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English - Reading Prose Texts - Writing about a Novel

When writing about a novel, you should be clear about the following points:

The particular question or topic you are writing about

How to plan and order your information

The form in which your material needs to be presented


The work you carry out on your novel will need to show evidence that:

You have read the novel carefully

You have given some thought to the novel and can demonstrate an understanding of it

You can express your feelings and ideas about the novel clearly and effectively


Ideas that you may find useful:

Write a summary of the key elements of each chapter as you read it

Keep a reading log, book or diary which you update as you work through the novel. You can refer to when completing any essays and/or coursework

Keep notes on each of the characters and add to them as your reading progresses

Use diagrams to help structure your ideas


In your log, book or diary you could keep the following information:

The subject matter

Brief profiles of key characters

Key elements in the story

Passages you found effective/non-effective

Other points that interested you

Your thoughts or questions

Features of style

Time and place of setting


The writing that we read in novels, newspapers, letter etc..

Objective information

Factual details.

Subjective information

Opinions, thoughts and feelings.

Key headings for making notes during a first reading of a novel:




Your thoughts and feelings


In most novels there are scenes which are particularly dramatic or which are small stories in themselves.

The episodes have a purpose and are linked to each other in some way, each one contributing to the plot as a whole.

The Plot

The plot of a story is simply the things that happen in it:

The main characters are introduced to us

Things happen to them or the things they do

There is a reason for stopping the story


The sub-plot has some connections with the main plot and helps the novel to reach its conclusion.


Each chapter is about the same main characters, some developments of a plot might have to be known in order to understand certain elements of the individual story, and each chapter contributes to the overall theme of the novel.


The imaginary world of a novel that a reader enters into is very often more than just the place where the events of the story take place. The physical environment can be important in itself:

It can be used to reflect the characters and their experiences

It can symbolise the ideas that the writer wants to convey to the reader

It can portray the society or world in which the action takes place

It can show its particular values and/or cultures

Atmosphere and Theme

When reading about the characters in a novel, we imagine them in the novel's setting. The atmosphere provided by the author is also significant in indicating what the book is about.


Writers provide an impression of the characters through:

The writer's description of them

What the characters say

What others say about them

What the characters do

How they react to other characters and how characters react to them

The writer's own comments about them

Key features to consider when examining how writer's use language

The use of words

The use of imagery

The narrative techniques

The use of the "narrative voice"

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