how to start a essay about a novel

How to Write an Essay about a Novel – Step by Step Guide

how to start a essay about a novel

Writing about literature used to scare the heck out of me. I really couldn’t wrap my mind around analyzing a novel. You have the story. You have the characters. But so what? I had no idea what to write.

Luckily, a brilliant professor I had as an undergrad taught me how to analyze a novel in an essay. I taught this process in the university and as a tutor for many years. It’s simple, and it works. And in this tutorial, I’ll show it to you. So, let’s go!

Writing an essay about a novel or any work of fiction is a 6-step process. Steps 1-3 are the analysis part. Steps 4-6 are the writing part.

Step 1. create a list of elements of the novel .

Ask yourself, “What are the elements of this book?”

Well, here is a list of elements present in any work of fiction, any novel:

how to start a essay about a novel

Here is a table of literary elements along with their descriptions. 

In this step, you simply pick 3-6 elements from the list I just gave you and arrange them as bullet points. You just want to make sure you pick elements that you are most familiar or comfortable with.

For example, you can create the following list:

This is just for you to capture the possibilities of what you can write about. It’s a very simple and quick step because I already gave you a list of elements. 

Step 2. Pick 3 elements you are most comfortable with

In this step, we’ll use what I call The Power of Three . You don’t need more than three elements to write an excellent essay about a novel or a book. 

Just pick three from the list you just created with which you are most familiar or that you understand the best. These will correspond to three sections in your essay. 

If you’re an English major, you’ll be a lot more familiar with the term “metaphor” than if you major in Accounting. 

But even if you’re a Math major, you are at least probably already familiar with what a story or a character is. And you’ve probably had a takeaway or a lesson from stories you’ve read or seen on screen.

Just pick what you can relate to most readily and easily. 

For example, you can pick Characters , Symbols , and Takeaways . Great!

how to start a essay about a novel

You Can Also Pick Examples of an Element 

Let’s say that you are really unfamiliar with most of the elements. In that case, you can just pick one and then list three examples of it.

For example, you can pick the element of Characters . And now all you need to do is choose three of the most memorable characters. You can do this with many of the elements of a novel.

You can pick three themes , such as Romance, Envy, and Adultery. 

You can pick three symbols , such as a rose, a ring, and a boat. These can represent love, marriage, and departure. 

Okay, great job picking your elements or examples of them. 

For the rest of this tutorial, I chose to write about a novel by Fedor Dostoyevskiy, The Brothers Karamazov. This will be our example. 

It is one of the greatest novels ever written. And it’s a mystery novel, too, which makes it fun. 

So now, let’s choose either three elements of this novel or three examples of an element. I find that one of the easiest ways to do this is to pick one element – Characters – and three examples of it. 

In other words, I’m picking three characters. And the entire essay will be about these three characters.

Now, you may ask, if I write only about the characters, am I really writing an essay about the novel? 

And the answer is, Yes. Because you can’t write about everything at once. You must pick something. Pick your battles. 

And by doing that, you will have plenty of opportunities to make a statement about the whole novel. Does that make sense? 

Just trust the process, and it will all become clear in the next steps. 

Let’s pick the three brothers – Alexei, Dmitriy, and Ivan. 

And don’t worry – I won’t assume that you have read the book. And I won’t spoil it for you if you’re planning to. 

So we have the three brothers. We’re ready to move on to the next step.

Step 3. Identify a relationship among these elements

In this step, you want to think about how these three elements that you picked are related to one another. 

In this particular case, the three brothers are obviously related because they are brothers. But I want you to dig deeper and see if there is perhaps a theme in the novel that may be connecting the elements.

how to start a essay about a novel

And, yes, I am using another element – theme – just to help me think about the book. Be creative and use whatever is available to you. It just so happens that religion is a very strong theme in this novel. 

What do the three brothers have in common? 

  • They have the same father.
  • Each one has a romantic interest (meaning, a beloved woman).
  • All three have some kind of a relationship with God. 

These are three ways in which the brothers are related to one another. All we need is one type of a relationship among them to write this essay. 

This is a religious novel, and yes, some of the characters will be linked to a form of a divinity. In this case, the religion is Christianity.

Note: there are many ways in which you can play with elements of a novel and examples of them. Here’s a detailed video I made about this process:

Let’s see if we can pick the best relationship of those we just enumerated.  

They all have the same father. 

This relationship is only factual. It is not very interesting in any way. So we move on to the next one.

They all have women they love.

Each brother has a romantic interest, to use a literary term. We can examine each of the brothers as a lover. 

Who is the most fervent lover? Who is perhaps more distant and closed? This is an interesting connecting relationship to explore. 

One of them is the most passionate about his woman, but so is another one – I won’t say who so I don’t spoil the novel for you. The third brother seems rather intellectual about his love interest. 

So, romantic interest is a good candidate for a connecting relationship. Let’s explore the next connection candidate. 

They all relate to God in one way or another. 

Let’s see if we can put the brothers’ relationships with God in some sort of an order. Well, Alexei is a monk in learning. He lives at the monastery and studies Christianity. He is the closest to God.

Dmitriy is a believer, but he is more distant from God due to his passionate affair with his woman. He loses his head many times and does things that are ungodly, according to the author. So, although he is a believer, he is more distant from God than is Alexei.

Finally, Ivan is a self-proclaimed atheist. Therefore, he is the farthest away from God.

It looks like we got ourselves a nice sequence, or progression, which we can probably use to write this essay about this novel. 

What is the sequence? The sequence is: 

Alexei is the closest to God, Dmitriy is second closest, and Ivan is pretty far away.

It looks like we have a pattern here. 

If we look at the brothers in the book and watch their emotions closely, we’ll come to the conclusion that they go from blissful to very emotionally unstable to downright miserable to the point of insanity.

Here’s the conclusion we must make: 

The closer the character’s relationship with God, the happier he is, and the farther away he is from God, the more miserable he appears to be.

how to start a essay about a novel

Wow. This is quite a conclusion. It looks like we have just uncovered one of Dostoyevskiy’s main arguments in this novel, if not the main point he is trying to make.

Now that we’ve identified our three elements (examples) and a strong connecting relationship among them, we can move on to Step 4.

Step 4. Take a stand and write your thesis statement

Now we’re ready to formulate our thesis statement. It consists of two parts:

  • Your Thesis (your main argument)
  • Your Outline of Support (how you plan to support your main point)

By now, we have everything we need to write a very clear and strong thesis statement. 

First, let’s state our thesis as clearly and succinctly as possible, based on what we already know:

“In his novel Brothers Karamazov , Dostoyevskiy describes a world in which happiness is directly proportional to proximity to God. The closer to God a character is, the happier and more emotionally stable he is, and vice versa.”

See how clear this is? And most importantly, this is clear not only to the reader, but also to you as the writer. Now you know exactly what statement you will be supporting in the body of the essay. 

Are we finished with the thesis statement? Not yet. The second part consists of your supporting points. And again, we have everything we need to write it. Let’s do it.

“Alexei’s state of mind is ultimately blissful, because he is a true and observant believer. Dmitriy’s faith is upstaged by his passion for a woman, and he suffers a lot as a result. Ivan’s renunciation of God makes him the unhappiest of the brothers and eventually leads him to insanity.”

Guess what – we have just written our complete thesis statement. And it’s also our whole first paragraph. 

We are ready for Step 5. 

Step 5. Write the body of the essay

Again, just like in the previous step, you have everything you need to structure and write out the body of this essay.

How many main sections will this essay have? Because we are writing about three brothers, it only makes sense that our essay will have three main sections.

how to start a essay about a novel

Each section may have one or more paragraphs. So, here’s an important question to consider:

How many words or pages do you have to write? 

Let’s say your teacher or professor wants you to write 2,000 words on this topic. Then, here is your strategic breakdown:

  • Thesis Statement (first paragraph) = 100 words
  • Conclusion (last paragraph) = 100 words
  • Body of the Essay = 1,800 words

Let me show you how easy it is to subdivide the body of the essay into sections and subsections.

We already know that we have three sections. And we need 1,800 words total for the body. This leads us to 600 words per main section (meaning, per brother). 

Can we subdivide further? Yes, we can. And we should.

When discussing each of the brothers, we connect two subjects: his relationship with God AND his psychological state. That’s how we make those connections. 

So, we should simply subdivide each section of 600 words into two subsections of 300 words each. And now all we need to do is to write each part as if it were a standalone 300-word essay.

how to start a essay about a novel

Does this make sense? See how simple and clear this is?

Writing Your Paragraphs

Writing good paragraphs is a topic for an entire article of its own. It is a science and an art.

In essence, you start your paragraph with a good lead sentence in which you make one point. Then, you provide reasons, explanations, and examples to support it. 

Here is an article I wrote on how to write great paragraphs .

Once you’ve written the body of the essay, one last step remains. 

Step 6. Add an introduction and a conclusion 

Introductions and conclusions are those little parts of an essay that your teachers and professors will want you to write. 


In our example, we already have a full opening paragraph going. It’s our thesis statement. 

To write an introduction, all you need to do is add one or two sentences above the thesis statement. 

Here is our thesis statement:

“In his novel Brothers Karamazov, Dostoyevskiy describes a world in which happiness is directly proportional to proximity to God. The closer to God a character is, the happier and more emotionally stable he is, and vice versa. Alexei’s state of mind is ultimately blissful, because he is a true and observant believer. Dmitriy’s faith is upstaged by his passion for a woman, and he suffers a lot as a result. Ivan’s renunciation of God makes him the unhappiest of the brothers and eventually leads him to insanity.”

As you can see, it is a complete paragraph that doesn’t lack anything. But because we need to have an introduction, here is a sentence with which we can open this paragraph:

“Dostoyevskiy is a great Russian novelist who explores the theme of religion in many of his books.”

And then just proceed with the rest of the paragraph. Read this sentence followed by the thesis statement, and you see that it works great. And it took me about 30 seconds to write this introductory sentence. 

You can write conclusions in several different ways. But the most time-proven way is to simply restate your thesis. 

If you write your thesis statement the way I teach, you will have a really strong opening paragraph that can be easily reworded to craft a good conclusion. 

Here is an article I wrote (which includes a video) on how to write conclusions .


You’ve made it to the end, and now you know exactly how to write an essay about a novel or any work of fiction!

Tutor Phil is an e-learning professional who helps adult learners finish their degrees by teaching them academic writing skills.

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How to Start an Essay About a Book: A Comprehensive Guide

Starting an essay about a book might seem like an uphill endeavor, but with the right approach, you can create an engaging introduction that sets the tone for your entire paper. Whether you’re a student or an aspiring writer, this guide will provide you with practical insights, creative ideas, and actionable steps on how to start an essay about a book that leaves a lasting impression on your readers.

Introduction: Setting the Stage for Literary Analysis

Writing an essay about a book is an opportunity to delve into the world of literature, explore themes, characters, and narratives, and express your unique perspective. The introduction serves as the gateway to your essay, inviting readers to join you on your literary journey. Let’s explore the art of crafting captivating introductions for essays about books.

Related: Can I Start My College Essay with a Quote? Tips and Insights

How to Start an Essay About a Book

Embarking on the journey of writing an essay about a book requires careful consideration and strategic planning. Here are essential steps to guide you through the process:

1. Understand the Book’s Context and Significance

To create an impactful introduction, begin by understanding the book’s historical context, the author’s background, and the broader significance of the work. This contextual knowledge will help you establish the relevance of the book and its themes to your readers.

2. Choose an Intriguing Angle

Diving into the vast sea of literary elements, select an angle that piques readers’ curiosity. Whether it’s a thematic exploration, character analysis, or a critical review, a unique angle sets the stage for an engaging introduction.

3. Craft a Compelling Thesis Statement

Your thesis statement is the backbone of your essay. It should succinctly convey your main argument and guide your readers on what to expect. A well-crafted thesis statement is both thought-provoking and informative.

4. Open with a Captivating Hook

Draw readers in with a captivating hook that sparks their interest. This could be a thought-provoking question, a surprising fact, a relevant quote, or a vivid description. A compelling hook sets the tone for an engaging essay.

5. Provide Brief Contextual Background

Offer a concise overview of the book’s plot, main characters, and central themes. Provide enough information to orient readers without giving away too much. Leave them curious and eager to explore further.

6. Introduce Your Approach

Outline the approach you’ll take in your essay. Briefly explain the key points you’ll be discussing and the insights you aim to uncover. This gives readers a roadmap for what’s to come.

7. Use LSI Keywords for Depth

Incorporate Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI) keywords related to the book and its themes. This not only boosts SEO but also enhances the depth and relevance of your introduction.

8. Incorporate Relevant Quotes

Weave in relevant quotes from the book that supports your thesis. Quotes add credibility and allow readers to connect with the text on a deeper level.

9. Highlight the Book’s Impact

Discuss the book’s impact on literature, society, or culture. Explain why it remains relevant and worth discussing. This shows your awareness of the book’s broader implications.

10. Pose Thought-Provoking Questions

Engage readers by posing thought-provoking questions related to the book’s themes. Encourage them to reflect on their own interpretations and viewpoints.

11. Share Personal Connections

If applicable, share personal anecdotes or connections you have with the book. This personal touch adds authenticity to your introduction.

12. Offer a Glimpse of Analysis

Give readers a glimpse of the analytical journey ahead. Mention the key aspects you’ll delve into and the critical lenses you’ll apply.

13. Address Counterarguments

Acknowledge potential counterarguments or differing interpretations of the book. Demonstrating a balanced perspective strengthens your credibility as an essay writer.

14. Build Anticipation

Create anticipation for the rest of your essay. Tease the insights and revelations readers can expect in the subsequent sections.

15. Power Keywords for Impact

Incorporate power keywords that evoke emotion and create impact. Words like “profound,” “intriguing,” or “riveting” add a dynamic flair to your introduction.

16. Incorporate a Compelling Anecdote

Share a brief and relevant anecdote that relates to the book’s themes. Anecdotes humanize the topic and engage readers on a personal level.

17. Outline Structure and Flow

Provide a brief overview of the essay’s structure and how you’ll navigate through different sections. A clear roadmap enhances readability.

18. Address the Reader Directly

Speak directly to the reader, inviting them to explore the book alongside you. This creates a sense of connection and involvement.

19. Utilize Rich Formatting

Enhance readability by using rich formatting such as bold, italics, and bullet points. These elements visually break up the text and highlight key information.

20. Reference Credible Sources

When discussing the book’s significance or impact, reference credible sources such as literary critics, scholars, or reputable articles. This adds depth to your introduction.

21. Transition to the Main Body

Conclude your introduction with a seamless transition to the main body of the essay. Create a logical bridge that encourages readers to continue reading.

Related: What Brings You Joy College Essay Example

Step-by-Step Guide on How to Start an Essay About a Book

Step 1: Choose the Book

Select a book that you want to write about. Ensure that the book is relevant to your essay’s topic and aligns with your thesis or main argument.

Step 2: Understand the Assignment

Read the essay assignment or prompt carefully. Understand the specific requirements, such as the length, format, and any guidelines provided by your instructor.

Step 3: Read and Analyze the Book

Read the book thoroughly, taking notes on key plot points, characters, themes, and any literary devices used by the author. Analyze the book’s significance and consider why it’s worth writing about.

Step 4: Determine Your Approach

Decide how you want to approach the essay. Will you be analyzing a specific theme, character, or literary technique? Clarify your main focus and identify the key points you want to discuss.

Step 5: Craft Your Thesis Statement

Develop a clear and concise thesis statement that outlines your main argument or purpose for writing the essay. This thesis will guide the direction of your essay.

