Wikipedia:Manual of Style/Novels

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This is the style guidelines department of the Novels WikiProject. Its goal is to assist editors improve the quality of Wikipedia's articles on novels, novellas, novelettes and short stories. For Wikipedia guidelines regarding how to write about fiction in general, see Wikipedia:Notability (fiction) and Wikipedia:Manual of Style/Writing about fiction. The word "novel" in these guidelines may be replaced with "novella", "novelette" or "short story".

Naming conventions[edit]

  • If a non-novel article already exists with the name of the novel that you are trying to create an article for, disambiguate and use (novel) in the title: Novel Title (novel).
  • If a novel article already exists with the name of the novel that you are trying to create an article for, and the two novels are by different authors, use (AUTHORNAME novel) in the title: novel Title (AUTHORNAME novel). Rename the already existing article's title and change it to Novel Title (AUTHORNAME novel) also.

Article body[edit]

The following are the standard components of Wikipedia novel articles. An infobox can be placed at the head of a novel article; for more details on the content and style of the box, see below.

Lead section[edit]

The lead should summarize the article as a whole (WP:LEAD), thus the structure and content of your article should be reflected in the lead of the article. Leads tend to average between 2–4 paragraphs, depending on the size of the article.

Plot[edit]

Plot summaries should be concise and an integral part of the article. Three or four paragraphs are usually sufficient for a full-length work, although very complex and lengthy novels may need a bit more. Shorter novels and short stories should have shorter summaries.

A plot summary should avoid reproducing the work being discussed. Instead, it should summarise the work, touching on plot, important events, character developments, etc. In a longer work, every conversation and event does not need to be mentioned. Size of the plot summary should be roughly proportional to the size of the plot. This is not always equivalent to the length of the work, since some plots are complex and dense while others are simple and straightforward.

Spoilers should not under any circumstances be deleted or omitted, as doing so directly contradicts the Wikipedia-wide content disclaimer. In short, Wikipedia contains spoilers; please respect this policy.

Characters[edit]

If appropriate, a character section would consist of brief character outlines, as opposed to a simple list. Length of each entry should vary relative to the character's importance to the story. Most articles do not need this section. Instead, a finely crafted plot summary is used to introduce the characters to the reader.

Major themes[edit]

In many ways this is the most important section of the page because it details the "meat" of the novel. The plot of a novel carries the themes and it is the themes that are often the most interesting. A small example will illustrate this. A plot summary of the story of the Fall might run like this: "Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit and therefore God banished them from Paradise and cursed them with mortality." One of the themes of this little tale is "sin leads to death." It is more important that readers are made aware of the theme of "sin" than all of the details about the bits of fruit. This example also illustrates why an overly detailed plot summary will only confuse readers. Details about who ate the fruit first and who tempted whom are irrelevant to the larger issues—sin and death. At least in a Protestant reading.

And that brings us to a very important point. In order to write a comprehensive "Themes" section, you must do research. You cannot present your own opinion of what the novel's themes are (WP:OR). You must present the consensus of literary scholars and historians. For so-called "classic" texts, this is easy, but time-consuming (it may involve months of research). You can use the Google Scholar to find citations for these publications online.

Available at many public libraries and university libraries:

  • MLA database (cites publications on literature and languages)
  • JSTOR (full-text articles on literature and history)
  • Project MUSE (full-text articles on literature and history)
  • EBSCO (assortment)

Often one of the best publications to begin with for a "classic" author is the Cambridge Companion. There are many volumes in this series; they have books on authors, such as the Cambridge Companion to Edgar Allan Poe, on genres, such as the Cambridge Companion to Science Fiction, on periods, such as the Cambridge Companion to English Literature, 1650–1740, on national trends such as the Cambridge Companion to the Latin American Novel and on theory such as the Cambridge Companion to Postcolonial Literary Studies. These books have excellent introductory essays on a wide range of subjects by respected scholars and what is perhaps most important for your purposes, helpful bibliographies and notes that will refer you to other works in the field. Here is a searchable version of Cambridge's collection.

If these books are unavailable at your local library, ask to borrow them through interlibrary loan.

