Saturday, February 11, 2012

Elements of the Novel

What are the chief elements of the novel? Is it possible to master all of them? (If any novelists or critics read this blog, let me know.)

I won’t be satisfied just writing a novel. Or, writing just a novel. My goal is to write a superlative novel.


A.) Plot/form.

B.) Character.

C.) Ideas/meaning/symbolism.

D.) Style/pace.

The objective is to combine these elements in a way that achieves a sense of artistic excitement.

Take The Great Gatsby, for instance, as a model. I’d grade it thus:

A.) 9.8 (scale of 1 to 10). B.) 8.5. C.) 9.5. D.) 9.9.

Fitzgerald ably finesses the characterizations. Given the book’s short length, he has to. I knock him down slightly in Ideas, because the book lacks the scope of the best larger works. The pace and style are remarkable; the quality of the writing unsurpassed. I make Gatsby a top 5 American novel, though not #1. (The greatest American novel is The Octopus by Frank Norris.)

For my own novel, I’m aiming high. I’ll nail category A. I had the plot in my mind from the get-go, beginning with the ending. The plot threads and characters tie into the final image. I’m not a natural writer, but I have a logical mind, and as a former chess enthusiast I know how to construct a design and I know how to close.

Character is the element I’m working hardest on. It’s the crux of the book. Whether I’ll succeed or fail is an open question.

Ideas come easy to me. The trick is how to put ideas into a novel without being didactic or one-sided, and without slowing the narrative.

Finally, I’m not a “lyrical” writer. But then, I’m not writing a poem, though I can write poetry. My goal with my novel is to be readable, to give the writing a sense of clarity, to enable the reader to understand what I’m saying. Dense prose is a hindrance if you have ideas to communicate. I want the book to rush along. I’m not writing it for the leisure class, but for everyone.

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