Step 6: Choose an Engaging Opening Strategy

Now, let’s delve into different strategies for starting your essay about the book:

1. Quotation: Begin with a relevant and impactful quote from the book. Explain its significance and how it relates to the themes you’ll be discussing.

2. Anecdote: Share a short anecdote or personal story that connects to the book’s themes. This can help create an emotional or relatable entry point.

3. Question: Pose a thought-provoking question related to the book’s themes or characters. Invite the reader to think critically about the topic.

4. Contrast: Highlight a sharp contrast between elements in the book or between the book and real-world situations. This can create intrigue and set the stage for your analysis.

5. Shocking Fact: Present a surprising or shocking fact related to the book’s content, themes, or impact. This can capture the reader’s attention immediately.

Step 7: Provide Context

After your engaging opening, briefly introduce the book by mentioning its title, author, and publication date. Provide a concise overview of the book’s plot or central idea.

Step 8: Preview Main Points

Give the reader a preview of the main points you’ll be discussing in the essay. This helps them understand the structure and flow of your analysis.

Step 9: Transition to Your Thesis

Smoothly transition from the introduction to your thesis statement. Explain how the opening strategy you chose connects to your main argument.

Step 10: Revise and Edit

Review your introduction for clarity, coherence, and grammar. Make sure it effectively introduces the book and sets the tone for your essay.

Remember, a well-crafted introduction can captivate your readers and set the stage for a compelling essay. Experiment with different opening strategies to find the one that best suits your writing style and the content of your essay.

FAQs on How to Start an Essay About a Book

How do i choose the right book for my essay.

Select a book that resonates with you personally or aligns with the theme of your course. Consider books that offer rich material for analysis and discussion.

Can I start my essay with a question?

Absolutely! Starting with a thought-provoking question can be an effective way to engage readers and introduce your essay’s central ideas.

What if I haven’t read the entire book?

While it’s ideal to read the entire book, you can still write a compelling essay by focusing on specific sections or chapters that relate to your chosen angle.

Should I provide a detailed summary in the introduction?

Avoid excessive summarization in the introduction. Instead, provide a concise overview that leaves room for an in-depth exploration of the main body.

How can I make my introduction stand out?

Infuse your introduction with your unique voice and perspective. Be creative, bold, and authentic in your approach.

Is it okay to share personal emotions in the introduction?

Sharing personal emotions or connections to the book can add depth to your introduction, but ensure it aligns with the tone and purpose of your essay.

Final Verdict

Crafting the perfect introduction for your essay about a book is an art that requires a combination of creativity, analysis, and strategic thinking. By following these steps and incorporating engaging elements, you can start your essay on a strong note, capturing your reader’s attention and setting the stage for a captivating exploration of literature.

Remember, the introduction is just the beginning of your essay-writing journey. As you delve into the main body, keep the momentum going with insightful analysis, well-supported arguments, and a cohesive structure.

So, go ahead and embark on your literary adventure. Start your essay about a book with confidence, and watch as your words transport readers into the fascinating world of literature.

Related: How Do You Write a Book Title in an Essay

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how to start a essay about a novel

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Comprehensive Guide on How to Write an Essay About a Book

how to start a essay about a novel

Essays are very common in middle school, high school, and college. Even after graduating college, you may need to write essays in the business world in the form of reports. However, writing an essay about a book takes a slightly different turn. It usually involves writing a detailed summary of the plot of a book or a simple book review.

This writing process may seem as simple as sitting down at the computer and beginning to type for some. But a lot more planning goes into writing a book essay successfully. If you have never written one before or struggle with talking about a book in an essay, you should read on.

In this article, we’ll provide a comprehensive guide on how to write essays on books and give you some important steps in the essay writing process.

How to start an essay about a book

A book essay involves closely studying a text, interpreting its themes, and exploring why the author makes certain choices. It can be applied to novels, plays, short stories, poems, or any other form of literary writing.

Book essays aren’t merely book summaries. They can be a form of argumentative essay where you need to analyse the text’s perspective, language, and structure. They also explain how an author uses literary terms and elements to create emotional effects and convey ideas.

Before starting a book essay, it’s vital to carefully read the book and develop a thesis statement to keep your essay focused. As you write, you should follow the standard structure of a professional essay. Seeking professional guidance for your college application? Consider enlisting expert assistance to Write You College Essay and increase your chances of admission success.

It should take this structure:

  • An introduction that gives the reader an idea of what your essay will focus on.
  • The main body, which is divided into paragraphs that develop an argument using the text’s ideas.
  • A conclusion that summarises the main ideas you have given with your analysis.

Mentioning a book in an essay

Writing a book essay is not as easy as it may seem, especially when you are not sure how to write a book title in an essay. Some of the questions that most students ask include; Can I use quotation marks? Should I underline the book title? Will I use italics? Does the format depend on the referencing of the paper?

Every question highlighted is essential in learning how to mention a book in an essay. However, it is important to know that different writing styles have varying writing standards.

The style used to write a title of a book in an essay varies based on the formatting style of the paper. There are the APA, MLA, and Chicago writing styles.

Let’s take the example of an APA format.

The rules that apply to an APA format are different from those used in MLA and Chicago writing formats. Here are some of them:

  • Capitalise the first word and every word with more than four letters
  • For two-part hyphenated words, capitalization of both words is necessary
  • Words after dash or colon should also be capitalised
  • Use quotation marks instead of italics for reference material such as dictionaries.
  • Use italics for titles of Books, Films, Videos, journals, magazines, newspapers, and TV shows.

Learning the different book title writing styles for each paper format is very important, especially when writing a college essay about a book.

How to write an essay about a book

Writing a book essay can be tricky, so here are the steps that will guide you:

  • Read the book and locate literary devices

The first step is to read the book and take notes carefully. As you read, pay attention to the main points of the story. For instance, you can take note of things that are intriguing, surprising, or even confusing in writing. These usually form the basis of your analysis.

To begin your analysis, there are many key areas that you can focus on. As you analyse each element of the text, try to think about how they all connect.

  • Generate a thesis

Your thesis in a book essay is the point you want to make about the text. It’s usually the main argument that gives your essay direction and prevents it from being a collection of random observations about a book. If you’re given a prompt for your essay, your thesis must directly relate to the prompt.

  • Write a title and introduction

To start your book essay, you’ll need a good title and an introduction.

The title should indicate what your analysis will focus on. It generally contains the author’s name and the book you’re analysing. Keep it as brief and interesting as you can.

Your essay introduction should provide a brief outlook of where your argument is going. It should contain your thesis statement and an outline of the essay’s structure.

  • Write the body

Each paragraph in the main body should focus on one topic or argument of your book essay. Don’t try to add everything you can think about the text, but only key analysis that fuels your argument.

  • Write your conclusion

The conclusion of your analysis should wrap up the essay and summarise your key points while emphasising their significance to the reader. To achieve this, briefly summarise your key arguments, and locate the conclusion they’ve led you to.

Unlike regular essays, writing a book essay requires adherence to more rules and writing formats. You should always comprehensively read the book you want to write an essay about and follow a given writing style.

How to Start an Essay About a Book?


Writing a compelling and interesting essay about a novel or any book could be overwhelming because it demands a lot of understanding of the text. Although you may find numerous ways to compose an outstanding essay about the book with focused elements to get higher grades, you may remain unable to create one until you identify these elements.

Once you have determined these factors, you will get a better understanding about the text, cohesion, and tone of the essay. However, writing such types of essays is pretty similar to the books themselves but the only difference is the extensive number of words. A perfect essay usually contains an introduction, several body sections, and a precise conclusion. Likewise, you need to follow the same pattern for a book essay.

In this essay, you will learn about how to start an essay about a book and the stepwise process to execute it successfully.

Stepwise Procedure on How to Write an Essay on a Book

An essay about books includes numerous chapters along with the beginning, middle, and the ending. However, the middle part or the body section is the longest one in which you have to present the description, arguments, and your opinions about the book. Therefore, it requires proper research to write it accurately.

Create a Synopsis

Make a list of the date, name, the class or module you’re in, and any other details you believe are relevant. It should not yet include any facts about the essay or book, but you should make a note of them before beginning your synopsis.

You can be working on many class essays or projects at the same time if you’re an intermediate or graduate student. You can immediately identify which project it is by looking at this information. Your instructor or editor should also double-check who is delivering the content.

Write Thesis Statement

Make sure your thesis statement is persuasive, and it should notify the reader about what to expect from your essay. It doesn’t have to be a long, dragging remark; yet, the most essential thing is that it sends a clear message.

Keep in mind that you can defend your position as you jot down your notes. If you conceive of your book essay plan as a summary, you’ll be able to relate to this portion more easily when writing a literary analysis essay about a book. It is a concise rundown of the topics covered in your work. Some publishers even impose a word limit, while others leave it up to the author.

Start with Introduction

Introduction is considered as one of the most important parts of your writing. In an essay opening, your objective is to grab the reader’s attention and pique their interest. Yet, many readers will make a judgment about your writing, thus it’s critical to persuade them that your thesis is right.

Begin your work with a question, noteworthy quotation, or story to spark the reader’s interest. Introduce a concise thesis statement that indicates your perspective and develops your argument by providing some background information about a book and its author.

You can keep readers engaged throughout the essay or book once you’ve persuaded them of your point. However, to put any uncertainties to rest, focus on the strongest issue in your initial subject sentence and paragraph.

It is critical to expose readers to your way of thinking in this paragraph, which also serves as your introduction. You can proceed on to the remainder of your points once you’ve mentioned your most important information. 

Let’s move to next sections, the answer to your question on how to start an essay about a book ends here, while read on for a complete guide on writing a complete essay.

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Add Body Sections

All arguments in favor of the thesis should be presented in the body sections. Each paragraph should focus on a single idea and each paragraph should begin with a subject sentence that states the main theme of the paragraph. Nonetheless, to make it more precise, explain the context. Then, to back it up, give numerous proofs and explain why you’re using it.

Bear in mind, all statements should be backed up with concrete instances from the text. If required, use direct quotes. When utilizing quotes, make sure to properly cite them. Share the emotions that the book evoked in you. Compare and contrast comparable books or stories. End each paragraph with a conclusion statement that summarizes the points you’ve made. To make a coherent, coherent text, use seamless transitions from paragraph to paragraph.

Add Claims and Proofs

Making statements relevant to your central argument in the body of your essay is to support your thesis statement. Your arguments must be supported by concrete instances from the text in order to be credible. Evaluate, interpret, and provide particular ideas, character motives, rising acts, and other exclusive components that you feel support your overall point. The more solid your proof, the easier it will be to back up your statements.

Conclude your Essay

While the conclusion is the last section of your essay, it’s not just a summary of all you’ve previously said in the body. The conclusion should raise the essay as a whole, connecting the thesis statement, assertions, and facts in a way that hasn’t been done before. Provide new information on a subject or character that hasn’t been discussed previously, and persuade your reader that your fundamental point is sound.

Integrate Call-to-Action

What activities do you want your readers to do after you’ve persuaded them that your essay is compelling? In your essay about books , you offered numerous facts, and the reader should begin to consider your point of view. You must now instruct them to put your theory to the test and incorporate some powerful call-to-action to convince them to read the whole book.

Review and Proofread

As you conduct research and write, your argument may shift in focus or direction as you gain more information. Thus, it is typically a decent practice to save the opening paragraph for later in the writing process; it can even be the very last thing you write. It helps you understand better about what ideas you have already covered in your essay.

When you’ve finished writing the essay’s body and conclusion, go back to the introduction and double-check that it corresponds to the essay’s content. It’s very crucial that your thesis statement adequately reflects what you’re going to do in the essay. If your argument has taken a different path than you anticipated, change your thesis statement to reflect what you’ve actually mentioned.

If you are unable to write an essay due to your busy schedule, hire an essay writing expert to get it done fruitfully.

How to Convince Someone to Read the Book

Reading is a wonderful hobby that provides exceptional satisfaction to its participants. Books broaden our understanding of the world and serve as excellent ways of expression. But, sadly, not everyone enjoys reading. Because of the digital revolution, this practice is dwindling.

There are also just too many diversions.

Do you want to know how to get someone to read a book? When attempting to encourage someone, logic and excellent reasoning are crucial. Even so, there are literary persuasion strategies that may be utilized to express ideas convincingly.

However, below are some tips to write a persuasive essay about books and convince the reader to read the whole book.


When complicated notions and abstracts are communicated through narratives, people are more likely to comprehend them.

Advertisements demonstrate that repetition is effective. If they don’t understand what you’re talking about, they won’t agree with you. Make it easy for your readers to grasp and agree with your point of view by saying the same thing in multiple ways.

Build an Emotional Connection

Making your audience pleased, furious, or sad might assist them take action or agree with your point of view.

Use Metaphorical Language

Metaphors, similes, analogies, and parallels may help you construct a picture for your audience and persuade others to view things your way.

Final Words

By the end, you have not just learned on how to start an essay about a book but also complete it in a perfect way. 

Once you have your format down, it’s simple to create a superb outline for any style of essay. You may also seek for samples of a book essay outline online and apply the concepts to your own writing. If your ideas flow logically, there is no right or wrong approach to create an outline.

Yet, to avoid rambling in your writing or expressing random information that doesn’t link, you create an outline. Do not hurry the process because your final draft will take considerably longer than your outline. Furthermore, you can treat each heading as a separate project and concentrate on the transition from one section to the next.However, it makes no difference whether you’re starting an essay about a book or research paper, when you plan it correctly, you write it precisely.

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How to Write an Essay About a Novel

How to Set Up a Rhetorical Analysis

How to Set Up a Rhetorical Analysis

Writing an engaging and stimulating essay about a novel can further develop your understanding of the text -- and earn a high grade as well. Even though there are a great number of ways to construct a well-developed essay about a novel, focus on the following prominent elements to ensure success. By analyzing these key elements in relation to a particular novel, you’ll better understand the text and be able to produce a cohesive, successful essay.

The thesis statement is the central argument of your essay. Pinpoint a particular characteristic about the novel that is open for interpretation and develop a position. It must be insightful and possess a clear counter argument. If you believe the protagonist divorced her husband because of her tragic upbringing and not her husband’s infidelity and you are confident the argument will sustain the entire essay, clearly state your position in the introductory paragraph. The thesis statement generally is the final sentence of the introductory paragraph.

Claims & Evidence

The best way to support your thesis statement is to make claims relevant to your central argument in the body of your essay. In order for your claims to have value, they must be justified with specific examples from the text. Analyze, interpret and present specific themes, character motivations, rising actions and all other elements of the novel that you believe support your central argument. The stronger your pieces of evidence are, the easier it will be to prove your claims.


Each claim must transition smoothly into the next. Your essay is a single, cohesive piece, and the better your claims and evidence are able to build off one another the stronger and more persuasive your essay will be as a whole. Without smooth transitions from claim to claim and paragraph to paragraph, your reader will have difficulty piecing all of your positions together. This will inhibit them from seeing that your central argument has warrant and value.

Even though your conclusion is the final paragraph of your essay, it isn't simply a summation of everything you’ve already stated in the rest of the essay. The conclusion needs to elevate the essay as a whole and connect the thesis statement, claims and evidence together in a way that hasn’t yet been achieved. Offer an insight into a particular theme or character that hasn’t been addressed yet, and further convince your reader that your central argument is legitimate.

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  • The University of North Carolina: The Writing Center: Literature(Fiction)

Jake Shore is an award-winning Brooklyn-based playwright, published short story writer and professor at Wagner College. His short fiction has appeared in many publications including Litro Magazine, one of London's leading literary magazines. Shore earned his MFA in creative writing from Goddard College.

