By definition, what is a novel?
At first glance, the answer may seem simple: it’s a prosaic work of fiction that meets a certain word count and is bound up in book form. But if you look into the issue more deeply, you’ll see it’s trickier to explain what makes a novel distinct. Epics, plays, short stories, and poems all represent other forms of literature that existed before the novel was essentially invented by Miguel Cervantes in 1605 with the publication of Don Quixote. When compared with these other forms of literature, what unique qualities does the novel have to lend?
Last semester, I took a college course that explored the attributes of the novel. The more we studied the novel in the course, the clearer it became to me that the novel is distinct for its focus on the inner minds of its characters.
Properly expanding the inner lives of characters can be a difficult skill to master for writers. If we delve into it too much, it’s easy to make our characters seem melodramatic and angsty. So it can be tempting to avoid such a portrayal by describing characters through their actions only. [Read more…]