Trying to address this question for school, and I have disconnected thoughts.
A mosaic novel exists when a creator calls it so. a mosaic novel exists when a reader feels it so.
No scientist would accept this boundary line. Elements of a mosaic, where the artist fractures the screen of narrative. Traditional novels often and ever have elements of a mosaic. Gaps emerge where the narrative threads cut away from the line of narrative, and subplots wander off down pathways that flesh out the world.
I think of a river, then. I think of a long, flowing river. Sometimes, maybe, it drops under a rock, and pops out again into the same flow. My thought on the mosaic, in general, is that there is a very fuzzy boundary line – and no clean delineation between the “traditional” narrative and the “mosaic” narrative. Of course, the obvious problem with what I just stated is the definition of the words “traditional narrative”. The mosaic text is, then, defined by what it is not. It is not a traditional text. It is not a clean, straight, narrative line. It is not, perhaps, composed intentionally as a clean narrative line, but discovered later and gardened into form. As such, it is no different than a “traditional” narrative. As there is no such thing as a “traditional” narrative in any form, especially when disjointed, serialized, and otherwise broken-up texts existed since, at least, forever, the distinction needs to be found not between “traditional” narrative and mosaics, per my instructor’s instructions, but with some other form of narrative .
I shall choose the Coming-Of-Age Tale. In Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, there are disjointed scenes of a life moving forward in time, following Stephen Dedalus up from diapers to raw adulthood. Though there are elements of a mosaic, wherein individual scenes, like tiles, form a story of a life, these tiles are all completely connected in the flow of the narrative lines. If the tiles were pipe-fittings, all the water flows only one way, even if the scenes are broken up. Pick another form, with multiple POVs, like James Clavell’s Shogun, and the flow of water meanders, but never breaks that flow. Mosaics break that flow. Waters scatter, braid around pipes, and ultimately show a wider system of pipes.
Critics of the mosaic novel may suggest that this broken flow of one pipe makes them short story collections, I guess, because they look for that singular flow of water, instead of the fans of mosaics that like the flowing of waters that create a system of pipes.
Maybe that’s what I think. Probably not. Needs citation. Back into the water, then…