How to Write an Essay About a Novel

Soheila battaglia, 25 jun 2018.

How to Write an Essay About a Novel

Think about the last novel you read. What about it did you love or hate? The purpose of a literature essay is to examine and evaluate a work of literature in an academic setting. To properly analyze a novel, you must break it down into its constitutive elements, including characterization, symbolism and theme. This process of analysis will help you to better understand the novel as a whole in order to write a thorough, insightful essay.

Explore this article

  • Parts of the Novel
  • Main Argument in the Essay
  • Textual Evidence in the Essay
  • Personal Interpretation Based on Evidence

1 Parts of the Novel

During and after reading a novel, the reader should ask a series of questions about aspects of the text to better understand the material. Readers might ask questions like regarding the characters' motivations. Or ask what are the main characters’ virtues and vices? Which of their actions or statements give insight into their morals? What do the characters desire? In terms of the novel's theme, the reader should ask, what is the story about? Are there any social problems conveyed through the novel? What messages does the author communicate regarding shared human experiences and perspectives on reality? If the story uses symbols, what do they represent? You may find that one or more of your responses to these questions will then become the base of your essay.

2 Main Argument in the Essay

The first step to writing an essay about a novel is to determine the main idea or argument. Millsaps College advises students, "Your essay should not just summarize the story's action or the writer's argument; your thesis should make an argument of your own." If the point you are making seems too general or too obvious, be more specific. For example, for the novel "Farenheit 451" by Ray Bradbury, the following main argument is too general: "The novel talks about the dangers of technology." A more specific and effective main argument would be, "Through its depiction of a highly controlled dystopian society, the novel conveys the dangers of using technology as an escape from human emotion and relationships." This main argument is your thesis statement.

3 Textual Evidence in the Essay

The English department at California State University, Channel Islands writes that "it's fine to make a point... but then you must provide examples that support your points." Specific evidence to support your argument includes direct references to the novel. These can be paraphrases, specific details or direct quotations. Remember that textual evidence should only be employed when it directly supports the main idea. That evidence must also be preceded or followed by analysis and an explanation of its relevance to your main point. Textual evidence must always be cited with page numbers from the novel.

4 Personal Interpretation Based on Evidence

Analysis and explanation show the reader you have closely read and reflected on the novel. Instead of summarizing or retelling the story, the focus of a literature essay should be the development of a particular point being made about the text. Your personal interpretation of the material can be conveyed through the conclusions you draw about the motivations and meanings of the novel and any real-world relationships. Those related conclusions need to be based on specific evidence from the text. Options for analyzing the text include looking it through an argument, story structure and author's intent, in a social context or from a psychological standpoint.

  • 1 California State University, Channel Islands: Essay Writing Essentials
  • 2 University of Nebraska-Lincoln: Some Questions to Use in Analyzing Novels

About the Author

Soheila Battaglia is a published and award-winning author and filmmaker. She holds an MA in literary cultures from New York University and a BA in ethnic studies from UC Berkeley. She is a college professor of literature and composition.

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How to Write a Book Essay

Book essay writing is an omnipresent assignment imposed by many professors, especially if you are dealing with literature constantly. An essay on a book is usually a way for your teacher to get proof that you gained something from analyzing this book. They want to make sure that you read the book, thus having some personal thoughts that you’d like to express. Also, writing an essay is quite helpful for developing your skills at articulating thoughts. If you want to know how to write a book essay, then we are here to help you understand it in detail.

writing an essay on a book

What to Consider Writing an Essay on a Book

What is different from your usual essay, is that you need to express your thoughts after reading a certain work and then choose a direction to go from. It is a combination of character analysis combined with your personal feelings on the work that ultimately culminates in the creation of an expressive critical essay on a book. But how to write an essay about a book? Mind you, a professional essay on a book consists of certain criteria, that like chemical compounds create a proper reaction from a reader’s perspective:

  • This is the flair that you base your essay upon. This is when you’re creativeness comes to play, you want your essay to be unique
  • The way you structuralize sentences and pick certain words for your essay.
  • The basic structure of an essay, which usually consists of an introduction, main body, and conclusion.
  • Your essay bears an informative approach, being somewhat emotive to express personal thoughts on a particular book.

📚 How to Prepare for Book Essay Writing

Before writing an essay about a book, you need to think clearly about which plan to use, so that the flow of thoughts lines up into coherent, logical sentences.

How to start off an essay about a book? Immediately after receiving the topic of the essay, ideas and images will begin to arise in your head (of course, if you have read the work). On a rough sheet of paper, sketch the phrases or words that first come to mind. Then they can be developed into a whole essay.

So, think carefully about what you want to say about the topic. Then write down your thoughts on paper in a column. And then decide in what order you want to display these thoughts on paper. This is necessary for a clear and distinct structure of the work.

Read the Book Exhaustively

So how to start an essay about a book? Naturally, the main path to successfully writing an essay on a book is to more or less know the contents of the story. We’re not talking about remembering every single character trait or knowing the gist of each internal monologue. Just focus on what you find alluring about the story, trying to create the idea from a scene that you enjoy in particular. Then you can connect this scene to the character development, thus proving a point that even the smallest scene can influence the overall conclusion of the story. Plus, not knowing the story will make you unable to bring in examples, thus making you obliged to order an essay online .

Make Up One’s Mind About the Topic

How to write a book analysis essay perfectly? Another important thing about approaching a book essay is setting up an idea you’d like to share with the readers. Do you want to lead to a positive conclusion, something philosophical, or go in the direction that no one previously dared to? The idea here is that you need to create a point to focus on and try not to digress from it as much. Do you want to show how the hero struggles with basic human needs? If so, then don’t describe scenes where they do the opposite.

Prepare an Outline

How to write an analysis essay on a book? You have to think of a good outline. An outline is a sort of plan that you don’t want to diverge from. Planning is one of the fortes of humanity and without it, your essay might sound clunky and chaotic. Jumping randomly from point to point won’t get you high scores. Imagine creating an overarching ladder where your point gets stronger and stronger due to the logical nature of your essay. Think about how you want to start your essay, the quotes to strengthen your point, and the natural conclusion you’d like to bring your readers to. This is the gist of an outline.

Don’t Forget About Quotes

Another important aspect of how to write a book analysis is quoting a character to properly refer to a particular scene. An essay usually implies that you have access to all the resources you need, so it wouldn’t pose difficulty to look up a direct quote of a character that correlates with your thoughts. This is extremely important for professors as they want to be persuaded that you know what you are talking about. This is especially true if they are a fan of the story you are writing an essay on. People usually look for like-mindedness, being extremely happy about seeing someone agreeing with them.

📑 How to Structure Your Book Analysis Essay

How to introduce a book in an essay? Like any essay, a creative writing paper in literature consists of several elements:

  • Introduction.
  • Definition of the problem, its relevance.
  • The formulation of one’s position.
  • Arguments that support it.

The structure of the final essay on literature should be clear. Do not make too many paragraphs, but do not break the text into many small passages.

How to Start a Book Analysis Essay?

In the introductory part, the information should be written as if it were read by someone completely unfamiliar with the problem. Here you need to reveal the topic, the problem, and the relevance of the essay. The questions you can put in front of you will help with this:

  • What work are you writing your essay/essay on?
  • What do you know about the author of the work?
  • What is the genre of the work (comedy, drama, novel, etc.)? What aspects would you like to explore in your work?

Writing a Thesis Statement

How to start a paragraph about a book? You are in need of a thesis statement. A thesis statement is the main element for creating a perfect introduction and is your cornerstone to transition to the main body. It is a sentence where you state the main point of your essay, wanting to announce what it is that you are going to analyze. Thus the path to succeeding with the thesis statement is to make it correlate with your conclusion. In fact, you might even start writing a conclusion first, and then write a thesis statement based on it.

Create a Body Paragraph

Here it is necessary to highlight the thoughts that the work evoked, the emotions toward the chosen character or its circumstances.

Each idea will have to be supported by examples from the original text of the work. If you say that the problem of war worries the character, then you need to give examples in which this excitement is conveyed to the reader.

The main part is, for the most part, your reasoning about what you care about in the whole story. Show the evolution of your thought here, from what point in the work it originated, how it evolved, and what conclusion it eventually led to.

Book Essay Conclusion

And this is the finale you lead your readers to. So how to write a conclusion for an argumentative essay ? You create a final point based on everything you’ve been describing in the main body, reinstating the main point in the introduction. Mind you, that conclusion shouldn’t have any new information that wasn’t previously described. You just want to make your thoughts ironclad and protect those from basic criticism.

Need Help Writing an Essay on Books?

How to write an essay on a book when you are not invested in it? If you have an issue with creating an essay on books, then we are more than ready to help you out here. Not everyone is ready to read a book for the sake of making a teacher happy. Sometimes literature can be unbearable with a student who has no interest in or time to engage with it. Nevertheless, your assignment needs to be done and if a perfect score is something you are aiming for, then our paper writing services are the way to go.

Our team is made of literature experts that can learn the book in-depth, knowing exactly what your teacher might be looking for. We stick to the structure described in this article, coming up with a quality outline, and then writing a proper essay that is full of argumentation and persuasiveness.

What is the purpose of a book analysis essay?

A book analysis essay is usually created to write your thoughts on a particular book, trying to prove a personal statement concerning it. Perhaps you’d like to dive into the inner thoughts of a character, analyzing what elements led them to a particular path. You can go the other direction and analyze the writer’s style, complimenting them on creating this rich world. Furthermore, a book analysis essay can be full of critique for nobody is obliged to love everything.

How to talk about a book in an essay?

The main idea of writing an essay about a book is stating the point that is yours and yours only. The path to success is all about loving what you write, instead of feeling obliged to do something. If you just want to create something for the sake of just making an assignment, then your essay can feel bland. If you don’t like the work you need to write an essay on, then go with this direction and bring your fair share of critique.

How to start an essay on a book?

Asking yourself how to start an essay on a book? An essay usually starts with an introduction. You start it with a philosophical sentence that usually invites the reader to reminisce about the contents of the book. This is where you usually state the purpose of your essay, outlining the main point that you are further going to prove in the main body.

How many paragraphs are in a book essay?

The format for a book essay can differ from professor to professor but usually, it has five paragraphs or so. You don’t need to create a huge memoir on a particular book. Rather, you pick some narrow aspect hidden within it and try to condense your thoughts into one page. The most important aspect here is to not make it watery, repeating your point with no progress.

How to write an analysis paper on a book with a good outline?

The outline is the blueprint for creating your essay. This is where you want to create your main point, and then plan how you are going to prove it with particular examples from a book. An outline exists to properly structuralize your essay, without feeling random.

Argumentative Essay Introduction

In essay writing, the toughest part is always starting it. Most students agree: when you get the introduction paragraph right, you become much more confident about writing the rest of the paper. And, when it comes to more specific academic…  Read More

How to Write an Essay on a Book

Book essay writing is an omnipresent assignment imposed by many professors, especially if you are dealing with literature constantly. An essay on a book is usually a way for your teacher to get proof that you gained something from analyzing…  Read More

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  • How to write a literary analysis essay | A step-by-step guide

How to Write a Literary Analysis Essay | A Step-by-Step Guide

Published on January 30, 2020 by Jack Caulfield . Revised on August 14, 2023.

Literary analysis means closely studying a text, interpreting its meanings, and exploring why the author made certain choices. It can be applied to novels, short stories, plays, poems, or any other form of literary writing.

A literary analysis essay is not a rhetorical analysis , nor is it just a summary of the plot or a book review. Instead, it is a type of argumentative essay where you need to analyze elements such as the language, perspective, and structure of the text, and explain how the author uses literary devices to create effects and convey ideas.

Before beginning a literary analysis essay, it’s essential to carefully read the text and c ome up with a thesis statement to keep your essay focused. As you write, follow the standard structure of an academic essay :

  • An introduction that tells the reader what your essay will focus on.
  • A main body, divided into paragraphs , that builds an argument using evidence from the text.
  • A conclusion that clearly states the main point that you have shown with your analysis.

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Table of contents

Step 1: reading the text and identifying literary devices, step 2: coming up with a thesis, step 3: writing a title and introduction, step 4: writing the body of the essay, step 5: writing a conclusion, other interesting articles.

The first step is to carefully read the text(s) and take initial notes. As you read, pay attention to the things that are most intriguing, surprising, or even confusing in the writing—these are things you can dig into in your analysis.

Your goal in literary analysis is not simply to explain the events described in the text, but to analyze the writing itself and discuss how the text works on a deeper level. Primarily, you’re looking out for literary devices —textual elements that writers use to convey meaning and create effects. If you’re comparing and contrasting multiple texts, you can also look for connections between different texts.

To get started with your analysis, there are several key areas that you can focus on. As you analyze each aspect of the text, try to think about how they all relate to each other. You can use highlights or notes to keep track of important passages and quotes.

Language choices

Consider what style of language the author uses. Are the sentences short and simple or more complex and poetic?

What word choices stand out as interesting or unusual? Are words used figuratively to mean something other than their literal definition? Figurative language includes things like metaphor (e.g. “her eyes were oceans”) and simile (e.g. “her eyes were like oceans”).

Also keep an eye out for imagery in the text—recurring images that create a certain atmosphere or symbolize something important. Remember that language is used in literary texts to say more than it means on the surface.

Narrative voice

Ask yourself:

  • Who is telling the story?
  • How are they telling it?

Is it a first-person narrator (“I”) who is personally involved in the story, or a third-person narrator who tells us about the characters from a distance?

Consider the narrator’s perspective . Is the narrator omniscient (where they know everything about all the characters and events), or do they only have partial knowledge? Are they an unreliable narrator who we are not supposed to take at face value? Authors often hint that their narrator might be giving us a distorted or dishonest version of events.

The tone of the text is also worth considering. Is the story intended to be comic, tragic, or something else? Are usually serious topics treated as funny, or vice versa ? Is the story realistic or fantastical (or somewhere in between)?

Consider how the text is structured, and how the structure relates to the story being told.

  • Novels are often divided into chapters and parts.
  • Poems are divided into lines, stanzas, and sometime cantos.
  • Plays are divided into scenes and acts.

Think about why the author chose to divide the different parts of the text in the way they did.

There are also less formal structural elements to take into account. Does the story unfold in chronological order, or does it jump back and forth in time? Does it begin in medias res —in the middle of the action? Does the plot advance towards a clearly defined climax?

With poetry, consider how the rhyme and meter shape your understanding of the text and your impression of the tone. Try reading the poem aloud to get a sense of this.

In a play, you might consider how relationships between characters are built up through different scenes, and how the setting relates to the action. Watch out for  dramatic irony , where the audience knows some detail that the characters don’t, creating a double meaning in their words, thoughts, or actions.

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how to start a essay about a novel

Your thesis in a literary analysis essay is the point you want to make about the text. It’s the core argument that gives your essay direction and prevents it from just being a collection of random observations about a text.

If you’re given a prompt for your essay, your thesis must answer or relate to the prompt. For example:

Essay question example

Is Franz Kafka’s “Before the Law” a religious parable?

Your thesis statement should be an answer to this question—not a simple yes or no, but a statement of why this is or isn’t the case:

Thesis statement example

Franz Kafka’s “Before the Law” is not a religious parable, but a story about bureaucratic alienation.

Sometimes you’ll be given freedom to choose your own topic; in this case, you’ll have to come up with an original thesis. Consider what stood out to you in the text; ask yourself questions about the elements that interested you, and consider how you might answer them.

