What Are the Elements of a Novel?

The basic elements of a novel are character, plot, setting, dialogue, point of view and length. More subjective elements, such as clarity and a distinctive voice, contribute to a novel’s quality and readability.

Novels are generally considered to be works of prose longer than 70,000 words. Long works of prose were not popular in literature until the mid-18th century, and the novel’s structure has evolved considerably since then.

All novels contain a central plot and characters who interact with one another. Novels can take place in a specific setting or a number of different settings. A strong description of settings and situations sets the tone and brings the story to life.

Dialogue is an important element of a novel, because the voice of each character, as well as the overall narrative voice, contributes to the quality of the work. The stories are told in either a first-person voice, by an omniscient narrator or by a limited, third-person narrator. Modern experimental novels may alter some of the traditional elements by using second person or multiple first person narrators, and by changing conventions associated with chronological plots.

Most critics agree that a novel also needs sufficient stakes, or a reason why the plot matters. They need clarity, uniqueness and reasons for the reader to care about what happens to the characters.