1. ArticulatedInsanity
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    ArticulatedInsanity New Member

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    What makes a novel a classic?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by ArticulatedInsanity, Mar 18, 2009.

    I've been thinking about what makes a novel a classic. This is a list that I've compiled. If anybody could think of anything else, offer agreements and disagreements, or offer a broader approach to this question, then help would be greatly appreciated. Here's what I have so far...



    What makes a novel a classic?



    - Timeless theme – Universal theme

    - Plot structure – Overall amazingly put together piece. Well crafted.

    - Ideas of good and evil and carelessness.

    - Hero(es) and Villain(s), (anti-hero(oes) and anti-villains) that play out their part in the novel well.

    - Unforgettable characters – Characters that are constructed with care; their emotions, strengths, weaknesses, including fears and phobias, should be put forth into a large character model to finalize character construction.

    - Character Profile – Attributes that humanity can relate to.

    - Setting that fits well into the novel’s premise.

    - Setting that is extraordinary, described with beautiful and brilliant imagery. Beautiful imagery and locals are something that you will visualize while reading; one will have the feeling of actually being there. This is something that one is not even aware of most of the time because they are so engrossed in the reading.

    - It will light your imagination.

    - Duality is an aspect that people can relate to. Light and dark, etc.

    - Surprising twists that aren’t expected, that help keep the reader on the “edge of their seat”.

    - Varied and effective use of literary techniques. Symbolism, Irony, imagery, etc.

    - Keeps you thinking throughout the whole piece.

    - When you finally finish it, the novel sticks with you. Something that makes you think about it after reading and long after reading it as well. A peaking of curiosity if you will.

    - A classic is a piece of literature art that you will want to read over and over again without growing tired. A lot of times you will find things that you missed before on your previous read.
     
  2. -NM-
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    -NM- Active Member

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    If there was a simple bullet list to describe them then everyone would write one.
     
  3. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    A classic has to be well written, no doubt, but time also plays an important role in determining which novels survive and which don't. You also have to take into consideration those novels which weren't very popular during their era but are now considered classics. Those are just some thoughts I have on this topic. I haven't really thought about this issue, and I think it's a fairly interesting question you ask. I'll add more if I have more thoughts.
     
  4. Dr. Doctor
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    Dr. Doctor Contributing Member

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    These things are about the only ones I would say are mandatory for every "classic" novel, whereas everything else can come only when necessary. It's a lot broader than just a list, and if a novel can stick with you and keep you thinking, it's certainly good enough to possibly one day be remembered enough to be called classic.

    I think one thing that classic novels always do is make statements about humanity or about the time period in which they were written. They're not just stuff written to entertain and thrill, but for some larger purpose.
     
  5. Addicted2aa
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    Addicted2aa Senior Member

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    Have a purpose and achieve that purpose. If it's commentary on society then it will inspire action. If it is humor, it will always make people laugh. If it a statement about life than it will make people think.
     
  6. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    There are no definable factors that make a classic. A classic is something that has been around for a while that we still remember and love.
     
  7. Kas
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    Kas Contributing Member

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    And sometimes not even those. I respect Lord of the Rings as a classic but I never felt the urge to read it again and again. Better fantasy has come since, but most is unlikely to become classic. LOTR inspired the genre as we know it today. For that reason alone it will never be forgotten so long as fantasy remains a popular genre.

    I agree with Rei on this one. There are too many different factors to make a list of qualifications.

    From the Merriam-Webster:

    1 a: serving as a standard of excellence : of recognized value <classic literary works>
     
  8. pacmansays
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    pacmansays Senior Member

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    I don't think hero/villain or good/bad is necessary, i've read books with only bad people and those with all good people, some with neither really addressed

    However those books are among my favourites because of the emotions the author is able to bring out in me...and the characters themselves
     
  9. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Enduring appeal.
     
  10. S-wo
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    S-wo Active Member

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    You mentioned about all of them. On a public medium widescale all those take into account and of course something classic has to be a little old, not something that just came out yesterday, it has to age a little.

    We also have personal classics that are for nostalgia sake.
     
  11. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    only 'enduring appeal' as cog noted... the elements that make up this classic or that one will differ...

    no one can or ever has set out to write a 'classic'... if what one writes has universal appeal, it may become one... or it may not...
     
  12. Aeroflot
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    Aeroflot Senior Member

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    I'm always split upon what makes a good novel, but there are books that, at the end of the day, if I can't make up my mind to what makes a book good, I can pick up and not be disappointed that I read it. That makes a good novel, IMO.
     
  13. Neha
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    Neha Beyond Infinity. Contributor

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    I think each novel is a classic in it's own way. When someone writes something down, in a way they put a bit of their soul into it, and that makes it a classic, even if it isn't a book that made the pages of history, or the best-sellers list.
     

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