Your thesis should be something arguable—that is, something that you think is true about the text, but which is not a simple matter of fact. It must be complex enough to develop through evidence and arguments across the course of your essay.

Say you’re analyzing the novel Frankenstein . You could start by asking yourself:

Your initial answer might be a surface-level description:

The character Frankenstein is portrayed negatively in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein .

However, this statement is too simple to be an interesting thesis. After reading the text and analyzing its narrative voice and structure, you can develop the answer into a more nuanced and arguable thesis statement:

Mary Shelley uses shifting narrative perspectives to portray Frankenstein in an increasingly negative light as the novel goes on. While he initially appears to be a naive but sympathetic idealist, after the creature’s narrative Frankenstein begins to resemble—even in his own telling—the thoughtlessly cruel figure the creature represents him as.

Remember that you can revise your thesis statement throughout the writing process , so it doesn’t need to be perfectly formulated at this stage. The aim is to keep you focused as you analyze the text.

Finding textual evidence

To support your thesis statement, your essay will build an argument using textual evidence —specific parts of the text that demonstrate your point. This evidence is quoted and analyzed throughout your essay to explain your argument to the reader.

It can be useful to comb through the text in search of relevant quotations before you start writing. You might not end up using everything you find, and you may have to return to the text for more evidence as you write, but collecting textual evidence from the beginning will help you to structure your arguments and assess whether they’re convincing.

To start your literary analysis paper, you’ll need two things: a good title, and an introduction.

Your title should clearly indicate what your analysis will focus on. It usually contains the name of the author and text(s) you’re analyzing. Keep it as concise and engaging as possible.

A common approach to the title is to use a relevant quote from the text, followed by a colon and then the rest of your title.

If you struggle to come up with a good title at first, don’t worry—this will be easier once you’ve begun writing the essay and have a better sense of your arguments.

“Fearful symmetry” : The violence of creation in William Blake’s “The Tyger”

The introduction

The essay introduction provides a quick overview of where your argument is going. It should include your thesis statement and a summary of the essay’s structure.

A typical structure for an introduction is to begin with a general statement about the text and author, using this to lead into your thesis statement. You might refer to a commonly held idea about the text and show how your thesis will contradict it, or zoom in on a particular device you intend to focus on.

Then you can end with a brief indication of what’s coming up in the main body of the essay. This is called signposting. It will be more elaborate in longer essays, but in a short five-paragraph essay structure, it shouldn’t be more than one sentence.

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is often read as a crude cautionary tale about the dangers of scientific advancement unrestrained by ethical considerations. In this reading, protagonist Victor Frankenstein is a stable representation of the callous ambition of modern science throughout the novel. This essay, however, argues that far from providing a stable image of the character, Shelley uses shifting narrative perspectives to portray Frankenstein in an increasingly negative light as the novel goes on. While he initially appears to be a naive but sympathetic idealist, after the creature’s narrative Frankenstein begins to resemble—even in his own telling—the thoughtlessly cruel figure the creature represents him as. This essay begins by exploring the positive portrayal of Frankenstein in the first volume, then moves on to the creature’s perception of him, and finally discusses the third volume’s narrative shift toward viewing Frankenstein as the creature views him.

Some students prefer to write the introduction later in the process, and it’s not a bad idea. After all, you’ll have a clearer idea of the overall shape of your arguments once you’ve begun writing them!

If you do write the introduction first, you should still return to it later to make sure it lines up with what you ended up writing, and edit as necessary.

The body of your essay is everything between the introduction and conclusion. It contains your arguments and the textual evidence that supports them.

Paragraph structure

A typical structure for a high school literary analysis essay consists of five paragraphs : the three paragraphs of the body, plus the introduction and conclusion.

Each paragraph in the main body should focus on one topic. In the five-paragraph model, try to divide your argument into three main areas of analysis, all linked to your thesis. Don’t try to include everything you can think of to say about the text—only analysis that drives your argument.

In longer essays, the same principle applies on a broader scale. For example, you might have two or three sections in your main body, each with multiple paragraphs. Within these sections, you still want to begin new paragraphs at logical moments—a turn in the argument or the introduction of a new idea.

Robert’s first encounter with Gil-Martin suggests something of his sinister power. Robert feels “a sort of invisible power that drew me towards him.” He identifies the moment of their meeting as “the beginning of a series of adventures which has puzzled myself, and will puzzle the world when I am no more in it” (p. 89). Gil-Martin’s “invisible power” seems to be at work even at this distance from the moment described; before continuing the story, Robert feels compelled to anticipate at length what readers will make of his narrative after his approaching death. With this interjection, Hogg emphasizes the fatal influence Gil-Martin exercises from his first appearance.

Topic sentences

To keep your points focused, it’s important to use a topic sentence at the beginning of each paragraph.

A good topic sentence allows a reader to see at a glance what the paragraph is about. It can introduce a new line of argument and connect or contrast it with the previous paragraph. Transition words like “however” or “moreover” are useful for creating smooth transitions:

… The story’s focus, therefore, is not upon the divine revelation that may be waiting beyond the door, but upon the mundane process of aging undergone by the man as he waits.

Nevertheless, the “radiance” that appears to stream from the door is typically treated as religious symbolism.

This topic sentence signals that the paragraph will address the question of religious symbolism, while the linking word “nevertheless” points out a contrast with the previous paragraph’s conclusion.

Using textual evidence

A key part of literary analysis is backing up your arguments with relevant evidence from the text. This involves introducing quotes from the text and explaining their significance to your point.

It’s important to contextualize quotes and explain why you’re using them; they should be properly introduced and analyzed, not treated as self-explanatory:

It isn’t always necessary to use a quote. Quoting is useful when you’re discussing the author’s language, but sometimes you’ll have to refer to plot points or structural elements that can’t be captured in a short quote.

In these cases, it’s more appropriate to paraphrase or summarize parts of the text—that is, to describe the relevant part in your own words:

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The conclusion of your analysis shouldn’t introduce any new quotations or arguments. Instead, it’s about wrapping up the essay. Here, you summarize your key points and try to emphasize their significance to the reader.

A good way to approach this is to briefly summarize your key arguments, and then stress the conclusion they’ve led you to, highlighting the new perspective your thesis provides on the text as a whole:

If you want to know more about AI tools , college essays , or fallacies make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples or go directly to our tools!

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By tracing the depiction of Frankenstein through the novel’s three volumes, I have demonstrated how the narrative structure shifts our perception of the character. While the Frankenstein of the first volume is depicted as having innocent intentions, the second and third volumes—first in the creature’s accusatory voice, and then in his own voice—increasingly undermine him, causing him to appear alternately ridiculous and vindictive. Far from the one-dimensional villain he is often taken to be, the character of Frankenstein is compelling because of the dynamic narrative frame in which he is placed. In this frame, Frankenstein’s narrative self-presentation responds to the images of him we see from others’ perspectives. This conclusion sheds new light on the novel, foregrounding Shelley’s unique layering of narrative perspectives and its importance for the depiction of character.

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A Step-By-Step Guide to Writing an Essay on a Book

Topic and assignment prompt, essay structure, why is it important.

How to write an essay on a book

Outlining Essay Structure

Organizing your essay efficiently is important for making sure it’s clear, concise, and to the point. Before you start writing, it’s important to understand the basic structure of an essay. Most essays are composed of an introduction, body, and conclusion.

The introduction serves as an opening paragraph where you should introduce the topic and provide any necessary background information that readers may need in order to understand the essay. A good introduction will explain why a reader should care about your topic and capture the attention of the reader.

The body is the main section of the essay where you will provide evidence, quotes, and any other relevant information to prove your point. It is important to make sure that each body paragraph has only one main point, and all of the evidence presented in the paragraph supports that one point.

The conclusion is the last paragraph of the essay. It should wrap up all of the points you made in the body and leave the reader with a sense of closure. It should also create a takeaway, or something for the reader to remember about what they have just read.

To make sure your essay is organized and has a consistent tone throughout, it is important to outline what each section should include. Outlining your essay structure before beginning eliminates unnecessary stress and makes sure you don’t forget any important points.

Research Phase: The Importance of Researching the Book

Before you dive into writing your essay on a book, you’ll want to make sure that you have done your research. No matter how familiar you are with the subject, it’s important to conduct research to ensure that your essay is accurate and well-informed.

Research can help you form a stronger thesis statement, better support your arguments, and provide evidence for your claims. It can also help you to organize your thoughts, uncover new ideas and angles, gain a deeper understanding of the text, or even find quotes or references that you can use in your essay.

Research should always come first. It helps to lay a strong foundation for the rest of your essay and it can save you from making any embarrassing mistakes. Have a clear understanding of the book’s themes, characters, and plot before you begin. Read reviews and criticisms, and take down notes for later.

Start by reading the book itself. Take your time and pay attention to details. Make notes, highlight any important passages, and consider different interpretations. After you get an overall gist of the book, expand your research outward into scholarly reviews, biographies, and other texts that can provide an objective, informed perspective.

The more research you do, the stronger your essay will be. Be sure to include all of the sources you used in your bibliography section. Research can be a tedious process, but with enough effort and dedication, you’ll be able to craft a well-informed, thoughtful essay on any book.

Pre-Writing Phase: Planning Your Essay

The pre-writing phase is the most important part of writing an essay on a book. Taking the time to plan your essay and organize your thoughts will help structure your argument and make your writing smoother. The pre-writing phase should involve a few key steps.

  • Brainstorm – Before you start writing, spend some time thinking about the book and how it relates to any themes, characters, or symbolism. Jot down your ideas so that you have a better understanding of what you want to focus on.
  • Outline – Write down some notes and make an outline of what you will cover in each paragraph. This will help you stay organized while writing and keep everything on track.
  • Research – Research any facts or quotes you may need to include in your essay. This will help you back up your claims and make your paper stronger.

Taking the time to plan ahead will help ensure your essay on a book is written clearly and effectively. You’ll be able to shape your argument easily and make sure you don’t miss anything important.

Thesis Formation

The thesis statement is a critical part of any essay on a book. It should be clear, concise, and capture the main argument and point of view of the essay. To ensure that your essay’s thesis statement is well-crafted, it is essential to follow a step-by-step guide.

Step One: Brainstorming Ideas

Before writing a thesis statement, you should brainstorm some ideas related to the book’s content. Consider the key elements of the book and think about how they could be connected into an argument or observation. Write down any ideas that pop into your mind, and use them as a basis for forming your thesis statement.

Step Two: Developing the Argument

Once you have a few ideas in mind, it is time to start developing a coherent argument. Try to make a connection between the ideas to create an original argument. Then, think about why this argument is important and what makes it relevant to the text.

Step Three: Writing the Thesis Statement

Now that you have an argument in mind, you are ready to craft your thesis statement. It should be a single sentence that clearly and concisely expresses your main argument. Generally, it should follow the same structure as any other essay’s thesis statement, stating the primary point of view, the evidence supporting it, and any other relevant details.

Step Four: Proofreading

The final step of crafting a great thesis statement is to proofread and edit it. Make sure that the statement is clear, concise, and captures the argument accurately. Additionally, pay attention to grammar and spelling. A minor mistake can weaken the force of the statement significantly.

Creating an effective thesis statement can help get your essay off to a strong start. As long as you follow these steps, you will be able to form a well-developed argument that can help you write a great essay on a book.

Drafting an Organized Paragraph

Editing: benefits and how to approach it effectively.

When writing an essay on a book, editing is a crucial step in the process. It can often be overlooked or skipped, but it shouldn’t be! Editing offers many valuable benefits, and it’s important to understand how to approach it effectively.

One of the biggest benefits of editing is that it gives you the opportunity to look at your essay with fresh eyes. Once you’ve written the paper, it can be nearly impossible to look at it objectively. Editing allows you to look at it critically and make necessary changes.

Editing also helps you to catch grammar mistakes, spelling errors, and typos. A single error can easily ruin an entire essay, so it’s essential to go over the paper and make sure everything is perfect. This can only be done by editing the paper carefully.

Finally, editing can help you to make sure that the essay is coherent and well-written. After writing the paper , you might realize that the introduction and conclusion don’t match up, or that two paragraphs contradict each other. Editing will help you to identify such issues and make the necessary adjustments.

Now that we’ve discussed the benefits of editing, let’s look at how to approach it effectively. The first step is to read the entire essay through once without making any changes. This should give you a good overview of the paper and allow you to spot any major issues. The next step is to go through the paper again and make notes as you go along.

You should pay particular attention to grammar, spelling, typos, and structure. Make a note of anything that stands out and needs to be changed. Don’t worry if you can’t fix it right away – just write it down and come back to it later. The goal is to get an overall picture of what needs to be done.

Finally, it’s time to make the actual changes. Take your time and read each sentence carefully before you make any changes. Don’t be afraid to delete or add content between paragraphs to ensure that the essay flows naturally.

In summary, editing is an essential step in the essay-writing process. It offers many benefits, including the ability to look at the essay objectively, catch grammar mistakes and typos, and ensure that the essay is coherent and well-written. When approaching the editing phase, it’s important to read the paper through once without making any changes, make notes as you go, and take your time when making the actual changes.

Formatting – Adhering to Academic Standards

Formatting your essay correctly is a critical step in the writing process. It shows that you have taken care to put together an essay that follows the academic standards.

Here are a few tips for formatting your essay according to academic standards:

  • Make sure the margins of your essay are set to one inch on all sides.
  • Your font should be size 12 Times New Roman or Arial.
  • Use double spacing between lines, and make sure there is no extra space before or after each paragraph.
  • When quoting direct text, indenting it five spaces will make it easier to read.
  • Include a header at the top of your document that includes the title of the essay, your name, and the page number.

Formatted correctly, your essay will present itself as concise, organized, and professional. This is a must when following academic standards.

If you want to ensure that your essay looks even better, check with your professor for specific formatting requirements for your assignment.

By taking the time to properly format your essay, you are showing that you understand the importance of adhering to academic standards. This will help you get the best grades possible!

Understanding the Assignment

Writing an essay on a book can be quite a challenge for many students. One of the most important skills for tackling this task is to understand the assignment. To begin, students should read carefully and take notes on the writing prompt. Pay close attention to all the instructions as they are key to crafting an effective essay. This includes being mindful of any keywords or phrases in the prompt that will require further research.

When interpreting the instructions, it is also important to consider any extra guidelines or expectations the professor may have provided. These can include formatting, length, and specific areas of emphasis such as themes or characters. Questions such as ‘Who is the protagonist?’ or ‘How do the themes interact?’ should be actively considered while writing the essay. This helps produce a focused piece of work that is tailored to meet the requirements.

In addition, consider questions such as ‘What do I need to include?’ or ‘What is the purpose of this essay?’. Answering these questions allows students to identify their main points and develop an argument around them. This is a crucial step for forming an essay that is logical and cohesive.

Finally, students should always use the essay assignment to test their understanding of the book. It is often beneficial to leave time at the end of the writing process to review knowledge and reflect on any unanswered questions. Doing so ensures that the essay is comprehensive and addresses all aspects of the prompt.

Understanding the assignment is a vital step when writing an essay on a book. By paying attention to the prompt and any additional guidelines, students can ensure that their assignment is focused, detailed, and suitable for the task.

Effective Use of Quotes

Make sure your quote is relevant to the main argument of your essay.

Choose a quote that is engaging and thought-provoking.

Include the right amount of detail – don’t use too much or too little.

Explain the quote in your own words and provide context.

Think critically about the quote and how it applies to your argument.

Integrate the quote into your essay so that it flows naturally.

