The elements of a successful literary fiction novel

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You want to write something unique that grabs the reader by the collar and doesn’t let go until the end when the reader is exhausted but forever altered by what they’ve just experienced. Your goal is to dazzle them with your originality and artistic prowess.

Yet, dazzling a reader with your prose alone is not enough. Novels are works of fiction, and like any other form of writing, some general rules should be followed. As with any reader, you need to satisfy their expectations before you can hope to exceed them. However introspective the act of creating a book may be, the goal should always be to provide the reader with an excellent narrative.

This article examines the five key components that must be present in any fiction work to be published as a novel.

1)  Developing a Strong Narrative Structure:

A literary fiction novel must have a clear and compelling narrative structure. This includes a well-defined beginning, middle, and end, with a strong plot that unfolds in a logical and satisfying way. A well-crafted narrative structure allows the story to flow smoothly and keeps the reader engaged from start to finish.

2)      A Triggering Event:

The beginning of a story is crucial and can be difficult to get right. It’s important to balance your story’s opening scene or chapter between setting the stage and plunging the reader into the action and tension. A reader will likely start your novel feeling puzzled or uninterested if there isn’t an engaging inciting occurrence.

So, what makes a great “inciting occurrence” in writing? Before anything else, it needs to establish the story’s mood. Express to the reader how they ought to feel. Scared? Angry? Excited? Secondly, it needs to introduce the story’s main character(s) to the audience. Establishing your protagonist early on is crucial and makes the reader care about them and what they’re trying to accomplish. Third, it needs to leave the reader with questions they desire answered. Create a hook that will make people want to keep reading no matter what.

3)  Creating Compelling and Complex Characters:

Characters are the heart of a literary fiction novel. To create memorable and engaging characters, authors must delve deep into their motivations, fears, and desires. Characters should be complex, with strengths and weaknesses that make them relatable. This allows readers to empathize with the characters.

4)      Protagonist:

One must always have a protagonist in a story, as they are the ones who ultimately decide where the story goes. One or more of these characters should be credible, with acts and goals that make sense given their personalities. Having a steady voice is important when developing interesting characters, especially the protagonist. It’s important for the reader to feel like they know the protagonist and can predict their actions.

5)      Antagonist:

You can’t have a story without a protagonist, and you need obstacles for the protagonist to overcome to have a satisfying story. Use the same character guidelines for your antagonist if you give them a counterpart. They need to be consistent with the rest of the story and convincing, having their own goals that drive them to oppose the protagonist.

6)  Incorporating Theme and Symbolism:

Theme and symbolism are important elements of literary fiction. A well-crafted theme can tie the story together, providing meaning and depth beyond the surface-level plot. Symbolism can also be used to convey themes, ideas, and emotions subtly. When done effectively, theme and symbolism can elevate a novel from a simple story to a work of art.

7)      Maintain a Conflict:

To create a more interesting story, conflict is essential. It raises the stakes, causes problems for the protagonist, and advances the storyline. Your story needs several sources of conflict, and the stakes should increase as the protagonist draws closer to their goal.

Although there are many subtypes of conflict, the two most common are internal and external struggles. A character’s inner conflict may be a fear of failing or resentment towards a member of the character’s family. These are examples of external conflict, whether it’s a fatal event or a battle provoked by another character. Both internal and exterior tensions should be present in your story.

Include little conflicts that don’t necessarily advance the plot but provide light on the characters or heighten the tension between them. There should always be tension in the tale, or else you might need to rework certain parts.

8)  Mastering the Art of Dialogue:

Dialogue is an essential tool for conveying character, advancing the plot, and building tension. Well-written dialogue should be natural and realistic while also serving a purpose in the story. Dialogue can reveal character traits, provide insight into relationships, and add depth to the story.

9)      Resolution:

Your story must have a good finish, no matter the form it takes. Most of the tension and questions you introduced should be answered by the end of your novel, even if you don’t want to wrap everything up (maybe because you want to leave the opportunity for a sequel, for example).

10)  Maintaining Consistent Tone and Voice:

A literary fiction novel should have a consistent tone and voice throughout. This means that the author should maintain a consistent style and point of view, ensuring that the story flows smoothly and that the reader remains engaged. A consistent tone and voice can also help to establish the author’s unique style and voice, making the novel stand out from others in the genre.

11)  Delivering a Satisfying and Thought-Provoking Conclusion:

A satisfying conclusion is essential to a successful literary fiction novel. The conclusion should provide closure to the story. This can be achieved by tying up loose ends, providing a resolution to the main conflict, and leaving the reader with a sense of catharsis. A well-crafted conclusion can make a lasting impression on the reader and ensure that the novel is remembered long after it is finished.


For all its communal benefits, writing can be a rather solitary pursuit. The best writers let their imaginations go wild, and their characters take the wheel. You may reach a surprising resolution that has nothing to do with the conflict described in the prologue.

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