Novel Studies

General suggestions that may be used with any novel.

Pre-Reading

  • provide background on the author, characters, or setting of the novel
  • discuss an important idea in a quotation from the novel, relate it to your own experience
  • peruse the title, cover, illustrations, chapter headings, etc. and predict what t he novel is about
  • discuss a related reading selection or film

Critical/Analytical

Setting – the time and place in which the events occur

  1. Where and when does the story take place?
  2. Is the setting real or imaginary or a mixture of both?
  3. What is the mood? What elements of the setting help to create a particular mood?
  4. How does the setting influence the major characters?
  5. How would the story have changed if it occurred in a different setting?
  6. Does the author possess noticeable skill in writing description? Mention scenes that impress you because of the vividness of the description.

Plot – the pattern of action

  1. Identify the parts of the story: exposition (of the situation); rising action (through conflict); climax (or turning point); falling action; and resolution.
  2. What important information do you find at the beginning of the story?
  3. What is the central conflict?
  4. Where does the climax occur? What major events lead up to it?
  5. Id the outcome realistic or does it seem artificial?
  6. What incidents are essential to the plot? What incidents might be omitted without changing the outcome?
  7. Are the incidents arranged in order of time or does the author make use of flashback or foreshadowing?
  8. How does the author create suspense or hold your interest?
  9. Are there subplots or digressions from the main story line? What purpose do they serve?
  10. It may be argued that a story has no plot. Do you agree or disagree? In what ways does it vary from a standard plot structure?
  11. Compare the central conflict in the novel with similar conflicts in other texts?

Characterization – the methods authors use to acquaint the reader with the character’s speech and behaviour, reporting on the opinions of other characters toward this individual, describing the character’s thoughts and feelings

  1. Who are the main characters? Who are the minor characters? Give three words or phrases the author used to describe each character.
  2. How does the author reveal what the characters are like?
  3. What impression does the leading character make on first appearance?
  4. How do you respond to this character? Do you like or dislike him/her? Is s/he trustworthy or dishonest? Is s/he basically a good person? Does s/he have any redeeming qualities?
  5. Is the character a stereotype, that is, does s/he merely reflect one or two basic qualities? Is s/he a complex human being?
  6. Which characters are the most true to life?
  7. Compare the characters in the novel with those in other selections?

Theme – the underlying meaning of a literary work, a general truth about life or the human condition

  1. What is the theme, or central idea, of the story? State in one sentence. Are there any secondary themes? If so, state in one sentence.
  2. Does the theme have any significance for you? Explain.
  3. Do you agree with the author’s opinion as it is revealed in the story? Discuss.
  4. Does the author state the theme:
    • through the people win the story
    • through the setting of the story
    • through the action of the story

    Discuss

  5. Compare the theme of this story with that of a selection with a similar or opposing theme.

Point of View

  1. Who narrates the story, a character in the story, or a narrator outside the story? What is his/her particular point of view? Does this affect the way the reader sees the story?
  2. Does the author appear to have strong feelings about certain characters? What does s/he say that leads you to believe that s/he feels this way?
  3. Do any people or objects in the story appear to represent particular ideas or attitudes? How does this influence your interpretation of the story?

Personal Reactions

  1. What do you like or dislike about the story or novel you have read? Discuss.
  2. What feeling does the story generate for you? Was the story sad, exciting, frightening? What elements in the story help to generate these feelings?
  3. Would you recommend this story? Why or why not?

Personal/Creative

  1. Create a cartoon to illustrate a sequence of events in the novel. Accompany each farm with a short explanatory statement, caption, or conversation.
  2. Design a book jacket. Include illustrations, a blurb for the flap and information about the author. Display it in the classroom or online.
  3. Write a book review. Publish it online in more than one location.
  4. Write a letter:
    • to a friend to encourage him/her to read the book
    • to one character in the book from another
    • to the author or illustrator of the book
    • to the publisher to order more copies of the book
  5. Write an advertisement for the book:
    • as a TV or radio commercial
    • as a newspaper ad
    • as a billboard
    • as a newly adapted movie version
  6. Choose a descriptive scene from a book. Select appropriate music to go with it. Create a multimedia presentation of the scene.
  7. Write an interview:
    • with a character from the book
    • between two characters
    • with the author or illustrator
  8. Write alternate titles for the book. Conduct a poll of your classmates to select the best one
  9. If the chapters of the book don’t have titles, write some. Rate each of the chapters on a scale of 1-5 according to your interests. Which chapter has the highest rating? Why? Compare your ratings with those of your classmates.
  10. Take the role of a major character. Write his/her diary for the most exciting part of the story.
  11. Prepare a radio play (modern audio drama podcast ?) or movie script of an incident in the book.
  12. Write a song or poem to describe an event or person in the story.
  13. Draw a map of the setting of the novel.
  14. Build a miniature setting for part of the novel
  15. Design costumes for the major characters in the book, or assemble a wardrobe from newspapers, catalogues, etc.
  16. Describe a dream, daydream or nightmare one of the characters might have.
  17. Select a character from the book. Write a report card s/he might have received in elementary school.
  18. Some people believe signatures reflect personality. Develop signatures for each of the major characters. Explain your writing styles.
  19. Write a limerick about one of the main characters.
  20. Design a birthday card for one of the major characters.
  21. Put on a puppet play to illustrate an idea from the story.
  22. Select a major event from the story. Write a newspaper headline and the story to go with it.
  23. Take the role of two of the characters. Have an impromptu conversation.
  24. Pretend to be an object owned by one of the characters. Describe some of the adventures you have.
  25. Write a eulogy or obituary for one of the characters.
  26. Design a button or T-shirt for each of the characters in the story. Use diagrams, pictures, slogans.
  27. Set up a graffiti board on the a wall of your classroom for the book. Have those who read the book contribute.
  28. People sometimes remind us of animals. Describe what type of pet a character in the book might have.
  29. Select an important object from the story. Write a newspaper advertisement (faux ebay page) to sell the object.
  30. If you could send a surprise package to one of the characters, what would it be?
  31. Write a newspaper editorial about an incident from the book.
  32. Develop a new product you think might be helpful to one of the characters in the story. Write an advertisement for it.
  33. The ghost of a parent of one of the characters comes back to see what is happening to his/her child. Describe the ghost’s findings.
  34. Pantomime a scene or idea from the book.
  35. Design a unique piece of jewelry for one of the characters.
  36. Have a celebrity roast for one of the characters.
  37. Stage a TV show about the book.
  38. Select pictures that suit the characters or setting of the story. Write something from the story with the pictures.
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