What Is Prose In Literature? Top 5 Examples

Here, we’ll explore the definition of prose in literature and different types of prose and check out the best examples of prose in the literary world today.

Prose is any type of writing in an ordinary language without a rhyme scheme or formal metrical structure. Prose can take many different forms, including short stories, poetry, essays, etc. When completing a prose piece of writing, the organization of the words is essential to create a path that the reader can follow. Still, there’s no need for lines to be of equal length or consider alliteration or other literary devices.

Prose follows the standard format of using sentences to build paragraphs. There’s a good chance your favorite novel, poem, or speech was written in prose format, as prose is the most common form of writing.

Now, we’ll look at several different types of prose, including short stories, poetry, heroic prose, newspaper articles, and fiction/nonfiction prose. We’ll also check out some prose examples.

When editing for grammar, we also recommend taking the time to improve the readability score of a piece of writing before publishing or submitting.

Different Types Of Prose

While prose is common and easy to find in literature, there are several categories into which prose can fall.

Short Stories

Many authors write in prose for short stories, allowing their characters to explain the story to the reader in ordinary language. Writing in prose can make it easier for readers to understand literary work. The familiar, everyday speech that prose-style short stories take on allows the author to focus on telling the story from their character’s point of view, helping readers to understand the world of their story.

Prose Poetry

It can be challenging for poets to convey their ideas when they’re working to stick to a particular rhyme scheme, worrying about line breaks, or struggling to fit their work into a certain number of stanzas. Writing prose, free verse, and poetry allows poets to share their ideas in a way that makes sense to them and their readers rather than following a format set up by someone else.

Heroic Prose

This type of prose poem is meant to be passed down through oral tradition. Heroic prose tells the story of a key figure in a culture’s present or history and helps to ensure that a culture’s values are passed from one generation to the next.

Prose Fiction and Nonfictional Prose

The difference between prose fiction and nonfictional prose is simple: fiction tells stories created in the author’s imagination, while nonfiction prose tells stories of events in real life. Both types of prose can follow the natural flow of speech, making it easy for the reader to follow the storyline.

Newspaper Articles

Newspaper articles are often written in prose format, with the reporter telling the story as it unfolded in real life, using language that follows the way people usually speak.

Check out our canonical literature explainer.

Key Elements of Prose Literature

Key elements of prose in literature
The more realistic your plot, the better your reader will be able to identify with your story

When writing prose, it’s essential to consider the key elements that will help bring your narrative to life for your reader. Whether you’re writing an article, a short story, a novel, a poem, or other types of writing, paying attention to the key elements of prose will allow your reader to imagine the world you’re creating with your writing entirely. 

Key elements of prose include: 

  • Character: Character development helps your readers get to know who plays a role in your story. While main character development is vital, you’ll also want to flesh out the other characters in your prose to help your reader understand how they interact. Be sure to help your reader see how your character grows and changes over time. There’s no need for your characters to stay stagnant–growth is a normal part of life and working to show your readers how their experiences affect their personality and outlook on life can help them seem more real.
  • Setting: Your reader needs to fully be able to picture the world you’re creating in your writing. Pay attention to what you see when you imagine your character’s world, and take plenty of time to describe their environment to your reader. Whether you’re describing a place that currently exists or a world that only exists in your imagination, developing the setting of your story can help your reader feel like they’re there, going through each experience that you describe for your characters.
  • Plot: Your plot is your storyline, and you’ll want to work carefully to be sure that your plot follows a clear path. When developing your plot, be sure to keep an eye out for plot holes, such as a character struggling with money suddenly being able to go on vacation. The more realistic your plot, the better your reader will be able to identify with your story. 
  • Point of View: Decide whether you want to tell your story from a first-person, second-person, or third-person point of view. Many prose writers use the first-person point of view, allowing the characters to speak directly to the reader. 
  • Mood: What feeling do you want your reader to have as they enjoy your story? Perhaps you want them to feel inspired, or you want them to feel conflicted as they consider the hard truths that your character has to face as they grow and learn. The setting, character development, vocabulary choices, and writing style can all help your reader feel the mood you’re creating with your writing. 

