We explain what the novel is, the types that exist and how its structure is. Also, what are its general characteristics and examples.

Novels usually have a complex and abundant plot, with several characters.

What is the novel?

the novel is a literary genre, subgenre of narrative, along with short stories and chronicles. It consists of a usually extensive narrative, of a more or less fictional nature, which is usually told by chapters or segments, in which the voice of a narrator always intervenes.

The novels They usually have a complex and abundant plot, in which there are digressions, drifts or intricacies, and in which there are usually several characters and even different points of view from which the story is told. It is even common to find secondary stories, subplots, fragments of other texts of a different nature in a novel.

There are no exactitudes regarding what can or cannot be a novel, especially in the contemporary novel, which usually consists of discontinuous, fragmentary, tangential, absurd stories, etc. Some can even pose as letters, documents or another format. They always have in common that their extension is greater than that of the stories.

See also: Picaresque novel

origin of the novel

the novel has the direct antecedent of the epic genre.

that gender started in antiquityand usually the adventures of the classic heroes are narrated, as in the Odyssey of Homer.

Later It was cultivated during the European Middle Ages with a more or less similar meaning.

In this case there were the fictional adventures of the knights errantvery common in a continent divided into small feuding kingdoms.

However, it is considered that one of the first novels in the modern sense was Don Quixote de la Manchaby the Spanish Miguel de Cervantes, in 1605. It is considered the first novel because it was written in prose and because of its variety of characters and stories, framed in a larger main plot, which gave it unity.

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However, novels in a broader sense existed since the Renaissance. They can even be traced back to the 11th century in Japan.

novel classification

The police novel narrates how a policeman, detective or journalist investigates a crime.

The novel is a diverse genre, multiple in forms whose content is usually classified as:

  • Adventure novels. From start to finish, they tell a journey, a life journey or an exciting episode in the life of a character, who when he returns home is no longer the same as he was at the beginning.
  • Science fiction novels. They explore the possible impact of science and technology on the lives of human beings, generally in imaginary futures.
  • Police novels. Stories that involve the clarification of a crime, so their protagonists tend to be policemen, detectives or journalists. They have a subgenus known as black policein which the protagonists no longer remain legal during the story, but are part of a more sordid world in which it is difficult to separate criminals and policemen.
  • Romantic novels. Stories centered on the love, passion or erotic adventures or misadventures of the characters.
  • chivalric novels. His tales focus on the life of a medieval knight-errant, detailing his adventures against monstrous creatures or enemy armies.
  • Horror novels. They contain terrifying, sinister or mysterious anecdotes, in which monsters and supernatural entities intervene, causing fear in the reader.
  • fantastic novels. They present a possible world, built entirely from the author’s imagination, with its own particular rules, creatures and history, different from the real world.
  • realistic novels. They present stories set in reality close to the author, without magical or supernatural attributes, and that reproduce it quite accurately.
  • psychological novels. They delve into the minds of their characters: reflections, feelings and inner world, and from there they narrate the events that occurred.
  • philosophical novels. In them, reflections of an existential or transcendental type abound, told together with a story that encourages or frames them.
  • epistolary novels. They tell their stories from the reproduction of fictional or imaginary letters, or from journal entries, emails, and other forms of correspondence between the characters.
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structure of the novel

It is usual for the body of a novel to be divided into entries called chapters. In addition, there may be another type of division, called parts, which groups several chapters. In both cases, they are ways of segmenting the story in an orderly manner. They are usually numbered and even titled.

However, a novel can have many and very diverse narrative structures, since it is the kingdom of narrative freedom. For example, it may not have divisions, or it may be counted in thousands of tiny entries.

Elements that make up the novel

The characters in the novels may or may not be the narrators of the novel.

Normally, a novel has the following narrative elements:

  • Characters. To whom the actions occur and whose lives (or moments of them) are told in the novel. They may or may not also be the narrators of it.
  • Storyteller. One or several narrators may appear in a novel. They are in charge of telling the story, whether they were witnesses to it, its protagonists or voices not involved in the events.
  • dialogues. They are transcriptions of what the characters say, without the narrator intervening to tell them.

novel length

It is assumed that the extension it would have to be greater than that of a story. But for sure there is no single criteria for how many pages you should have.

Until a few years ago the term was usednew” to refer to short novels, of less than 100 pages, which nevertheless continued to present the slow, closed universe, abundant in detail that characterizes this genre. So, in principle, a novel is as long as it needs to be.

Difference Between Novel and Short Story

novel - short story
A story is usually read at once and linearly.

The short story and the novel have fundamental differences, which do not refer only to the extension (greater in the novel, traditionally) but to the way of reading.

A story is usually read in one sitting, since it tells us a continuous episode in the lives of the characters. It can take place in one day, several days, or over the years, but it must be read linearly to get the final effect, which is usually surprising for the reader.

The novel, on the other hand, can be read for a longer time, more slowly. The narrative comes and goes because it is full of ramblings and more varied explorations of the characters and their lives.

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Julio Cortázar, a famous Argentine writer, clarified this difference using a boxing metaphor: the story beats the reader by knock outwhile the novel wins the fight on points.

contemporary novel

The contemporary novel undertakes the task of counting from fragments.

The contemporary novel is that which is written from the 20th century. It originates from various revolutions in the way of writing literature, the result of the avant-garde.

It reflects the tensions of the time, and generally undertakes the task of counting from fragments, or discontinuous speeches (unlike the classic or traditional novel, which is linear, direct). In some cases, he uses elaborate allegories using scientific or other discourses.

Why is the novel important?

the novel is the literary genre that best reflects the complexities of human life in its most recent centuries, which is why it has been cultivated more than ever before. On several occasions its death has been predicted, but instead it simply undergoes new mutations and changes, rediscovering itself and continuing to be valid.

famous novelists

novel authors cervantes
Cervantes is one of the main writers of the Spanish language.

Some famous novelists of the Spanish language are:

  • Miguel de Cervantes (Spanish, 1547-1616).
  • Gabriel García Márquez (Colombian, 1927-2014).
  • Mario Vargas Llosa (Peruvian, 1936-).
  • Juan Goytisolo (Spanish, 1931-2017).
  • Carlos Fuentes (Mexican, 1928-2012).
  • Fernando Vallejo (Colombian, 1942-).
  • Romulo Gallegos (Venezuelan, 1884-1969).
  • Juan Carlos Onetti (Uruguayan, 1909-1994).

novel examples

Some famous examples of novel are:

  • Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky.
  • Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert.
  • Miss Barbara by Romulo Gallegos.
  • The process by Franz Kafka.
  • one hundred years of solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.
  • Hopscotch by Julio Cortazar.
  • the royal lemon tree by Juan Jose Saer.
  • For whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway.


  • “Novel” on Wikipedia.
  • “What are the characteristics of the novel?” at Saberia.com.
  • “The novel: origin, characteristics and subgenres” (Video) in The Gust.
  • “The story and the novel” on ABC Color.
  • “Characteristics of the contemporary novel according to Ernesto Sábato” in the Literary Blog of the School of Creative Writing.
  • “Novel” in The Encyclopaedia Britannica.

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