For so-called "popular" texts, you should exhaust all of the methods above first because scholars have written a lot on popular culture in the last two decades (for example, there are many articles and even some books on Stephen King). If you find nothing, try these methods:

  • Scholarly sources on the genre itself. You don't necessarily need material written on a particular novel; you can still mention that the novel is part of a larger literary tradition, such as the mystery novel or the romance novel.
  • Book reviews written by respectable publications in the novel's genre. The point is to try to find sources who are experts in the field of that particular novel. A general USA Today review is not that interesting because they review all sorts of books, but someone who specializes in reviewing thrillers, for example, would be more interesting to read and have more nuanced opinions. Of course, reviews have to be used carefully because there is often a money trail that leads straight back to the publishers themselves.
  • Comments by other writers, particularly in the same genre. These opinions would also have to be used carefully because these authors are in competition with each other and may have personal "issues" you know nothing about.
  • Sales figures from journals and magazines who track that sort of thing, not from the publishers themselves. Publishers have an investment in boosting their numbers. One should always try to find independent verification of numbers like that (in this sense, you have to think like a journalist – you need two independent sources).

Finally, if there are very few sources, you might consider not writing a page on the novel itself; instead, consider writing a page on the author, especially if that author has written many novels in a single genre.

Style[edit]

Like the "Themes" section, this section should be based on as much research as you can do and should rely on the same sorts of sources – literary critics and historians, if possible, and book reviews and other writers' comments if not.

This section should lay out the writing styles employed by the author. For example, if the novel is an epistolary novel, there should be an explanation of that style and how it works specifically in the novel being discussed on the page. Also, any notable features of the writer's style should be spelled out. The following is a list of examples of the kind of stylistic elements that have been extensively discussed by scholars and necessitate an inclusion on any page about these author's novels: Virginia Woolf's unique narrative voice, Thomas Pynchon's postmodernist tendencies, and Jane Austen's use of free indirect discourse.

Background[edit]

Include here a history of the novel's writing and development. For example, did the author use a 'real life' story to shape the plot? Did the author model a character on a 'real life' person? Did the author use another novel as a model? Is this novel in some sense a sequel to a previous work? None of these can be speculative. The 'background' section must report the writings of significant and reliable sources. For an example of Featured articles with a 'background' section see The Lord of the Rings, Halo Graphic Novel, or The World Without Us. 'Background' should not be confused with "Setting"; think in terms of the real world context and / or origins of the novel.

Publication history[edit]

Relying on research (see below), you should briefly outline the publication history of the novel ONLY if there is interesting information to relate. For example, some novels, such as William Godwin's Caleb Williams, were published with two different endings. Some novels were first published serially and then later published as bound books; this is the case with many of Charles Dickens' novels, for example. Maria Edgeworth altered significant elements of one of the marriage plots of her novel Belinda in response to criticism after the first edition was published. Other novels have been censored or altered by later editors. If there are no particularly interesting details to relate, try to work the basic facts of the novel's first publication into the article at some point. If both sections are short, it may be appropriate to merge Background and Publication history.

Reception[edit]

Understanding the novel's position in its own society and in later literary and cultural traditions is crucial; this material should be presented in a "Reception" section (clearly, a modern novel can't have much of a legacy yet). You should analyze how the novel was received by critics, meaning professional or well-known reviewers at the time that the novel was published, and not comments from members of the public. (Quotes from users on Amazon.com and blogs do not count, as these are self-published.) Comments from influential opinion-makers are acceptable, however; for example, it may well be interesting what Queen Victoria said about a particular Victorian novel. Your research will tell you what is important and what is not.

Relying on your research, also indicate what the public reaction to the novel was. Sales figures can help indicate this, but do not rely exclusively on reviews and sales figures for this section. Since reading habits were different in the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, it is helpful to include descriptions of readers' responses to the novel as well as descriptions of how the novel was read. For a good example of this, see the "Style" section of Uncle Tom's Cabin which explains the "sentimental" style of the novel and how readers responded at the time. Such descriptions help the reader understand the novel within its historical and social context. If the novel is a cult novel, an explanation of how the "cult" label developed would also be appropriate (again, all of this information would come from your research).

Adaptations[edit]

The adaptation section should detail any notable information about the novel's adaption into dramatic media, including films, TV miniseries, Broadway shows, etc. If this information is extensive, consider creating an entirely separate article for this information, such as "[Novel] in popular culture."

Be careful that such sections or articles do not degenerate into trivia, perhaps by ensuring that every entry has at least one reliable source confirming the link between the novel and the adaptation such that it conforms to minimal notability standards. If multiple, non-trivial, reliable sources can be found, the adaptation may be sufficiently notable to be worthy of an article to itself.

Footnotes and references[edit]

In accordance with Wikipedia's verifiability policy, all articles should cite their sources. A variety of methods to present your references is available at Citing sources:Style and how-to as well as an inline citations/footnoting system at Help:Footnotes. If you are unsure of how to use internet links as references, simply inserting the URL into square brackets at the end of the corresponding text (e.g. [http://www.loc.gov/] becomes [1]) is an adequate form of referencing the web; you must also provide the date on which you accessed the site so that should the information disappear from that site or the link cease to function (a danger in using web sources), a user wanting to use the Wayback Machine to verify your information can do so.

