The rise of the novel is connected to the rise of the middle class: books became cheaper, circulating libraries he a thing and noble women were used to reading as a refinement and a good social behaviour.
The novels were usually about everything that could alter social status; the story was appealing to practical-minded tradesmen, who had to be self-made and self-reliant; there was often an implied sense of reward and punishment, a message related to the Puritan ethics.
Realism was a big part of the novel, since it had to reflect the readers' lives, dealing with real places, objects of everyday life, contemporary names and surname, and the passing of time: men could shape their life not only by taking their destiny in their hands and break the status-quo, but also by fighting in order to mantain the new status.
The novel was different from the old Romances, because of the lack of the supernatural, the view of life as a preparation for afterlife, and the undefined time and space.
The subject of the novels was usually a bourgeois man and his problems: he had to struggle for survival or social success. There was often a contrast between the ones who believe in reason, and the ones who can't control their passions.
Events and characters were imaginary, but representative of real life.
The novel is mainly written in prose, but it can include poetic elements. It's a long narrative with particularly featured characters, action, plot, connective logic, and an investigation of an issue of human significance. It's different from the short story and also from the novella.
It's main features:
1) The setting
It can be social, place (interior or exterior) or time setting.
2) The story
It's the chronological order of events, while the plot is the original sequence of events (including flashbacks, anticipations, digressions...)
3) The narrative modes
They can be dialogue, narration, description, or thoughts of the characters, and they're interwoven according to the aim.
4) The point of view
It's the angle or the angles from which the scene is described, and it's influenced by the type of narrator.
5) The narrator
It's the voice who tells the story. It can be either a first person narrator (a character or the narrator itself) or a third person narrator. In the first case, the reader is close to the mind and feelings of the narrator, there's a more vivid impression of reality and a restriction to the reader's view. In the second case, the narrator can be omniscient, if he/she knows everything about the characters and the story, obtrusive if he/she makes personal remarks, comments and digressions, unobtrusive if he/she is detached and objective.
6) The characters
They can be directly or indirectly presented, they can be major or minor, and they can be round or flat (stereotypes)
7) The theme
It's the idea the author tries to convey by means of the story. It can be either overt (explicit or intended) or covert (discovered by the reader or by the critic, as an element of which even the author was unaware). It contains the message.