Ever wonder what makes famous novels so famous? I was too and I found some interesting things in my research. These novels have 12 common elements that set them apart from all the other books that they’re competing against.
But, depending on who you’re talking to those 12 elements are completely different. Keep reading and I’ll explain.
The 12 Elements Of Bestselling Famous Novels
In his book Hit Lit: Cracking The Code Of The Twentieth Century’s Biggest Best Sellers, James W. Hall reveals critical elements that are shared by books as diverse as The Godfather, To Kill A Mockingbird, The Exorcist and others. These elements are:
- There is an element of speed to them. You are forced to keep turning the page to find out what happens next.
- They focus on larger and more provocative issues of the public psyche. These are things such as racism in To Kill a Mockingbird and the shadowy, illicit side of the American Dream in The Godfather and distrust of political authority in Jaws.
- The characters embody the age they live in. These famous novels portray characters within the larger context of the social group as a whole.
- They portray America as an ideal Golden Country which we have lost or which we are struggling to regain. The best example of this would be the world as it existed before the war in Gone With the Wind and after.
- There is an educational element to these novels, such as in The Hunt for Red October. where we enter and learn about the world of submarines.
- These novels also depict the inner workings of secret worlds such as La Casa Nostra in The Godfather and Opus Dei in The Davinci Code.
- There is a town vs country element in these novels which portrays the characters out of their element such as Mitch McDeere in The Firm.
- God. Yes, God appears in all the biggest bestsellers. I’ll leave it at that!
- These books compare and contrast the idea of the American Dream vs The American Nightmare.
- The characters in these books are also portrayed as mavericks outside the social structure.
- These novels also put the fun in dysfunctional by touching on issues of broken families of one sort or another.
- And last but not least, sex. Just like God, I’ll leave it at that. There’s not much more to say.
But, unlike God and sex, there is a lot more to say about this topic of common elements. In his book The Writer’s Journey Christopher Vogler reveals 12 completely different elements that famous novels share. For more on that, click here.