Other considerations[edit]

Infobox[edit]

Desolation Island
Author Patrick O'Brian
Cover artist Geoff Hunt
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Series Aubrey-Maturin series
Genre Historical novel
Publisher Harper Collins
Publication date
1978
Media type Print (Hardback & Paperback) & Audio Book (Cassette, CD)
Pages 416 pages (first edition, hardback)
ISBN ISBN 0123456789, (first edition, hardback)
Preceded by The Mauritius Command
Followed by The Fortune of War

Note that including an infobox is advisable; include one if sufficient information is available.

The table to the right is the Infobox Book template for Desolation Island. Note that the image has been removed, as Wikipedia fair use policy prohibits the use of fair use images outside the article namespace. Clicking edit on the right will enable you to view and copy the source text to use on novel articles. If you have any questions or problems with this table, you can discuss them at Template talk:Infobox book.

The parameters for the infobox can be found at Template:Infobox book.

A companion infobox for "novelettes" and "short stories" can be found at Template:Infobox short story.

Images[edit]

The image presented in the table should be the most significant cover historically for that book; often this is the first edition, but occasionally it is not. For example, sometimes authors make drastic revisions to texts and later editions are considered to be the "preferred" edition. The most important factor in choosing an illustration for your infobox is knowledge and reasoning: do you know why you are choosing that image and can you justify it? Remember also, that still copyrighted images can only be uploaded as non-free content, which means that you have to give a rationale for why the cover is being used.

Finding and uploading an image

Covers can be found at various sites, including Amazon.com ([2]) and Amazon.co.uk ([3]). Novels published during the seventeenth century in Britain can be found at Early English Books Online (EEBO – by subscription only) and novels published during the eighteenth century in English can be found at Eighteenth Century Collections Online (ECCO – by subscription only). Many images can also be found at google images for older texts.

Once you have found a suitable image:

  • Save it to your hard drive as a JPEG or PNG file. See preparing images for upload.
  • Upload it to the wiki at Special:Upload. See uploading images.
  • On the file's description page, add a short description of the image (e.g. "A book cover for NovelTitle."), and an image copyright tag:
    • {{Non-free book cover}} for such novels, novellas, novelettes or short stories.
  • On the image line of the template, insert the image's filename. A short description can be included in the field image caption. The image size in the infobox is currently set to 200 pixels.
e.g. sample input – vary text used to suit image used
image = NovelTitle.jpg
image_caption = First edition cover

Genre[edit]

Choose a genre from the list available to link to which can be found on the main project page. You are not required to fill in the genre field. Genres are often debatable and can lead to anachronistic labeling. For example, labeling Robinson Crusoe a novel is highly suspect as the genre of the novel itself, it can be argued, had not even fully formed at that point and Defoe would not have identified his text as a novel. You may consider leaving this field blank if no suitable genre is among the choices listed.

Publication dates[edit]

  • The novel's earliest release, or publication. If not formally published, use the date written; this would be highly unusual for writing of notability.
  • Use the release date in the country of origin for the novel.
  • If the novel has been translated from a non-English language (and only then!), add the english_pub_date for date of first translated publication.

Do not include the following in infoboxes (although they can be included in a separate section in the main body of the article):

  • Release dates for every country in the world.

Media type[edit]

Record only the media types in which the novel was originally available. For example, eighteenth-century novels were never published in "hardback and paperback" nor in audiobook so it is inappropriate to list those print subtypes.

Preceded and followed by[edit]

These fields should be included only for the novels that are written as part of a series or sequence. Then the titles of the novel prior and the novel subsequent in the series should be placed in each parameter. Otherwise they should be left blank, in all cases. Note, It is not essential to complete all fields in the infobox. This is especially true if scant information on the novel is available.

Trivia[edit]

Trivia sections should be dealt with in accordance with WP:TRIVIA. They create a sense of a "fan site" in what might otherwise be a respectable encyclopedia entry. As such, information that might be placed in a Trivia section should be integrated into the body of the article.

Lists[edit]

Once an article has been created for a novel, it can be entered into a number of lists to allow easier browsing for viewers. All novels should be included in the Lists of books article. Each novel can be included in lists based on the alphabet, year, language, genre, country, etc. that a novel can be included in.

Categories[edit]

The article should include categories at the bottom. At a minimum, year, country and genre categories should be included. It is best to keep them in alphabetical order for easier browsing. For example, you would add the following to the bottom of a page for an American comedy novel that came out in 2007:

For the novels of more significant novelists you could add the appropriate "Novels by AuthorName" category:

See also[edit]