Using Key Information to Identify Different Types of Novels

Instructor: Margaret Stone

Margaret has taught both college and high school English and has a master's degree in English.

A novel is a type of literary work. There are many different novel genres that appeal to all types of audiences, but in this lesson we will focus on a popular five: non-fiction, coming of age, gothic, graphic and modern fantasy.

What Are Novels?

No matter what you like to read, there is a novel for you. Because they are a bit longer than other types of literature, novels offer the reader an opportunity to dive into the story and get to know the characters, conflict, and setting well.

Novels are long literary works that tell a story in a sentence/paragraph structure. Although there are many different genres, or types of novels, they all contain certain elements of literature: fully developed characters, conflict, interesting plots, compelling storytelling, and imaginative writing.

Non-Fiction Novels

Non-fiction novels are based on true stories. Some of the most common types of non-fiction novels are biographies, autobiographies, memoirs, and journalistic reports. You have probably heard the old saying that 'truth is stranger than fiction.' Non-fiction novels are often based on unusual experiences and events, and feature characters who have led interesting lives.

Into Thin Air takes place on Mt. Everest
Into Thin Air takes place on Mt. Everest

Into Thin Air, Jon Krakauer's own account of a rogue storm that leads to disaster for climbers on Mount Everest, is one example of a non-fiction novel. Another well-known non-fiction novel is Elie Wiesel's Night, which is his story about surviving a concentration camp during the Holocaust. These authors give readers a first-hand account of what it was like to live through these events.

Coming of Age Novels

Another novel genre is coming of age which depicts a fictional young person's journey to adulthood. Everyone can relate to the challenges of growing up, so coming of age novels appeal to a wider variety of readers, young and old.

The Catcher in the Rye is a coming of age novel.
The Catcher in the Rye

You may be familiar with some of these well-known novels about the joy and pain of coming of age: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger, and Lord of the Flies by William Golding. The wildly popular Harry Potter series focuses on the main character coming of age as well.

Gothic Novels

If you like things that go bump in the night, you should definitely consider reading a gothic novel. Gothic novels have storylines that center around ghosts, vampires and the like. Gothic novels often have romantic heroes; Heathcliff in Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights is a good example of this type of brooding, tragic character.

Frankenstein is a classic gothic novel

Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, Bram Stoker's Dracula, and Anne Rice's Interview with the Vampire are also examples of gothic novels.

Graphic Novels

Novels that include a significant amount of pictures that help tell the story are called graphic novels. Most of us have read picture books as children, so longer works that contain lots of imagery along with a great story may be appealing to grown-up readers.

Maus is a graphic novel by cartoonist Art Spiegelman

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