How To Tell If You’re In a Novel

Quick strategies for figuring out what novel you’re currently trapped in.

  1. You long to go on an adventure, but only so long as the adventure is not in any way uncomfortable or inconvenient.

    Orcs are chasing you, but this does not bother you nearly as much as the inadequate breakfast you had earlier today.

    You once fulfilled an ancient prophecy and overturned gender expectations at the same time.

    173 comments
  2. You have just swept someone a magnificent, yet insolent, leg.

    You have interrupted a game of wist to introduce the players to your ward.

    You have been pronounced a social success by the greatest bitch in Paris.

    188 comments
  3. You are constantly underestimated in comparison to Eliot and Pound, probably because everyone thinks you departed from nineteenth-century techniques insufficiently, or because you forgot to fling a lot of untranslated Italian and unnecessary canto divisions into your work.

    52 comments
  4. You discover you have a half-brother. You resent him for being stronger and healthier, and are disgusted when he sings a dirty song with a soldier.

    You think you have had a revelation. In reality, you have gotten yourself in a muddle, and later it makes you miserable.

    If you ever take to living as you play piano, it will be very exciting indeed.

    62 comments
  5. You are the beautiful only daughter of an invalid.

    You are the disappointing son of a cold-hearted woman with thick arms.

    Your name is Derace, Orfamay, Moose, or Rusty, but you’ve asked to please be called Steelgrave.

    44 comments
  6. Everyone around you is named Thorolf, except for Thorstein Cod-Biter, who lives over in the next valley. Many say he is part-troll. But they have learnt not to say it to his face.

    The current feud in which you are embroiled seems likely to be resolved by prodding a blindfolded horse off a cliff with poles. This horse is known for its malice.

    105 comments
  7. You are over 75 and you hate every person you’ve ever met, or else you’re 14 and you’ve just seen something horrible.

    Your martyrdom doesn’t go as planned.

    At least one of your front teeth is missing, and you think you look marvelous.

    Something dreadful happened at the rest stop.

    28 comments
  8. You are sitting at a sunny French café, but there are shadows in your heart.

    You have escaped disaster, and things have for the most part ended well, and yet you cannot shake a sense of dread and foreboding.

    Someone is crushing your spirit. You try as hard as you can not to inconvenience them while they do it.

    44 comments
  9. You work as a proofreader, staying up all night hunched over desks. It's dull work. You like dull work. Your co-worker sits next to you, pining. His hands do not match the rest of his body. You pity him. You remember the days you wore white lipstick and teased the boys, you and your best friend, a little slip of a thing with dark hair and a cruel mouth who always sat sideways, in a…

    24 comments
  10. You are an 18 year old girl and in love with a 40 year old man. Everyone thinks this is fine.

    Shrill violins do not bother you.

    You are a beautiful, demure widow.

    If you are a man, you own one of three outfits–a kurta set, wide-shouldered and garishly patterned double breasted suit, or a tight leather jacket under which you are bare chested. Any one is appropriate for

    103 comments
  11. You were discussing transcendental idealism over oysters, and one thing led to another.

    Without any forethought, you deliver a lengthy monologue that connects the Riemann hypothesis, the poetry of Wordsworth, and your love life.

    You encounter a troupe of thespian funambulists. They are glib, and not to be trusted.

    61 comments
  12. You are fourth- or fifth-billed in the credits but have so far contributed almost nothing to the A- and B-storylines.

    In episode 2, you had a throwaway line about a beautiful member of the opposite sex not being your "type," a line that has now taken on a strange significance.

    You are a younger brother who stands to inherit nothing.

    147 comments
  13. You've always dreamed of seeing Italy, but your parents discourage this. They discourage most things, living as they do in a battered farmhouse in the west, where they consider cake a foolish luxury and don't much care for gifts.

    47 comments
  14. - It dinnae hardly hurt nae more, ma'am

    - You maughtn't mind the muckle nai more, miss, for there's an everlasting city what swims before these eyes a-nights, and so you musn't cry none, not for this poor Christian soul

    166 comments
  15. You are in Maine. You have always been in Maine. No matter what happens to you, you will never be anywhere but Maine. Do you have a flight scheduled to Los Angeles? Too bad; the pilot’s just going to circle around the sky for a few hours before dropping you back in Bangor. Are you taking a cross-country road trip? Not likely, since you’re just driving from one side of Maine to the other, no…

    100 comments