Examples Of Prose In Literature

1. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

In this passage, Dickens expertly conveys one of the many difficulties of growing up–the fear of becoming someone you do not want to be. Many growing adults cling to the safety of youth, only to be overcome by the difficulties of adulthood that lead them to participate in the same behaviors they despise. Dickens’ prose writing style makes this passage relatable to readers, as they can feel the main character, Pip, baring his soul.

Great Expectations (Dover Thrift Editions: Classic Novels)
  • Charles Dickens (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 384 Pages - 08/01/2001 (Publication Date) - Dover Publications (Publisher)

2. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

One of the many reasons Catcher is renowned as a classic is Salinger’s ability to convey protagonist Holden Caulfield’s thoughts to the reader clearly (but not concise). Caulfield shares his story in the same way that many people find their inner voice working–taking tangents and roundabouts, exploring new ideas, and returning to old ideas. As a result, many readers feel they know Caulfield by the end of the novel, even though he’s a fictional character created by Salinger’s imagination.

The Catcher in the Rye
  • Novel by J.D. Salinger, published in 1951. The influential and widely acclaimed story details the two days in the life of 16-year-old Holden Caulfield after he has been expelled from prep school. Confused and disillusioned, he searches for truth and rails against the "phoniness" of the adult world. He ends up exhausted and emotionally ill, in a psychiatrist's office. After he recovers from his breakdown, Holden relates his experiences to the reader.
  • J. D. Salinger (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 288 Pages - 01/30/2001 (Publication Date) - Back Bay Books (Publisher)

3. The Masque of the Red Death by Edgar Allan Poe

Known for creating macabre worlds that infuse readers’ nightmares, Poe’s ability to use everyday language to paint a clear picture continues to be envied by writers. In Masque, Poe helps the reader to understand the extravagance of the party he attends. The author’s detailed description leaves the reader with no questions about the party, helping them picture exactly how the scene appeared as partygoers met their brutal final fate.

The Masque of the Red Death
  • Poe, Edgar Allan (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 24 Pages - 06/30/2021 (Publication Date) - Independently published (Publisher)

4. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Moviegoers and book lovers alike are familiar with the plight of Katniss, the heroine of The Hunger Games series. In this passage, near the beginning of the series, readers get to know their protagonist and relate to her, similar to getting to know a real-life friend. Katniss describes struggles in school, family issues, and trying to hide her true feelings, all issues shared by many. Collins’ use of prose makes it simple for readers to put themselves in the shoes of Katniss.

The Hunger Games: Special Edition
  • Audible Audiobook
  • Suzanne Collins (Author) - Tatiana Maslany (Narrator)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 10/30/2018 (Publication Date) - Scholastic Audio (Publisher)

5. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

The coming-of-age tale of a young New York girl is a testament to the strength of the human spirit. Smith expertly makes the reader feel as if the tree is a character in the story and returns to this metaphor several times throughout the novel. The book’s protagonist, Francie Nolan, shares characteristics with the trees that manage to survive in the harsh Brooklyn environment. In this novel, the protagonist does not speak directly to the reader. However, Smith writes so that readers feel like they’re listening to a friend describe their life and hardships. 

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
  • Audible Audiobook
  • Betty Smith (Author) - Kate Burton (Narrator)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 12/26/2004 (Publication Date) - Caedmon (Publisher)

To learn more, check out our guide on stream of consciousness poetry?

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  • Amanda has an M.S.Ed degree from the University of Pennsylvania in School and Mental Health Counseling and is a National Academy of Sports Medicine Certified Personal Trainer. She has experience writing magazine articles, newspaper articles, SEO-friendly web copy, and blog posts.