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The SCEPTS Strategy for Novel Reading

Oct 12, 2007
A novel is a story that moves through the events of the lives of the characters. To fully appreciate the novel however you need to not only read the words, but to understand what's happening within the story and why the characters act in a certain way.

The language, or words, of the novel will give you clues as to what time period that the story is set in, as well as enough details about the characters and where they live so that you can see the story unfold in your imagination -- rather like watching it on TV. But in order for this to happen, you have to actively read the novel and know what to look for, and that's where the SCEPTS strategy comes into things.

Setting
The setting of your novel put the story into time and place. Look out for things such as popular music and fashion to help put set up the timeframe. For place you should be on the alert for types of accommodation--a mansion will indicate a financially well off character, whereas a log cabin suggests that the character likes being outdoors, and farmland suggests that your character lives in a rural area.

These little clues give you "hidden" elements about the characters in the novel and so help you to understand their actions. A speech pattern, such as your main character having a southern drawl can be another indicator of where the story takes place.

Characters
These are the people in the novel. Usually there is one main character and a number of other characters with which the main character interacts. Although many novels have human characters, depending on the type of novel you're reading, your characters could be animal or alien. Keep any physical descriptions that appear of the characters in your mind as you read so that you are able to picture the story more easily.

Events
This is the storyline. The main character in your novel will start off at one place in his/her life, and will journey through a series of events until they end at their finishing point. In most novels the main character will start off with a goal in mind, and will encounter a number of events and problems along the way that they will overcome until eventually they achieve their goal.

Problems
Conflict is the driving force of any novel. It's what stops the story being boring. All events move the story, but it's the problems and wanting to see how the main character deals with these that will make you want to read and turn the pages faster!

Time
Your novel will be firmly set into a time period. When you're reading it you should first discover in which year or decade the story is set, clues such as major world events, clothing, music, etc will help you to do this. Everything in the novel should fit within the time period, so if a President is referred to for example, and the year is 1963, then you'll be able to know without the writer telling you which President it is.

Alternatively, if they give the President's name, and you still don't know the time frame of the book, then his name will help you to narrow down the possibilities -- for example if a reference is made to President Reagan making a speech, then you know that the book is set somewhere in the 1980's.

Solution
Finally all novels will come to an end, a solution. For the most part, things will work out just fine for the main character who will triumph through all the events and problems until finally achieving the goal they set out to find at the beginning of the story. Not all stories have a happy ending, and some of them don't even have a clear ending and leave it up to the reader to decide, but for the most part your story will come to a logical conclusion.

By understanding the main elements to look out for in your novel you'll find that you should find it easier to review the novel and even quickly write a book report if required!
About the Author
Jane Saeman runs an In-Home Tutoring service called Aim High Tutors. Find out about how to help your student reach their full potential at http://www.aimhightutors.com/blog
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