Tools for Writing an Essay on a Book

When writing an essay on a book there are certain tools that can help make the process easier. Knowing some of these basic terms and tools can help you write a better essay and make it much more enjoyable.

Creating an outline is one of the most important steps in writing an essay. It provides structure to your essay, ensuring that each point is made in the correct order and that the essay flows logically. Outlining also helps you stay organized and remember what needs to be included in the essay.

Doing research is important when writing an essay about a book. Read through the text and make notes about any interesting or pertinent information you find. Also, look for additional sources that can provide further insight into the book or the topics it raises.

Grammar and Spelling Checkers

Grammar and spelling checkers can be extremely useful when writing your essay. They can help you identify mistakes or typos that you may have missed. Double-check your work before you submit it to make sure it is as accurate and error-free as possible.

Writing Resources

Finally, there are many great writing resources available online that can provide further advice and guidance on how to write an effective essay. Look through examples of essays written by other students and learn from their techniques and approaches.

Knowing some of these basic terms and tools can help you get off to a strong start when writing an essay on a book. Do your research, create an outline, and use grammar and spelling checkers to make sure your work is as perfect as possible. Finally, don’t forget to look for other writing resources that can provide insight and advice.

Writing an essay on a book can be a daunting task, especially when attempting it for the first time. This guide aims to make the process of writing an essay on a book simple and easy-to-follow. By following the steps outlined in this article, you can make the process of writing your essay much easier.

A good conclusion should summarize the main points of the article, explain how to approach writing the final version, and reiterate why the content was important. To conclude your essay, start by summarizing the arguments and ideas that you presented throughout your paper. Then, move on to discussing why you chose to write the essay and the importance of studying the book. Finally, provide a brief statement that sums up the main points of the essay.

When writing the final version of your essay, there are some key points to keep in mind. First, proofread your work for any typos or errors. Make sure to properly cite any quotes or references that you used in your essay. Finally, consider having a peer review your essay to get another perspective and catch any mistakes that you might have missed.

Writing an essay on a book can be a rewarding experience when done correctly. The most important part of the process is to fully understand the material and the prompt. By following the steps outlined in this article and taking the time to research and plan, you can write an effective essay on a book.

Nick Radlinsky

Nick Radlinsky

Nick Radlinsky is a devoted educator, marketing specialist, and management expert with more than 15 years of experience in the education sector. After obtaining his business degree in 2016, Nick embarked on a quest to achieve his PhD, driven by his commitment to enhancing education for students worldwide. His vast experience, starting in 2008, has established him as a reputable authority in the field.

Nick's article, featured in Routledge's " Entrepreneurship in Central and Eastern Europe: Development through Internationalization ," highlights his sharp insights and unwavering dedication to advancing the educational landscape. Inspired by his personal motto, "Make education better," Nick's mission is to streamline students' lives and foster efficient learning. His inventive ideas and leadership have contributed to the transformation of numerous educational experiences, distinguishing him as a true innovator in his field.

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How To Write An Outline For An Essay About A Book

How To Write a Book Essay Outline

If you want to know how to start an essay about a book, you need to begin with an outline.

It’s an essential step to help improve your writing skills.

Writing an outline for a book or an essay is very similar, but the only difference is the length or number of words.

You usually need to write an introduction, body paragraphs, and a conclusion with any essay.

In This Article

Book essay outline

An essay outline is similar to planning to write a book.

While it consists of many chapters, it also needs a beginning, middle, and ending.

Even though the middle might be much longer, the outlining process is almost the same.

Now, let’s look at how you create your essay outline.

Write down the date, name, class, module, and any extra information you think is necessary.

It doesn’t include any information about the essay or book yet.

But you should note these details before starting your outline.

If you’re a high school or college student, you might be working on various class essays or projects at the same time.

You can quickly look at this information and see which project it is.

It’s also necessary for your teacher or publisher to check who is sending the information.

Thesis / Synopsis

Your thesis statement or argument should be robust and provide readers with information on what to expect when they read your essay or thesis.

It doesn’t need to be a lengthy, drawn-out statement, but the important part is that it should communicate a clear message.

When you write down your notes, be sure that you can argue your point.

When writing a literary analysis essay about a book, you might relate to this section more if you think of your book essay outline as a synopsis .

It is a quick summary of what your text will cover. Some publishers will have a set number of words, while others leave it up to the writer.

Check with the publishing house you want to work with and make sure your synopsis fits their requirements.

First paragraph / Chapter

Your opening paragraph is probably one of the most critical sections of your writing project.

An essay introduction is where you want to hook the reader and create a spark.

Many readers will form an opinion about your writing in the first paragraph, and it’s essential to convince them that your thesis is correct.

Once you have convinced the readers of your thesis, you can keep them interested throughout the essay or book.

Focus on the strongest point in your first topic sentence and paragraph to set all doubts aside.

As this paragraph also stands as your introduction, it is crucial to introduce readers to your way of thinking.

Once you’ve stated your most valuable fact, you can move on to the rest of your paragraphs or chapters.

The Body / Middle

Now that you have started with your most compelling paragraph and fact, it’s time to add more information.

Don’t think that the body of your work doesn’t need to be strong.

If you are writing an essay or a book, there are always other people competing with you.

If you are a student in the class, you want to be one of the top students.

Being an author isn’t any easier because there are many writers out there trying to get published.

You need to do sound research to prove your thesis, and this is the section where you will state most of those facts.

As this is just the outline for what will eventually be the final product, you need to make sure you understand the flow and structure.

You can jot down ideas or facts and insert them when you write a body paragraph.

Your work needs to have a flow to it, and this is where you create that. The body is where you organize your thoughts in a logical order.

You already know your thesis and your opening fact. But what else do you want to say, and in what order do you want to say it?

The Conclusion

After you’ve created your book essay outline for all of your paragraphs, it is time to start your conclusion.

Your conclusion should summarize all the facts you stated in the essay.

Don’t be afraid to remind the reader of your most impactful facts.

It’s a summary of what you have discussed and to leave the reader on a high.

You can’t start with a bang and then slowly lose your audience at the end.

Use the hook you started with and stay consistent with your writing style.

Then let your readers know why you chose to write your piece.

Call to Action

Once you have convinced your readers that your thesis is correct, what actions would you like them to take?

You provided many facts in your writing, and the reader should start thinking about your point of view.

Now you have to direct them to test your theory for themselves.

What do you want them to do now?

In any type of essay, it’s easy to draft a great outline once you have your structure right.

You can also look online for examples of a book essay outline and apply the ideas to your work.

There’s no right or wrong way to outline if you have a logical flow to your ideas.

You prepare an outline to prevent rambling in your writing or stating random facts that don’t connect.

Your final draft will come much later than your outline, so don’t rush the process.

Your outline will help make writing your essay much easier.

You can take each heading as a new project and focus on transitioning to the next section.

When you write the ending sentence of a paragraph, think about the opening sentence of the next one.

That way, you know that there will be no abrupt endings but rather a smooth transition between paragraphs.

It doesn’t matter if you are writing an article, an essay, a novel, or a research paper.

If you plan well, you’ll write well.

Related reading: Words To Avoid In Writing That Say Or Do Next To Nothing

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Roald Dahl’s whimsical story of a magical chocolate maker has been adapted twice. One starring Gene Wilder and the other starring Johnny Depp. Find out how each movie compares to the book!

how to start a essay about a novel

Killers of the Flower Moon Movie vs True Story Review

Martin Scorsese’s 3.5 hour movie about the Osage tribe who were murdered over the span of years, was adapted from a book by David Grann who researched the true story. Find out how the movie compares with the truth.

how to start a essay about a novel

1408 by Stephen King Book vs Movie Review

Stephen King’s novella about an evil hotel room was adapted into the movie with John Cusack and Samuel L. Jackson. Find out how the two compare!

how to start a essay about a novel

We Have Always Lived in the Castle Book vs Movie Review

Shirley Jackson’s story about a family that is isolated from the town gives you a lot to analyze. But does the movie adaptation from 2018 capture the ambiguity or do they dumb it down?

how to start a essay about a novel

Dracula Book vs Movies Review

Bram Stoker’s Dracula has taken on a life of its own. After reading the book I watched 6 different Dracula movies to find out which one is the most faithful, and if being more faithful makes for a better adaptation.

how to start a essay about a novel

Casino Royale Book vs Movie Review

The first James Bond book wasn’t (truly) adapted until 2006, when Daniel Craig made his first appearance at the British spy. Find out how the movie compares with the book!

how to start a essay about a novel

A Haunting in Venice/Hallowe’en Party Book vs Movie Review

Kenneth Banagh’s latest Hercule Poirot movie is an adaptation of Halloween Party. This is the loosest Christie adaptation he has made, but were the changes from book to movie for the better?

how to start a essay about a novel

Dumb Money movie vs true story-Analysis/GameStop/Robinhood 2021 Review

Dumb Money is the insane true story of when a group of people on Analysis caused a short squeeze in the stock market. Find out how the movie compares to this real life David and Goliath story!

how to start a essay about a novel

My Cousin Rachel Book vs Movie Review

Daphne Du Maurier’s gothic thriller was adapted into a movie starring Rachel Weisz in the title role-find out how the two compare!

how to start a essay about a novel

The Player Book vs Movie Review

The Player is a satire about the Hollywood film industry. Find out how the book compares to this star-studded movie!

how to start a essay about a novel

Zodiac True Story vs Movie Review

The San Fransisco Zodiac killer has sparked numerous movies, but the 2007 David FIncher movie is based on the book by Robert Graysmith who has spent decades trying to crack the case.

how to start a essay about a novel

The Last Voyage of the Demeter Book vs Movie Review

The Last Voyage of the Demeter is an adaptation of a chapter from Dracula. Find out what I think of the movie, and how it compares to the Bram Stoker book!

how to start a essay about a novel

Mary Poppins Book vs Movie Review

Disney’s iconic movie is based on the popular children’s book by P.L. Travers. Find out the changes that were made from book to film!

how to start a essay about a novel

Corner Office/The Room Book vs Movie-ending explained Review

Corner Office starring Jon Hamm is based on the surrealist Swedish novel about corporate life. What do each o them mean? And what is different between the two?

how to start a essay about a novel

How Stella Got Her Groove Back Book vs Movie Review

Terry McMillan’s book (that is based on a real experience of hers) was adapted into the popular movie starring Angela Bassett and Taye Diggs. Find out how the movie compares to the book and what happened in the true story behind the book!

how to start a essay about a novel

Jaws Book vs Movie Review

Find out how Peter Benchley’s novel compares to the iconic Steven Spielberg summer blockbuster!

how to start a essay about a novel

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 Book vs Movie Review

In the sequel we see the four friends in college, trying to balance school, romance, friendships, family, and of course, the pants.

how to start a essay about a novel

Stronger Movie vs True Story Review

Stronger is the true story of Jeff Bauman, who lost both of his legs in the Boston Marathon bombing and how he learned to walk again-both literally and figuratively.

how to start a essay about a novel

Ella Enchanted Book vs Movie Review

Ella Enchanted is a fun retelling of Cinderella which was adapted into the movie starring Anne Hathaway. Find out how different the book and movie are!

how to start a essay about a novel

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants Book vs Movie Review

This coming of age story follows four best friends who each learn different things about themselves over one summer. But how does the NY Times best seller compare with the movie?

how to start a essay about a novel

The Perfect Find Book vs Movie Review

Find out how the Tia Williams novel compares with the Netflix movie starring Gabrielle Union!

how to start a essay about a novel

The Pale Blue Eye Book vs Movie Review

This gothic mystery includes a fictionalized version of Edgar Allan Poe and the movie stars Christian Bale. Find out why this is a great adaptation and a great mystery!

how to start a essay about a novel

No Country for Old Men Analysis-book vs movie Review

Cormac McCarthy’s best-selling book was adapted by Joel and Ethan Coen’s who made it into an Academy Award winning movie. When it comes to which is better, it’s a nearly impossible choice!

how to start a essay about a novel

Confess, Fletch Book vs Movie Review

The character created by Gregory Mcdonald and made famous by Chevy Chase is returning with Jon Hamm in the lead! How does this comedic mystery novel compare to the movie??

how to start a essay about a novel

Drive Book vs Movie (2011) Review

This gritty, noir novel was adapted into the atmospheric movie starring Ryan Gosling. Find out how the two compare and which I like best!

how to start a essay about a novel

The Birds Book vs Movie Review

The Birds directed by Alfred Hitchcock starring Tippi Hedren has become so iconic. But did you know it is based on a short story by Daphne du Maurier? Find out how the two compare and which I like best!

how to start a essay about a novel

BlackBerry Movie vs True Story Review

The new Matt Johnson movie starring Glenn Howerton and Jay Baruchel documents the true story of the BlackBerry phone. But how close does it stay to the truth? Check out today’s episode to find out!

how to start a essay about a novel

The Talented Mr. Ripley Book vs Movie Review

Patricia Highsmith’s novel about a troubled man whose life starts to get out of hand, was adapted into movie starring Matt Damon, Jude Law, and Gwyneth Paltrow.

how to start a essay about a novel

Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret Book vs Movie Review

This beloved coming of age book and movie tells the story of a young girl who is navigating life in a new school, getting her period, and trying to figure out what religion she wants to be. Hear how the book and movie differ, and which I like best!

how to start a essay about a novel

Peter Pan and Wendy Book vs Movie Review

David Lowery’s adaptation of the beloved Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie is a fun, beautifully shot movie. But how does it compare to the book? I was surprised how much I loved the book, so the movie had a lot to live up to!

Whether you’ve been struck with a moment of inspiration or you’ve carried a story inside you for years, you’re here because you want to start writing fiction. From developing flesh-and-bone characters to worlds as real as our own, good fiction is hard to write, and getting the first words onto the blank page can be daunting.

Daunting, but not impossible. Although writing good fiction takes time, with a few fiction writing tips and your first sentences written, you’ll find that it’s much easier to get your words on the page.

Let’s break down fiction to its essential elements. We’ll investigate the individual components of fiction writing—and how, when they sit down to write, writers turn words into worlds. Then, we’ll turn to instructor Jack Smith and his thoughts on combining these elements into great works of fiction. But first, what are the elements of fiction writing?

Introduction to Fiction Writing: The Six Elements of Fiction

Before we delve into any writing tips, let’s review the essentials of creative writing in fiction. Whether you’re writing flash fiction , short stories, or epic trilogies, most fiction stories require these six components:

  • Plot: the “what happens” of your story.
  • Characters:  whose lives are we watching?
  • Setting: the world that the story is set in.
  • Point of View: from whose eyes do we see the story unfold?
  • Theme: the “deeper meaning” of the story, or what the story represents.
  • Style: how you use words to tell the story.

It’s important to recognize that all of these elements are intertwined. You can’t build the setting without writing it through a certain point of view; you can’t develop important themes with arbitrary characters, etc. We’ll get into the relationship between these elements later, but for now, let’s explore how to use each element to write fiction.

1. Fiction Writing Tip: Developing Fictional Plots

Plot is the series of causes and effects that produce the story as a whole. Because A, then B, then C—ultimately leading to the story’s  climax , the result of all the story’s events and character’s decisions.

If you don’t know where to start your story, but you have a few story ideas, then start with the conflict . Some novels take their time to introduce characters or explain the world of the piece, but if the conflict that drives the story doesn’t show up within the first 15 pages, then the story loses direction quickly.

That’s not to say you have to be explicit about the conflict. In Harry Potter, Voldemort isn’t introduced as the main antagonist until later in the first book; the series’ conflict begins with the Dursley family hiding Harry from his magical talents. Let the conflict unfold naturally in the story, but start with the story’s impetus, then go from there.

