How to improve following a novel's plot

Hey everyone!

I’m 100 pages in a random novel I picked up in Japan called クラスメイツ, and even though I can read 90% of the kanji, I find it very difficult to follow the plot and story. It feels like I’m simply reading sentence by sentence but none of them are connecting to create an understandable story.

Does anyone have any tips in improving the skill of following a novel in japanese?

Thank you for your feedback!


I think just generally learning more vocab and grammar (especially grammar) and practicing reading should help, since you won’t have to spend as much time on each individual sentence and probably also will understand them better with more practice, which mean you can pay more attention to the actual story.

For the “reading practice” part, you could also try joining one of the book clubs on this forums if you want to try reading something where you’re able to ask questions, if you feel like that might be helpful.


The other challenge I have noted is that the writing style I have encountered in Japanese books is quite different. Less traditional hero’s journey style of writing and more ‘things happened’ style of writing. Meaning, you may be looking for a plot where none exists.


I don’t know if it will help in your current novel, but for me novels I read only using my Kindle.
I click and get any unknown word definition on the spot, so I’m good to go where with paper books was usually a cumbersome pause to get a word from my phone’s dictionary and then try to resume the focus, which wasn’t there after a while.

Besides that I try to avoid voicing over what I’m reading, otherwise I tend to use the dicionary function too much just to make sure I’m getting the correct reading of each kanji. If I sort of skim read I can read whole pages and get a good grasp of the story first while been able to go back to an specific sentence If it felt iffy.

About that… well, pick short novels so there’s a goal on the horizon; don’t be afraid to bail out if it’s not appealing after a couple of chapters. In my case I feel I’m making an extra effort to read in a language other that the ones I’m fluent, so I try to make sure on reading something that feels like it’s paying off.

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Japanese novels frequently come in two volumes “上巻” and “下巻.”

If I’m looking at the right novel (クラスメイツ by 森 絵都) it appears instead that there are the usual two volumes in this novel, but each volume is listed as semesters/trimesters “前期” and “後期” instead of volumes.

But even if you started with 後期 it may not matter in this case: A different print version of the same book on Amazon has a little wrap cover that describes the novel as “24 stories about 24 students with each as the protagonist.” So you may be confused because each chapter may be a standalone story but the stories overlap.

I hope that helps…but if it’s the wrong novel, sorry. heh.

As for following plot even after that point… The descriptive narrative that happens in writing/books often feels (for me at least) like a different language than the conversational language I often hear. I feel it’s harder, but really it’s that I have a lot less practice with it.

Watching shows that narrate/describe events, rather than simply converse may help. I watch 日本の昔話 (Japan Folk Tales that are primarily narrated) with my son and it actually really has helped me understand the narrative aspect of the Japanese language a bit better…at least I feel I have a bit of a foothold.

This looks really interesting. Does it work with the Kindle App(any tablet) or is it just a feature for the Kindle tablets?

I can say from experience that it’s possible to set that up on the android app too, at least(it doesn’t work very well for conjugated verbs though)

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