We shall all agree that the fundamental aspect of the novel is its story-telling aspect, but we shall voice our assent in different tones, and it is on the precise tone of voice we emply now that our susequent conclusions will depend.
Let us listen to three voices. If you ask one type of man, "What does a novel do?" he will reply placidly: "Well - I don't know - it seems a funny sort of question to ask - a novel's a novel - well i don't know - I suppose it kinds of tells a story, so to speak." He is quite good-tempered and vague, and probably driving a motor-bus at the same time and probably paying no more attention to literature than it merits. Another man, who I visualise on a golf course, will be aggressive and brisk. He will reply: "What does a novel do? Why, tell a story of course, and I've no use for it if it didn't. I like a story. Very bad taste on my part no doubt, but I like a story. You can take your art, you can take your literature, you can take your music, but give me a good story. And I like a story to be a story, mind, and my wife's the same." And a third man, he says in a sort of droopy, regretful voice: "Yes - oh dear yes - the novel tells a story."
I respect and admire the first speaker. I detest and fear the second. the third is myself. yes - oh dear yes - the novel tells a story. That is the fundamental aspect without which it could not exist. That is the highest factor common to all novels, and I wish that it was not so, that it could be something different - melody, or perception of the truth, not this low atavistic form.
--E.M. Forster in Aspects of the Novel