a novel is made up of events, i.e. things that happen. In a plot, these events are woven together in a deliberate pattern..
A novel has people or characters. A novel has characters, i.e. people or individuals with their own personalities and traits. What the characters do affect the other characters and contribute to the plot of the novel.
A novel imitates real life. The events in a novel mimics real life. A novel represents real life having in it what we can believe are real people even though some novels have fantasy characters (e.g. superman) or non-real life happenings.
A novel may be fantasy but has to be believable. A novel has to be credible, or believable. Frankenstein is a character in a novel but the character is so well created that people believe in it. Similarly, the ‘Twilight’ series are stories of vampires who do not exist in real life but people reading them can believe in the stories.
A novel contains a point of interest or a twist. A novel is usually interesting in a way that readers want to continue to read it. An unusual event may happen that is totally unexpected. The twist may serve to save the day. Or it can be something that happens that you would not expect to see happen in normal everyday living. Again, these unusual happenings are written in a way that make them totally believable.
There are good and bad characters. Characters can be good people or bad people. The good ones are remembered in terms of the good they do, their achievements or sacrifices. The bad ones are usually extraordinarily evil and are remembered for the terrible things they do..
Novel means ‘new’ and must surprise the reader in some way. The very word ‘novel’ itself tells the reader that what is told is ‘new’ or ‘news’ or ‘story of something new’. Hence a novel must have the capacity to surprise the reader or must contain something unusual that he has not heard of.
Although novels depict real life, they can depict a completely different world e.g. planet of the apes. A novel is also seen as little histories, hence they are meant to depict real life, although science fiction and others can depict a world entirely different from the real world as we know it. One such example of a different world(s) is ‘Gulliver’s Travels’.
A novel keeps the reader guessing. A good number of novels are written in a way that keeps the reader on edge – they are full of suspense or unresolved questions. A reader wants to read on to find out how something will work out.
The children’s stories in ‘Step by Wicked Step’ make the reader want to read on to find out what happens in the end. After reading the story of Richard Harwick, the reader is keen to find out the experiences of the other characters. Was the character very unhappy like Richard Harwick? How did the boy’s or girl’s problem work out?
A novel makes us think. Good novels stay in the mind days after one has completed reading it. In other words, good novels give food for thought, i.e. they stimulate one’s thinking. We tend to play out the incidents in the story in our minds over and over again, especially the happy bits as we go into the characters’ lives and we, along with them, experience what they are experiencing.
A novel plays on the reader’s emotions. Since we go into the characters’ lives and experience what they are experiencing, novels can make us sad when the characters are sad or happy when something good happens to the characters. We can also feel anger, hatred, and a host of other emotions. This is what makes novels exciting to read.
A novel entertains. Reading novels is a good pastime or recreation. It is relaxing and we can escape from our routine lives and its problems temporarily as we get involved in the lives of the characters in the novel.
A novel sometimes presents serious issues. Although the theme of novels can be something quite minor, it can also deal with very serious issues, such as the environment, an unjust government, corruption, etc. The novel ‘Step by Wicked Step’deals with the problems faced by children of broken homes when parents divorced. Divorced parents are often so caught up in their own unhappiness that they fail to realise that their children are suffering too.