The UVic Writer's Guide


The novel is a long fictional narrative written in prose, which arose in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries and overtook verse narratives in popularity, eventually replacing them. Novels can take any of the generic forms ( epic, tragedy, comedy, romance, and satire ), but there are two main types: the novel proper and the prose romance.

The traditional novel aims for an effect of realism, using complex characters who act within a detailed social milieu and have plausible experiences, as in the novels of Jane Austen. The modern romance, like its medieval precursor, focuses mainly upon one character's adventures, often with stereotypical heroes and villains, a setting remote from everyday life (sometimes in the historical past), and events that are non realistic or melodramatic, as in Alexandre Dumas' The Three Musketeers (1845).

Other types of novel include: the social novel, in which the protagonist's difficulties arise from the social context (Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath [1939]); and the historical novel, in which a historical setting is treated in a detailed and realistic manner (Tolstoy's War and Peace [1869]). Novelists since the nineteenth century have experimented widely in different styles of narrative, as for instance in their handling of point of view , and in stream-of-consciousness narration.

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Copyright, The Department of English, University of Victoria, 1995
This page updated April 11, 1995