2. Fiction Writing Tip: Creating Characters

Think far back to 9th grade English, and you might remember the basic types of story conflicts: man vs. nature, man vs. man, and man vs. self. The conflicts that occur within stories happen to its characters—there can be no story without its people. Sometimes, your story needs to start there: in the middle of a conversation, a disrupted routine, or simply with what makes your characters special.

There are many ways to craft characters with depth and complexity. These include writing backstory, giving characters goals and fatal flaws, and making your characters contend with complicated themes and ideas. This guide on character development will help you sort out the traits your characters need, and how to interweave those traits into the story.

3. Fiction Writing Tip: Give Life to Living Worlds

Whether your story is set on Earth or a land far, far away, your setting lives in the same way your characters do. In the same way that we read to get inside the heads of other people, we also read to escape to a world outside of our own. Consider starting the story with what makes your world live: a pulsing city, the whispered susurrus of orchards, hills that roil with unsolved mysteries, etc. Tell us where the conflict is happening, and the story will follow.

4. Fiction Writing Tip: Play With Narrative Point of View

Point of view refers to the “cameraman” of the story—the vantage point we are viewing the story through. Maybe you’re stuck starting your story because you’re trying to write it in the wrong person. There are four POVs that authors work with:

  • First person—the story is told from the “I” perspective, and that “I” is the protagonist.
  • First person peripheral—the story is told from the “I” perspective, but the “I” is not the protagonist, but someone adjacent to the protagonist. (Think: Nick Carraway, narrator of  The Great Gatsby. )
  • Second person—the story is told from the “you” perspective. This point of view is rare, but when done effectively, it can create a sense of eeriness or a personalized piece.
  • Third person limited—the story is told from the “he/she/they” perspective. The narrator is not directly involved in the lives of the characters; additionally, the narrator usually writes from the perspective of one or two characters.
  • Third person omniscient—the story is told from the “he/she/they” perspective. The narrator is not directly involved in the lives of the characters; additionally, the narrator knows what is happening in each character’s heads and in the world at large.

If you can’t find the right words to begin your piece, consider switching up the pronouns you use and the perspective you write from. You might find that the story flows onto the page from a different point of view.

5. Fiction Writing Tip: Use the Story to Investigate Themes

Generally, the themes of the story aren’t explored until after the aforementioned elements are established, and writers don’t always know the themes of their own work until after the work is written. Still, it might help to consider the broader implications of the story you want to write. How does the conflict or story extend into a bigger picture?

Let’s revisit Harry Potter’s opening scenes. When we revisit the Dursleys preventing Harry from knowing about his true nature, several themes are established: the meaning of family, the importance of identity, and the idea of fate can all be explored here. Themes often develop organically, but it doesn’t hurt to consider the message of your story from the start.

6. Fiction Writing Tip: Experiment With Words

Style is the last of the six fiction elements, but certainly as important as the others. The words you use to tell your story, the way you structure your sentences, how you alternate between characters, and the sounds of the words you use all contribute to the mood of the work itself.

If you’re struggling to get past the first sentence, try rewriting it. Write it in 10 words or write it in 200 words; write a single word sentence; experiment with metaphors, alliteration, or onomatopoeia . Then, once you’ve found the right words, build from there, and let your first sentence guide the style and mood of the narrative.

Now, let’s take a deeper look at the craft of fiction writing. The above elements are great starting points, but to learn how to start writing fiction, we need to examine the craft of combining these elements.

Jack Smith

Primer on the Elements of Fiction Writing

First, before we get into the craft of fiction writing, it’s important to understand the elements of fiction. You don’t need to understand everything about the craft of fiction before you start keying in ideas or planning your novel. But this primer will be something you can consult if you need clarification on any term (e.g., point of view) as you learn how to start writing fiction.

The Elements of Fiction Writing

A standard novel runs between 80,000 to 100,000 words. A short novel, going by the National Novel Writing Month , is at least 50,000. To begin with, don’t think about length—think about development. Length will come. It is true that some works lend themselves more to novellas, but if that’s the case, you don’t want to pad them to make a longer work. If you write a plot summary—that’s one option on getting started writing fiction—you will be able to get a fairly good idea about your project as to whether it lends itself to a full-blown novel.

For now, let’s think about the various elements of fiction—the building blocks.

Writing Fiction: Your Protagonist

Readers want an interesting protagonist , or main character. One that seems real, that deals with the various things in life we all deal with. If the writer makes life too simple, and doesn’t reflect the kinds of problems we all face, most readers are going to lose interest.

Don’t cheat it. Make the work honest. Do as much as you can to develop a character who is fully developed, fully real—many-sided. Complex. In Aspects of the Novel , E.M Forster called this character a “round” characte r. This character is capable of surprising us. Don’t be afraid to make your protagonist, or any of your characters, a bit contradictory. Most of us are somewhat contradictory at one time or another. The deeper you see into your protagonist, the more complex, the more believable they will be.

If a character has no depth, is merely “flat,” as Forster terms it, then we can sum this character up in a sentence: “George hates his ex-wife.” This is much too limited. Find out why. What is it that causes George to hate his ex-wife? Is it because of something she did or didn’t do? Is it because of a basic personality clash? Is it because George can’t stand a certain type of person, and he didn’t realize, until too late, that his ex-wife was really that kind of person? Imagine some moments of illumination, and you will have a much richer character than one who just hates his ex-wife.

And so… to sum up: think about fleshing out your protagonist as much as you can. Consider personality, character (or moral makeup), inclinations, proclivities, likes, dislikes, etc. What makes this character happy? What makes this character sad or frustrated? What motivates your character? Readers don’t want to know only what —they want to know why .

Usually, readers want a sympathetic character, one they can root for. Or if not that, one that is interesting in different ways. You might not find the protagonist of The Girl on the Train totally sympathetic, but she’s interesting! She’s compelling.

Here’s an article I wrote on what makes a good protagonist.

Also on clichéd characters.

Now, we’re ready for a key question: what is your protagonist’s main goal in this story? And secondly, who or what will stand in the way of your character achieving this goal?

There are two kinds of conflicts: internal and external. In some cases, characters may not be opposing an external antagonist, but be self-conflicted. Once you decide on your character’s goal, you can more easily determine the nature of the obstacles that your protagonist must overcome. There must be conflict, of course, and stories must involve movement. Things go from Phase A to Phase B to Phase C, and so on. Overall, the protagonist begins here and ends there. She isn’t the same at the end of the story as she was in the beginning. There is a character arc.

I spoke of character arc. Now let’s move on to plot, the mechanism governing the overall logic of the story. What causes the protagonist to change? What key events lead up to the final resolution?

But before we go there, let’s stop a moment and think about point of view, the lens through which the story is told.

Writing Fiction: Point of View as Lens

Is this the right protagonist for this story? Is this character the one who has the most at stake? Does this character have real potential for change? Remember, you must have change or movement—in terms of character growth—in your story. Your character should not be quite the same at the end as in the beginning. Otherwise, it’s more of a sketch.

Such a story used to be called “slice of life.” For example, what if a man thinks his job can’t get any worse—and it doesn’t? He started with a great dislike for the job, for the people he works with, just for the pay. His hate factor is 9 on a scale of 10. He doesn’t learn anything about himself either. He just realizes he’s got to get out of there. The reader knew that from page 1.

Choose a character who has a chance of undergoing change of some kind. The more complex the change, the better. Characters that change are dynamic characters , according to E. M. Forster. Characters that remain the same are  static  characters. Be sure your protagonist is dynamic.

Okay, an exception: Let’s say your character resists change—that can involve some sort of movement—the resisting of change.

Here’s another thing to look at on protagonists—a blog I wrote:

Writing Fiction: Point of View and Person

Usually when we think of point of view, we have in mind the choice of person: first, second, and third. First person provides intimacy. As readers we’re allowed into the I-narrator’s mind and heart. A story told from the first person can sometimes be highly confessional, frank, bold. Think of some of the great first-person narrators like Huck Finn and Holden Caulfield. With first person we can also create narrators that are not completely reliable, leading to dramatic irony : we as readers believe one thing while the narrator believes another. This creates some interesting tension, but be careful to make your protagonist likable, sympathetic. Or at least empathetic, someone we can relate to.

What if a novel is told in first person from the point of view of a mob hit man? As author of such a tale, you probably wouldn’t want your reader to root for this character, but you could at least make the character human and believable. With first person, your reader would be constantly in the mind of this character, so you’d need to find a way to deal with this sympathy question. First person is a good choice for many works of fiction, as long as one doesn’t confuse the I-narrator with themselves. It may be a temptation, especially in the case of fiction based on one’s own life—not that it wouldn’t be in third person narrations. But perhaps even more with a first person story: that character is me . But it’s not—it’s a fictional character.

Check out my article on writing autobiographical fiction, which appeared in  The   Writer  magazine.

Third person provides more distance. With third person, you have a choice between three forms: omniscient, limited omniscient, and objective or dramatic. If you get outside of your protagonist’s mind and enter other characters’ minds, you are being omniscient or godlike. If you limit your access to your protagonist’s mind only, this is limited omniscience. Let’s consider these two forms of third-person narrators before moving on to the objective or dramatic POV.

The omniscient form is rather risky, but it is certainly used, and it can certainly serve a worthwhile function. With this form, the author knows everything that has occurred, is occurring, or will occur in a given place, or in given places, for all the characters in the story. The author can provide historical background, look into the future, and even speculate on characters and make judgments. This point of view, writers tend to feel today, is more the method of nineteenth-century fiction, and not for today. It seems like too heavy an authorial footprint. Not handled well—and it is difficult to handle well—the characters seem to be pawns of an all-knowing author.

Today’s omniscience tends to take the form of multiple points of view, sometimes alternating, sometimes in sections. An author is behind it all, but the author is effaced, not making an appearance. BUT there are notable examples of well-handled authorial omniscience–read Nobel-prize winning Jose Saramago’s Blindness  as a good example.

For more help, here’s an article I wrote on the omniscient point of view for  The Writer :

The limited omniscient form is typical of much of today’s fiction. You stick to your protagonist’s mind. You see others from the outside. Even so, you do have to be careful that you don’t get out of this point of view from time to time, and bring in things the character can’t see or observe—unless you want to stand outside this character, and therein lies the omniscience, however limited it is.

But anyway, note the difference between: “George’s smiles were very welcoming” and “George felt like his smiles were very welcoming”—see the difference? In the case of the first, we’re seeing George from the outside; in the case of the second, from the inside. It’s safer to stay within your protagonist’s perspective as much as possible and not describe them from the outside. Doing so comes off like a point-of-view shift. Yet it’s true that in some stories, the narrator will describe what the character is wearing, tell us what his hopes and dreams are, mention things he doesn’t know right now but will later—and perhaps, in rather quirky stories, the narrator will even say something like “Our hero…” This can work, and has, if you create an interesting narrative voice. But it’s certainly a risk.

The dramatic or objective point of view is one you’ll probably use from time to time, but not throughout your whole novel. Hemingway’s “Hills like White Elephants” is handled with this point of view. Mostly, with maybe one exception, all we know is what the characters say and do, as in a play. Using this point of view from time to time in a longer work can certainly create interest. You can intensify a scene sometimes with this point of view. An interesting back and forth can be accomplished, especially if the dialogue is clipped.

I’ve saved the second-person point of view for the last. I would advise you not to use this point of view for an entire work. In his short novel Bright Lights, Big City , Jay McInerney famously uses this point of view, and with some force, but it’s hard to pull off. In lesser hands, it can get old. You also cause the reader to become the character. Does the reader want to become this character? One problem with this point of view is it may seem overly arty, an attempt at sophistication. I think it’s best to choose either first or third.

Here’s an article I wrote on use of second person for  The Writer magazine. Check it out if you’re interested.

Writing Fiction: Protagonist and Plot and Structure

We come now to plot, keeping in mind character. You might consider the traditional five-stage structure : exposition, rising action, crisis and climax, falling action, and resolution. Not every plot works this way, but it’s a tried-and-true structure. Certainly a number of pieces of literature you read will begin in media re s—that is, in the middle of things. Instead of beginning with standard exposition, or explanation of the condition of the protagonist’s life at the story’s starting point, the author will begin with a scene. But even so, as in Jerzy Kosiński’s famous novella Being There , which begins with a scene, we’ll still pick up the present state of the character’s life before we see something that complicates it or changes the existing equilibrium. This so-called complication can be something apparently good—like winning the lottery—or something decidedly bad—like losing a huge amount of money at the gaming tables. One thing is true in both cases: whatever has happened will cause the character to change. And so now you have to fill in the events that bring this about.

How do you do that? One way is to write a chapter outline to prevent false starts. But some writers don’t like plotting in this fashion, but want to discover as they write. If you do plot your novel in advance, do realize that as you write, you will discover a lot of things about your character that you didn’t have in mind when you first set pen to paper. Or fingers to keyboard. And so, while it’s a good idea to do some planning, do keep your options open.

Let’s think some more about plot. To have a workable plot, you need a sequence of actions or events that give the story an overall movement. This includes two elements which we’ll take up later: foreshadowing and echoing (things that prepare us for something in the future and things that remind us of what has already happened). These two elements knit a story together.

Think carefully about character motivations. Some things may happen to your character; some things your character may decide to do, however wisely or unwisely. In the revision stage, if not earlier, ask yourself: What motivates my character to act in one way or another? And ask yourself: What is the overall logic of this story? What caused my character to change? What were the various forces, whether inner or outer, that caused this change? Can I describe my character’s overall arc, from A to Z?  Try to do that. Write a short paragraph. Then try to write down your summary in one sentence, called a log line in film script writing, but also a useful technique in fiction writing as well. If you write by the discovery method, you probably won’t want to do this in the midst of the drafting, but at least in the revision stage, you should consider doing so.

With a novel you may have a subplot or two. Assuming you will, you’ll need to decide how the plot and the subplot relate. Are they related enough to make one story? If you think the subplot is crucial for the telling of your tale, try to say why—in a paragraph, then in a sentence.

Here’s an article I wrote on structure for  The Writer :

Writing Fiction: Setting

Let’s move on to setting . Your novel has to take place somewhere. Where is it? Is it someplace that is particularly striking and calls for a lot of solid description? If it’s a wilderness area where your character is lost, give your reader a strong sense for the place. If it’s a factory job, and much of the story takes place at the worksite, again readers will want to feel they’re there with your character, putting in the hours. If it’s an apartment and the apartment itself isn’t related to the problems your character is having, then there’s no need to provide that much detail. Exception: If your protagonist concentrates on certain things in the apartment and begins to associate certain things about the apartment with their misery, now there’s reason to get concrete. Take a look, when you have a chance, at the short story “The Yellow Wall-Paper.” It’s not an apartment—it’s a house—but clearly the setting itself becomes important when it becomes important to the character. She reads the wallpaper as a statement about her own condition.

Here’s the URL for ”The Yellow Wall-Paper”:

Sometimes setting is pretty important; sometimes it’s much less important. When it doesn’t serve a purpose to describe it, don’t, other than to give the reader a sense for where the story takes place. If you provide very many details, even in a longer work like a novel, the reader will think that these details have some significance in terms of character, plot, or theme—or all three. And if they don’t, why are they there? If setting details are important, be selective. Provide a dominant impression. More on description below.

If you’re interested, here’s a blog on setting I wrote for

Writing Fiction: Theme and Idea

Most literary works have a theme or idea. It’s possible to decide on this theme before you write, as you plan out your novel. But be careful here. If the theme seems imposed on the work, the novel will lose a lot of force. It will seem—and it may well be—engineered by the author much like a nonfiction piece, and lose the felt experience of the characters.

