KP Book Review: Aspects of the Novel

by E.M. Forster

This book was written by an acclaimed fiction writer at the turn of the twentieth century and tries to define what elements make a novel a novel.  As a result, this is more of a book on what a novel is than how one should go about writing one.  That being said, because it is written by a novelist, it is rather easy to make applications to your own writing.  aspectsofthenovelreview

The book is structured according to the seven elements that Forster believes are essential to a novel: story, characters, plot, fantasy, prophecy (the extent to which a story reaches toward universal themes), pattern, and rhythm.  Each element gets a full chapter on it—with the exception of characters, which get a full two chapters on them as befits their prominent place within the novel.

The best sections of this book are arguably the chapters on characters and plot, as in these chapters Forster gives some of the best descriptions of what makes a novel quintessentially a novel.  Forster does a really good job of pointing out how the depiction of the internal life of the character is what makes a novel quintessentially a novel, as well as how this natural tendency of the novel ends up making plot less important.  [Read more…]

Profile photo of Josiah DeGraaf
Josiah DeGraaf is a high school English teacher and literature nerd who fell in love with stories when he was young and hasn’t fallen out of love ever since.
He writes because he’s fascinated by human motivations. What causes otherwise-good people to make really terrible decisions in their lives? Why do some people have the strength to withstand temptation when others don’t? How do people respond to periods of intense suffering? What does it mean to be a hero?
These questions drive him as a reader, and they drive him as a writer as well as he takes normal people, puts them in crazy situations (did he mention he writes fantasy?), and then forces them to make difficult choices with their lives.
Someday, Josiah hopes to write fantasy novels with worlds as imaginative as Brandon Sanderson’s, characters as complex as Orson Scott Card’s, character arcs as dynamic as Jane Austen’s, themes as deep as Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s, and stories as entertaining as Wayne Thomas Batson’s. In the meantime, you can find him writing articles here as he works toward achieving these goals.

5 Times Everyone Wants to Quit Their Novel

And What to Do When You Run Into These Points

Us writers can be a moody bunch at times.  And so, in the process of writing a novel, there are several points in it when we’ll just want to give up and quit.  For whatever the reason, the story just isn’t working anymore.  Perhaps it’s the plot-holes that are making our story look more like Swiss cheese than anything else.  Perhaps it’s the roadblocks that our characters keep running up against.  Or perhaps it’s that it just isn’t that good anymore.  Glorified kindling at its best. 5_times_EVERYONE_pinterest

What do you do when you arrive at this point in your story?  Do you do what you’re actively considering and trash it?  Or do you ignore your feelings, press on, and write until you fall in love with your story again?

The short answer?  It’s complicated.  A lot of the time, our feelings can be deceptive, and the best course of action really is to keep writing.  But our feelings can also be right: sometimes a story really does need to be scrapped in exchange for another.

The key is to hold our feelings alongside reason and use them alongside each other.  There are many possible places when the temptation to scrap your novel and start something else will raise its ugly head, but in my experience, there are five main places where it tends to do so.

Let’s look at them and see what sorts of questions we ought to be asking ourselves to determine whether or not we should give into our feelings and quit the novel.

   1. The 10% Mark

In some aspects, beginning a new novel can be a bit like beginning a marriage.  You already have a perfect idea for how the novel should start, your main character is brilliant, and writing prose has never been easier.  And then you hit the five or ten percentage mark and the honeymoon stage is done.  The newness of everything is over.  And the creative spark that you began your novel with is over.  You don’t think your novel has that much promise anymore.

So what do you do about it? [Read more…]

Profile photo of Josiah DeGraaf
Josiah DeGraaf is a high school English teacher and literature nerd who fell in love with stories when he was young and hasn’t fallen out of love ever since.
He writes because he’s fascinated by human motivations. What causes otherwise-good people to make really terrible decisions in their lives? Why do some people have the strength to withstand temptation when others don’t? How do people respond to periods of intense suffering? What does it mean to be a hero?
These questions drive him as a reader, and they drive him as a writer as well as he takes normal people, puts them in crazy situations (did he mention he writes fantasy?), and then forces them to make difficult choices with their lives.
Someday, Josiah hopes to write fantasy novels with worlds as imaginative as Brandon Sanderson’s, characters as complex as Orson Scott Card’s, character arcs as dynamic as Jane Austen’s, themes as deep as Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s, and stories as entertaining as Wayne Thomas Batson’s. In the meantime, you can find him writing articles here as he works toward achieving these goals.