What is a novel?

A novel is basically a long, written, fictional story of 55,000 words or more; virtually every culture and language has generated famous novels that enthrall readers with language, images, suspense and complex ideas or events. A novel is so much more than a long story, however. A great deal of craft and thought goes into creating a long, successful work of fiction . Some of the greatest works of literature are novels, such as Moby Dick (Herman Melville), Gone with the Wind (Margaret Mitchell), and The Tin Drum (Gunther Grass).

Arguably the two most important elements of a novel are character development and plot, or in short, a novel is something that happens to someone. Main characters, or protagonists, are carefully crafted to appeal to the readers' sympathies as they go about resolving the conflicts and problems that arise in the plot, or story line. Other elements of the novel include setting (place and time), dialogue, narrative and scene, point of view, theme, style and language. Unlike a short story, a novel must be structured to provide enough suspense or compelling language (or both) to keep the reader interested enough to keep turning the pages...for the several hours it takes to read the book.

Novels come in a variety of "flavors," or genres Horror, romance, historical, science fiction, fantasy and mystery novels generally depend more on their plots than on the development of their characters, whereas what we think of as "literary novels" are much more concerned with revealing the intricacies of human behavior and the subtleties of social interactions than in telling a story.