Theme must emerge from the work naturally, or at least appear to do so. Once you have a draft, you can certainly build ideas that are apparent in the work, and you can even do this while you’re generating your first draft. But watch out for overdoing it. Let the characters (what they do, what they say) and the plot (the whole storyline with its logical connections) contribute on their own to the theme. Also you can depend on metaphors, similes, and analogies to point to the theme—as long as these are not heavy-handed. Avoid authorial intrusion, authorial impositions of any kind. If you do end up creating a simile, metaphor, or analogy through rational thinking, make sure it sounds  natural. That’s not easy, of course.

Writing Fiction: Handling Scenes

Keep a few things in mind about writing scenes. Not every event deserves a whole scene, maybe only a half-scene, a short interaction between characters. Scenes need to do two things: reveal character and advance plot. If a scene seems to stall out and lack interest, in the revision mode you might try using narrative summary instead (see below).

Good fiction is strongly dramatic, calling for scenes, many of them scenes with dialogue and action. Scenes need to involve conflict of some kind. If everyone is happy, that’s probably going to be a dull scene. Some scenes will be narrative, without dialogue. You need some interesting action to make these work.

Let’s consider scenes with dialogue.

The best dialogue is speech that sounds natural, and yet isn’t. Everything about fiction is an artifice, including speech. But try to make it sound real. The best way to do this is to “hear” the voices in your head and transcribe them. Take dictation. If you can do this, whole conversations will seem very real, believable. If you force what each character has to say, and plan it out too much, it will certainly sound planned out, and not real at all. Not that in the revision mode you can’t doctor up the speech here and there, but still, make sure it comes off as natural sounding.

Some things to think about when writing dialogue: people usually speak in fragments, interrupt each other, engage in pauses, follow up a question with a comment that takes the conversation off course (non sequiturs). Note these aspects of dialogue in the fiction you read.

Also, note how writers intersperse action with dialogue, setting details, and character thoughts. As far as the latter goes, though, if you’ll recall, I spoke of the dramatic point of view, which doesn’t get into a character’s mind but depends instead on what characters do and say, as in a play. You may try this point of view out in some scenes to make them really move.

One technique is to use indirect dialogue, or summary of what a character said, not in the character’s own words. For instance: Bill made it clear that he wasn’t going to the city after all. If anybody thought that, they were wrong .

Now and then you’ll come upon dialogue that doesn’t use the standard double quotes, but perhaps a single quote (this is British), or dashes, or no punctuation at all. The latter two methods create some distance from the speech. If you want to give your work a surreal quality, this certainly adds to it. It also makes it seem more interior.

One way to kill good dialogue is to make characters too obviously expository devices—that is, functioning to provide background or explanations of certain important story facts. Certainly characters can serve as expository devices, but don’t be too heavy-handed about this. Don’t force it like the following:

“We always used to go to the beach, you recall? You recall how first we would have breakfast, then take a long walk on the beach, and then we would change into our swimsuits, and spend an hour in the water. And you recall how we usually followed that with a picnic lunch, maybe an hour later.”

This sounds like the character is saying all this to fill the reader in on backstory. You’d need a motive for the utterance of all of these details—maybe sharing a memory?

But the above sounds stilted, doesn’t it?

One final word about dialogue. Watch out for dialogue tags that tell but don’t show . Here’s an example:

“Do you think that’s the case,” said Ted, hoping to hear some good news. “Not necessarily,” responded Laura, in a barky voice. “I just wish life wasn’t so difficult,” replied Ted.

If you’re going to use a tag at all—and many times you don’t need to—use “said.” Dialogue tags like the above examples can really kill the dialogue.

Writing Fiction: Writing Solid Prose

Narrative summary :  As I’ve stated above, not everything will be a scene. You’ll need to write narrative summary now and then. Narrative summary telescopes time, covering a day, a week, a month, a year, or even longer. Often it will be followed up by a scene, whether a narrative scene   or one with dialogue. Narrative summary can also relate how things generally went over a given period. You can write strong narrative summary if you make it specific and concrete—and dramatic. Also, if we hear the voice of the writer, it can be interesting—if the voice is compelling enough.

Exposition : It’s the first stage of the 5-stage plot structure, where things are set up prior to some sort of complication, but more generally, it’s a prose form which tells or informs. You use exposition when you get inside your character, dealing with his or her thoughts and emotions, memories, plans, dreams. This can be difficult to do well because it can come off too much like authorial “telling” instead of “showing,” and readers want to feel like they’re experiencing the world of the protagonist, not being told about this world. Still, it’s important to get inside characters, and exposition is often the right tool, along with narrative summary, if the character is remembering a sequence of events from the past.

Description :  Description is a word picture, providing specific and concrete details to allow the reader to see, not just be told. Concreteness is putting the reader in the world of the five senses, what we call imagery . Some writers provide a lot of details, some only a few—just enough that the reader can imagine the rest. Consider choosing details that create a dominant impression—whether it’s a character or a place. Similes, metaphors, and analogies help readers see people and places and can make thoughts and ideas (the reflections of your character or characters) more interesting. Not that you should always make your reader see. To do so might cause an overload of images.

Check out these two articles:

Writing Fiction: Research

Some novels require research. Obviously historical novels do, but others do, too, like Sci Fi novels. Almost any novel can call for a little research. Here’s a short article I wrote for The Writer magazine on handling research materials. It’s in no way an in-depth commentary on research–but it will serve as an introduction.

For a blog on novel writing, check this link at

For more articles I’ve published in  The Writer , go here:

How to Start Writing Fiction: Take a Writing Class!

To write a story or even write a book, fiction writers need these tools first and foremost. Although there’s no comprehensive guide on how to write fiction for beginners, working with these elements of fiction will help your story bloom.

All six elements synergize to make a work of fiction, and like most works of art, the sum of these elements is greater than the individual parts. Still, you might find that you struggle with one of these elements, like maybe you’re great at writing characters but not very good with exploring setting. If this is the case, then use your strengths: use characters to explore the setting, or use style to explore themes, etc.

Getting the first draft written is the hardest part, but it deserves to be written. Once you’ve got a working draft of a story or novel and you need an extra set of eyes, the community is here to give feedback: take a look at our upcoming courses on fiction writing, and check out our talented writing community .

Good luck, and happy writing!

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I have had a story in my mind for over 15 years. I just haven’t had an idea how to start , putting it down on print just seems too confusing. After reading this article I’m even more confused but also more determined to give it a try. It has given me answers to some of my questions. Thank you !

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You’ve got this, Earl!

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Just reading this as I have decided to attempt a fiction work. I am terrible at writing outside of research papers and such. I have about 50 single spaced pages “written” and an entire outline. These tips are great because where I struggle it seems is drawing the reader in. My private proof reader tells me it is to much like an explanation and not enough of a story, but working on it.

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Blog • Perfecting your Craft

Last updated on Sep 01, 2022

How to Start a Novel: 8 Steps to the Perfect Opening Scene

With every novel he writes, Stephen King tries to invite the reader into the story with his opening. "Listen. Come in here. You want to know about this." Want to extend your readers an invitation they can't resist? Look no further! Here are 8 powerful steps to help you start a novel:

1. Identify the novel premise

2. pick a point of view for your prose, 3. write a strong opening sentence, 4. set reader expectations in the first scene, 5. introduce major characters early in the writing process, 6. establish conflict-heavy stakes, 7. develop an inciting incident that will drive the plot, 8. edit what you’ve written of the book.

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As King says, the best novel openings aren’t just beautiful sentences — they’re invitations into a world of the author’s creation. That means the beginning of a novel should set the tone for all the writing that follows, letting the reader know what to expect as they make their way deeper into the story.

Consider your novel's overall tone

Now, don’t worry if you’re the kind of writer who likes to figure things out as they go . We’re not suggesting you plan out your whole plot scene by scene: there’s still plenty of room for spontaneity here. You should, however, consider the overall tone of your story from the beginning , whether it’s as soft as spun sugar or as sharp as a blade.

Make sure you keep this tone in mind from the very start. An out-of-place opening, after all, is like a bloody knife on the cover of a wholesome romance: sure to have your readers blinking in confusion instead of eagerly turning the pages. To avoid this kind of tonal whiplash, you’ll need to have a sense of where your novel’s going before you craft its opening lines. This is especially important if you hope for this novel to be the first in a trilogy or series.



How to Write a Novel

Author and ghostwriter Tom Bromley will guide you from page 1 to the finish line.

With your novel’s overall mood and tone in mind, you’re ready to make one of the most important writing decisions for your book: its point of view. Will you opt for colorful, voice-driven first person like in Huckleberry Finn ? Or adopt a bird’s-eye view of the story with a third person omniscient narrator, like in Pride and Prejudice ?

Of course, these are only two options from a vast array of possibilities. If you’d like to learn more about all the possible POVs and see examples of each in action, check out our detailed guide here .

Determine the right POV for your genre

No matter what, the POV you adopt should serve the needs of your story. Consider what’s typical of your genre — that gives you some indication of which POVs complement the literary conventions you’re likely to play with. Young adult novels, for instance, often use first-person narration so readers can really get to know their quirky, relatable protagonists. Mysteries, however, lean on third person limited to build up suspense and keep readers in the dark.

Now you’ve reached the hardest part of starting a novel — coming up with the actual opening line. Luckily, this is also where it gets really fun. After all, you get to do what you do best: write!

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We’ve got a post on how to start a story that’s chock full of tips from editors and examples from the greats. But the truth is, there’s no one right way to craft an amazing opening line. You can startle the reader, like George Orwell...

It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.

… or enter your story in a low-key way, like Charlotte Brontë.

There was no possibility of taking a walk that day.

The crucial thing is, whatever you come up with, it has to feel right at the beginning of your novel. And if you want some inspiration for your opening sentence, take a look at First Line Frenzy , where editor Rebecca Heyman critiques first lines submitted by writers like you. She also gives plenty of advice for starting your novel off right.

How do you create a mood for your novel, and keep it going right from the beginning? It’s all about setting your reader’s expectations.

If you’re writing a high-octane spy thriller with a shootout in every other chapter, you’ll need to orient your readers to that fast-paced, action-packed world right away. A more contemplative beginning, where your gun-toting hero reflects on his abandoned Catholic faith while recreating his mother’s gingerbread recipe from memory, might not be the best match. By the same token, your thoughtful, dialogue-driven novel about the psychological pressures of middle age probably shouldn’t open with a car chase.

How to Start a Novel | Make sure your novel strikes the right tone

Again, you don’t have to have every plot point in place to write an opening that’s tonally consistent with the rest of your book. Think of yourself as a painter choosing the palette for your next canvas. You may not have the whole composition in your head just yet, but you know whether to reach for yellow pigment, or blue.

With your opening line in place, you’re ready to ground your story with a human element. That’s right — it’s time to bring some characters on-stage and let them move the story forward.

Go light on the backstory

Introducing characters right from the start helps you avoid one major novel-writing mistake: an overly descriptive, info-dumpy beginning. You may have seen these before. There’s the travelogue opening, which pans slowly over a landscape with nary a human figure in sight. There’s also the worldbuilder’s info-dump: the author piling on details upon details about their alien homeworld or fantasy realm. No matter how beautiful the description or how fascinating the tidbits, this sort of opening will make the reader's mind wander.

How to Start a Novel | Don't introduce too much worldbuilding detail at the beginning of your novel

To avoid a stagnant, detail-clogged opening, introduce a key character — or a few — right away. They’ll act as lightning rods for the reader’s attention and their sympathy, getting them emotionally invested the way a sun-drenched meadow or a lecture on wizarding coinage never could.

Don't start with character description

A word of warning here: don’t replicate all the disadvantages of a scenic opening by starting off with a block of character description! To really hook your readers, make sure your characters come on-stage doing something reflective of their personality, not just gazing at their own reflection for the reader’s benefit.


How to Develop Characters

In 10 days, learn to develop complex characters readers will love.

Don't introduce too many characters all at once

One bad way to start a novel is opening without any characters. Another bad way? Introducing too many characters right from the get-go. Even if you’re writing a sprawling epic with a cast of hundreds, you want to be selective about the characters you introduce in your opening. Allow too many of them on-stage right away, and your reader’s attention will be split in too many directions. That makes it hard for them to get emotionally invested in any of your characters, or even remember their names!

Starting your novel with well-drawn characters makes it easy for readers to feel like there’s something at stake: these are the people who will hurt when it all goes wrong. And make no mistake — something should go wrong. No one wants to read a novel without any conflict.

Of course, the conflict at the heart of your story doesn’t have to be life-and-death: not every book needs to open on a smoking gun or an unidentified corpse. But a sense of tension should be present from the very beginning of your novel, even if you’re writing the quietest literary fiction.

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Show the reader what your character wants

In the end, establishing the stakes comes down to showing what your character wants. Now, that want can be grand, or it can be deeply personal, anything from overthrowing an oppressing regime to getting into college. The key is, it has to matter deeply to the character.

Of course, what your character wants can't be too easy to attain. To give your novel the right about of tension, pursuing their goal needs to put something at risk, whether that's their life or their peace of mind.



Get our Book Development Template

Use this template to go from a vague idea to a solid plan for a first draft.

Once you’ve established what’s at stake in your narrative, you have to bring the tension to the forefront with a compelling inciting incident. If you’d like to learn more about this all-important plot element, we’ve got a post that goes into the ins and outs of how to write a great one. But in a nutshell, your inciting incident is the event that sets your plot in motion.

Get to your inciting incident early

The inciting incident triggers the main action in your story, but it doesn’t have to be the first thing to happen. Still, if you want to hook your readers from the get-go, place it early in your novel — don’t make them wade through forty pages of backstory first.

How to Start a Novel | Put your compelling incident early on in your novel

Make sure it strikes the right tone

Like everything else about your novel opening, your inciting incident should be engaging while matching the overall energy of your plot. If you're writing a quieter story, your inciting incident can be far subtler than a car chase.

Say you're writing about a violinist who applies to music school against his parent's wishes. Your inciting incident might be as simple as an acceptance letter from Juilliard showing up in the mail. A big envelope arriving by (non-owl) post may not be as much of a bombshell as Harry Potter learning he’s a wizard. But it gets the story moving without feeling tonally out of place.

Once you’ve written the beginning of your novel — inciting incident and all — you’re not stuck with it forever. In fact, you should revisit it as your story develops. To make sure your opening scene still makes sense in the context of your book as a whole, work your way through this checklist when it's time to revise:

✅ Does the tone of your opening still fit?

The premise — even the genre — of your novel can change over the course of the writing process. Make sure your opening isn't an artifact of an old draft. If you started out with an earnest romance, only to see it morph into something more tongue-in-cheek, your opening scene should now have that satirical bite.

✅ Are you giving the right background info?

Like your genre, your setting can evolve as you write — you might end up refining some worldbuilding that was murkier at first. Make sure all of these changes have been incorporated into your opening. Do the details introduced still make sense, given how the world of your story looks now?

✅ Is your characterization consistent?

Of course your characters will grow and change over the course of the plot. But there should be a thread of continuity that makes each character recognizable. Take look at everyone who appears in your opening scene. Are they portrayed in a way that's consistent with their behavior in the rest of the book?

Remember, revising the beginning of your novel is an ongoing process. And once you feel you’ve taken it as far as you're able to, you can always loop in a professional editor to polish it even further. The key is to keep tinkering with it until you've got an opening that just feels right . We can’t wait to see what you come up with.

Are you working on the perfect opening for your book? Make sure the chapters that follow are just as strong as our post on how to write a novel !

Continue reading

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Novel structure: 7 tips for structuring your book

Understanding how to structure a novel makes your story easier and more satisfying to read. Good structure creates plot clarity and cohesion. Read 7 tips for how to structure your book, including story structure examples from accomplished novels:

  • Post author By Jordan
  • 6 Comments on Novel structure: 7 tips for structuring your book

Novel structure tips | Now Novel

1: Understand basic story structure

2: learn the pros of different story structure types, 3: know how to structure a novel to suit your central idea, 4: modify story structure templates to suit your plot, 5: create novel structure early to simplify your process, 6: make your story structure largely invisible, 7: know and play with structure typical of your genre.

Let’s examine each of these points in more detail:

Basic story structure, at its most elementary level, means giving your novel a clearly defined begining , middle and end.

The beginning typically will:

  • Show the inciting incident that sets the story in motion (for example, in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, the inciting incident is the arrival of mysterious letters addressed to Harry from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry)
  • Introduce the primary characters of the story
  • Establish the setting of the story
  • Give readers an idea of where the story is headed (the opening line of Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina (1877), for example, tells us it will feature unhappy family situations: ‘Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.’)

The middle of a novel is where there is substantial change. Secondary characters come or go and other aspects such as setting may change. Obstacles to central characters’ goals emerge.

By the middle, the central idea of your story should be clear. Take John le Carré’s espionage novel The Night Manager  (1993), for example.  We know by the middle that the protagonist Jonathan Pine’s goal is to defeat the crooked billionaire smuggler, Richard Roper. By the middle of the book, we see the extent of Pine’s entanglement. He manages to infiltrate Roper’s inner circle. The middle is where plot complications – like Pine’s dangerous double agent dealings – stack up.

A great ending ties the story’s strands together. Even if there is no final resolution (like in series where central conflicts span multiple novels), each book resolves, at least, a major secondary conflict. There is the structural sense of things drawing to a close. These same rules apply on a smaller level to individual scenes (our free guide to scene structure will help you make small scale structure strong, too).

Creating good story structure means balancing your story’s introduction, development, and conclusion. If your story is all introduction and no development, it can feel static and stale. Allow your characters’ goals to grow and change.

Join Now Novel to create a blueprint for your story | Now Novel

There are many different story structure types. Popular types include:

  • Three act structure: the story can be divided into three parts. Classic novels of voyage and return, for example, often follow this structure. Randy Ingermanson breaks down this structure in fantasy series such as Harry Potter and Twilight
  • Orson Scott Card’s 4 story structures: In a post for Writer’s Digest, Orson Scott Card details four story structure types  according to the plot details authors structure stories around. They are: a) The Milieu Story : An observer who sees things the way we see them experiences a strange place (e.g. Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz ) – the story is structured around the experience of a strange and outlandish setting. b) The Idea Story : A question is raised and answered (e.g. in mystery novels,  the central questions ‘who’ and ‘why’? Who was the killer and what was their motive? c) The Character Story: A character goes through immense inner change, and this is the story’s main focus. Coming-of-age novels, such as James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man  (1916) typify this structure. d) The Event Story: Something is wrong with the world and either a new order must be established or the old must be destroyed. The Lord of the Rings , in which the tyrant Sauron must be stopped, is a classic example.
  • Mirror structure:  In David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas (2004),   each section of the book is left incomplete until the book’s central section. From there, Mitchell resolves the unfinished character arcs in reverse order, ending with the first character’s arc and setting

The above examples show that structure can refer to how we decide to divide up the parts of the story. As with Orson Scott Card’s four story structure types, it also refers to how we build and arrange a story around a central idea. Each structure type has pros and cons. One might be too linear for the type of story you want to tell, for example, that might suit a more fragmented, non-linear approach. This leads to the next point:

When you decide how to structure a novel, think about your central idea. What would best suit your story type?

A story, for example, about an adventure and return home (like The Lord of the Rings or Homer’s Odyssey ) might suit Three Act Structure because of the simple three-part narrative arc: ‘home – away – home again’.

Think about the mirror structure of David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas  described above. The novel begins with diary excerpts by a sailor living in 1850. The middle section follows a different character. It could be set in pre-modern times, following tribal life, but we slowly realize it  might describe a post-apocalyptic future, a return to tribal life wrought by conflict or disaster.

In Cloud Atlas , the idea of history being cyclical – of returning to the beginning and starting over – is everywhere. We see it in both the changing time-frame of the story and how its individual chapters circle back to previous, unfinished story arcs. The mirror structure of the book is thus perfect for showing cyclical, repetitive elements of history – how society builds itself up and tears itself back down to start all over.

It’s the perfect novel structure for a story that explores cycles of power struggle and violence, how individuals and groups prey on others. It’s an imaginative study of society and its capacity for self-inflicted ruin.

Think how you can structure your story so that the structure itself – the ordering of scenes, time-frames and events – creates meaning. It would make sense, for example, for a novel where the protagonist has amnesia, to include structural holes and gaps. You might have ‘missing’ chapters the story later fills in. Allow yourself to play with structure as you would with setting and characterization . Have fun with it.

Quote on novel structure | Now Novel

If you are still learning how to structure a novel, creating your own, flexible blueprint is a good idea. (You can use the Now Novel Idea Finder to help with this). Sometimes, using a pre-existing template will force you to twist and contort your story to fit a structure and this doesn’t always work.

If you do use a story structure template (such as this template here ), give yourself the freedom to modify the template as you see fit. Perhaps, for example, you want to show the climax of the story first, then circle back to the exposition. This approach – beginning with your story’s most dramatic and perplexing point – is popular in genres such as murder mysteries. The mystery of the killer’s identity or motivation is intriguing enough for readers not to mind that you began with the climax before introducing characters and giving backstory and rising action.

Although you can go back and restructure your story once you’ve finished drafting, it’s a good idea to work out the skeleton of your story first and move from there.

Of course not everyone is a plotter by nature. However, writer’s block is a risk if you don’t at least have some  idea of how you will reach the end. Think of early story structure like an architect’s blueprint: The architect doesn’t design a house brick by brick – there are rooms, features (like plot events) and functions (characters’ purposes and goals) they know the design should ideally include.

The key point is that the structure you create before you draft should be flexible. Ultimately, allow your characters to take the story to whatever destination they want. Structuring from the start will simply make it easier to construct their paths.

Knowing how to structure a novel and how to structure a narrative essay are two different skills. In a narrative essay, you might have extremely visible structure. You might have a table of contents, numbered section headings, numbered footnotes. In fiction, you could purposefully draw attention to your novel’s structure. This can even be clever (a novel about a school play that goes horribly, comically wrong, for example, might have sections titled ‘Act I’, ‘Act II’ and ‘Act III’, for example, and a list of ‘dramatis personae’).

Yet when it comes to creating a sense of progression from beginning to middle to end, avoid Victorian approaches such as writing ‘And now, reader, we approach the end of our story’. The events themselves should give us a clue the story is winding to a close: The heroes reach the villain’s hideout and the final confrontation, for example. Good story structure needs no accompanying explanation.

Knowing how to structure a novel so it follows (or breaks) conventions of your genre is a useful skill. In fantasy quests, for example, there is often a three-part ‘voyage and return’ structure (as in the three separate books of The Lord of the Rings ). Other common genre-specific structures include:

  • Romance: The romantic leads dislike or tease each other at first but by the middle or final third of the story, their attraction is certain. Countless novels as well as TV series such as New Girl and The Mindy Project use this plot structure
  • Suspense:  Typically the investigation of the crime has a spiral-like structure, where the detective’s fact-finding circles them increasingly closer to the perpetrator
  • Drama: In novels about personal tragedy, three act structure often features. We see a rise, a fall and the aftermath

When you read novels in your genre, examine their structure. As an exercise, note:

  • What ground the introduction or beginning of the story covers – who do we meet and what do we know about them by the end of the first chapter?
  • By the middle of the book, how have things changed?
  • How does the story end, and how does it compare to other books in the genre?

Want to create a helpful blueprint for your novel, one that gathers all your ideas for settings, characters, themes and plot events together? Join Now Novel and use the Idea Finder to brainstorm your best ideas .

Related Posts:

  • Structuring a novel: 7 vital elements
  • How can I get help writing a book? 7 tips
  • 30 top book writing tips from the best blogs
  • Tags novel structure , three-act structure

how to start a essay about a novel

Jordan is a writer, editor, community manager and product developer. He received his BA Honours in English Literature and his undergraduate in English Literature and Music from the University of Cape Town.

6 replies on “Novel structure: 7 tips for structuring your book”

When thinking of novel structure, I always come back to the perennially and generationally popular, The Catcher in the Rye, by JD Salinger. A wild ride, from being kicked out of Pency Prep, to watching Phoebe at the carousel–and none of it with any true structure except that which the literati ascribe to it.

One could even go so far as to say that Catcher defies conventional wisdom for structure. A journey to Phoebe? We don’t know that until the final pages. A ticking time clock to push the action? Not one tick. Subplots? Not really, no.

From nuns, to a pimp, from eternally-showering Ackerly, to phony and handsome Stradlater, the book is ripe with vignettes that reek of symbolism. And the voice of Holden is second to none other. But plot? As thin as the pages of the family Bible.

Thanks for sharing your perspective, Sven. A good point – there are endless ways to write a fascinating read and not all of them need Big Ideas or complex plot developments. Franny and Zooey is another Salinger classic that relies on interesting characterization more than plot.

Thank you all so very much for all these tips, this is very helpful to me,:)

Hi Victoria – I’m thrilled to hear that. Best of luck with your writing!

Thank you! I found this helped me a lot!

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8 New Books We Recommend This Week

Suggested reading from critics and editors at The New York Times.

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Our fiction recommendations this week include a “gleeful romp” of a series mystery, along with three novels by some heavy-hitting young writers: Téa Obreht, Helen Oyeyemi and Tommy Orange. (How heavy-hitting, and how young? Consider that Obreht was included in The New Yorker’s “20 Under 40” issue in 2010 — and she’s still under 40 today. So is Oyeyemi, who was one of Granta’s “Best Young British Novelists” in 2013, while Orange, at 42, has won the PEN/Hemingway Award, the John Leonard Prize and the American Book Award. The future is in good hands.)

In nonfiction, we recommend a painter’s memoir, a group biography of three jazz giants, a posthumous essay collection by the great critic Joan Acocella and a journalist’s look at American citizens trying to come to terms with a divided country. Happy reading. — Gregory Cowles


After being displaced from their homeland, Silvia and her mother move into the Morningside, a weather-beaten luxury apartment building in “Island City,” a sinking version of New York in the middle of all-out climate collapse. Silvia learns about her heritage through the folk tales her aunt Ena tells her, and becomes fascinated with the mysterious woman who lives in the penthouse apartment.

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“I marveled at the subtle beauty and precision of Obreht’s prose. … Even in the face of catastrophe, there’s solace to be found in art.”

From Jessamine Chan’s review

Random House | $29

A GRAVE ROBBERY Deanna Raybourn

In their ninth crime-solving tale, the Victorian-era adventuress and butterfly hunter Veronica Speedwell and her partner discover that a wax mannequin is actually a dead young woman, expertly preserved.

how to start a essay about a novel

“Throw in an assortment of delightful side characters and an engaging tamarin monkey, and what you have is the very definition of a gleeful romp.”

From Sarah Weinman’s crime column

Berkley | $28

THE BLOODIED NIGHTGOWN: And Other Essays Joan Acocella

Acocella, who died in January, may have been best known as one of our finest dance critics. But as this posthumous collection shows, she brought the same rigor, passion and insight to all the art she consumed. Whether her subject is genre fiction, “Beowulf” or Marilynne Robinson, Acocella’s knowledge and enthusiasm are hard to match. We will not see her like again.

how to start a essay about a novel

"Some critics are haters, but Acocella began writing criticism because she loved — first dance, and then much of the best of Western culture. She let life bring her closer to art."

From Joanna Biggs’s review

Farrar, Straus & Giroux | $35


This follow-up to Orange’s debut, “There There,” is part prequel and part sequel; it trails the young survivor of a 19th-century massacre of Native Americans, chronicling not just his harsh fate but those of his descendants. In its second half, the novel enters 21st-century Oakland, following the family in the aftermath of a shooting.

how to start a essay about a novel

“Orange’s ability to highlight the contradictory forces that coexist within friendships, familial relationships and the characters themselves ... makes ‘Wandering Stars’ a towering achievement.”

From Jonathan Escoffery’s review

Knopf | $29


In Oyeyemi’s latest magical realist adventure, our hero is a woman named Hero, and she is hurtling through the city of Prague, with a shape-shifting book about Prague, during a bachelorette weekend. But Hero doesn’t seem to be directing the novel’s action; the story itself seems to be calling the shots.

how to start a essay about a novel

“Her stock-in-trade has always been tales at their least domesticated. … In this novel, they have all the autonomy, charisma and messiness of living beings — and demand the same respect.”

From Chelsea Leu’s review

Riverhead | $28

3 SHADES OF BLUE: Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Bill Evans, and the Lost Empire of Cool James Kaplan

On one memorable occasion in 1959, three outstanding musicians came together for what may be the greatest jazz record ever, Davis’s “Kind of Blue.” Kaplan, the author of a Frank Sinatra biography, traces the lives of his protagonists in compelling fashion; he may not be a jazz expert but he knows how to tell a good story.

how to start a essay about a novel

“Kaplan has framed '3 Shades of Blue' as both a chronicle of a golden age and a lament for its decline and fall. One doesn’t have to accept the decline-and-fall part to acknowledge that he has done a lovely job of evoking the golden age.”

From Peter Keepnews’s review

Penguin Press | $35


From her early days as an Abstract Expressionist who hung out with Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning at the Cedar Bar to her later success as a pioneering photorealist, Flack worked and lived at the center of New York’s art world over her long career; here she chronicles the triumphs, the slights, the sexism and the gossip, all with equal relish.

how to start a essay about a novel

“Flack is a natural, unfiltered storyteller. … The person who emerges from her pages is someone who never doubts she has somewhere to go.”

From Prudence Peiffer’s review

Penn State University Press | $37.50

AN AMERICAN DREAMER: Life in a Divided Country David Finkel

Agile and bracing, Finkel’s book trails a small network of people struggling in the tumultuous period between the 2016 and 2020 U.S. presidential elections. At the center is Brent Cummings, a white Iraq war veteran who is trying to cope with a country he no longer recognizes.

how to start a essay about a novel

“Adroitly assembles these stories into a poignant account of the social and political mood in the United States. … A timely and compelling argument for tolerance and moral character in times of extreme antagonism.”

From John Knight’s review

Random House | $32

Explore More in Books

Want to know about the best books to read and the latest news start here..

James McBride’s novel sold a million copies, and he isn’t sure how he feels about that, as he considers the critical and commercial success  of “The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store.”

How did gender become a scary word? Judith Butler, the theorist who got us talking about the subject , has answers.

You never know what’s going to go wrong in these graphic novels, where Circus tigers, giant spiders, shifting borders and motherhood all threaten to end life as we know it .

When the author Tommy Orange received an impassioned email from a teacher in the Bronx, he dropped everything to visit the students  who inspired it.

Do you want to be a better reader?   Here’s some helpful advice to show you how to get the most out of your literary endeavor .

Each week, top authors and critics join the Book Review’s podcast to talk about the latest news in the literary world. Listen here .


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    Start here. James McBride's novel sold a million copies, and he isn't sure how he feels about that, as he considers the critical and commercial success of "The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store."