The Write Practice

Literary Genres: Definition and Examples of the 4 Essential Genres and 100+ Subgenres

by Joe Bunting | 1 comment

What are literary genres? Do they actually matter to readers? How about to writers? What types of literary genres exist? And if you're a writer, how do you decide which genre to write in?

Literary Genres: Definition and Examples of the 4 Essential Genres and 100+ Subgenres

To begin to think about literary genres, let's start with an example.

Let's say want to read something. You go to a bookstore or hop onto a store online or go to a library.

But instead of a nice person wearing reading glasses and a cardigan asking you what books you like and then thinking through every book ever written to find you the next perfect read (if that person existed, for the record, they would be my favorite person), you're faced with this: rows and rows of books with labels on the shelves like “Literary Fiction,” “Travel,” “Reference,” “Science Fiction,” and so on.

You stop at the edge of the bookstore and just stand there for a while, stumped. “What do all of these labels even mean?!” And then you walk out of the store.

Or maybe you're writing a book , and someone asks you a question like this: “What kind of book are you writing? What genre  is it?”

And you stare at them in frustration thinking, “My book transcends genre, convention, and even reality, obviously. Don't you dare put my genius in a box!”

What are literary genres? In this article, we'll share the definition and different types of literary genres (there are four main ones but thousands of subgenres). Then, we'll talk about why genre matters to both readers and writers. We'll look at some of the components that people use to categorize writing into genres. Finally, we'll give you a chance to put genre into practice with an exercise .

Table of Contents

Introduction Literary Genres Definition Why Genre Matters (to Readers, to Writers) The 4 Essential Genres 100+ Genres and Subgenres The 7 Components of Genre Practice Exercise

Ready to get started? Let's get into it.

What Are Literary Genres? Literary Genre Definition

Let's begin with a basic definition of literary genres:

Literary genres are categories, types, or collections of literature. They often share characteristics, such as their subject matter or topic, style, form, purpose, or audience.

That's our formal definition. But here's a simpler way of thinking about it:

Genre is a way of categorizing readers' tastes.

That's a good basic definition of genre. But does genre really matter?

Why Literary Genres Matter

Literary genres matter. They matter to readers but they also matter to writers. Here's why:

Why Literary Genres Matter to Readers

Think about it. You like to read (or watch) different things than your parents.

You probably also like to read different things at different times of the day. For example, maybe you read the news in the morning, listen to an audiobook of a nonfiction book related to your studies or career in the afternoon, and read a novel or watch a TV show in the evening.

Even more, you probably read different things now than you did as a child or than you will want to read twenty years from now.

Everyone has different tastes.

Genre is one way we match what readers want to what writers want to write and what publishers are publishing.

It's also not a new thing. We've been categorizing literature like this for thousands of years. Some of the oldest forms of writing, including religious texts, were tied directly into this idea of genre.

For example, forty percent of the Old Testament in the Bible is actually poetry, one of the four essential literary genres. Much of the New Testament is in the form of epistle, a subgenre that's basically a public letter.

Genre matters, and by understanding how genre works, you not only can find more things you want to read, you can also better understand what the writer (or publisher) is trying to do.

Why Literary Genres Matter to Writers

Genre isn't just important to readers. It's extremely important to writers too.

In the same way the literary genres better help readers find things they want to read and better understand a writer's intentions, genres inform writers of readers' expectations and also help writers find an audience.

If you know that there are  a lot  of readers of satirical political punditry (e.g. The Onion ), then you can write more of that kind of writing and thus find more readers and hopefully make more money. Genre can help you find an audience.

At the same time, great writers have always played with and pressed the boundaries of genre, sometimes even subverting it for the sake of their art.

Another way to think about genre is a set of expectations from the reader. While it's important to meet  some  of those expectations, if you meet too many, the reader will get bored and feel like they know exactly what's going to happen next. So great writers will always play to the readers' expectations and then change a few things completely to give readers a sense of novelty in the midst of familiarity.

This is not unique to writers, by the way. The great apparel designer Virgil Abloh, who was an artistic director at Louis Vuitton until he passed away tragically in 2021, had a creative template called the “3% Rule,” where he would take an existing design, like a pair of Nike Air Jordans, and make a three percent change to it, transforming it into something completely new. His designs were incredibly successful, often selling for thousands of dollars.

This process of taking something familiar and turning it into something new with a slight change is something artists have done throughout history, including writers, and it's a great way to think about how to use genre for your own writing.

What Literary Genre is NOT: Story Type vs. Literary Genres

Before we talk more about the types of genre, let's discuss what genre is  not .

Genre is  not  the same as story type (or for nonfiction, types of nonfiction structure). There are ten (or so) types of stories, including adventure, love story, mystery, and coming of age, but there are hundreds, even thousands of genres.

Story type and nonfiction book structure are about how the work is structured.

Genre is about how the work is perceived and marketed.

These are related but  not  the same.

For example, one popular subgenre of literature is science fiction. Probably the most common type of science fiction story is adventure, but you can also have mystery sci-fi stories, love story sci-fi, and even morality sci-fi. Story type transcends genre.

You can learn more about this in my book  The Write Structure , which teaches writers the simple process to structure great stories. Click to check out  The Write Structure .

This is true for non-fiction as well in different ways. More on this in my post on the seven types of nonfiction books .

Now that we've addressed why genre matters and what genre doesn't  include, let's get into the different literary genres that exist (there are a lot of them!).

How Many Literary Genres Are There? The 4 Essential Genres, and 100+ Genres and Subgenres

Just as everyone has different tastes, so there are genres to fit every kind of specific reader.

There are four essential literary genres, and all are driven by essential questions. Then, within each of those essential genres are genres and subgenres. We will look at all of these in turn, below, as well as several examples of each.

An important note: There are individual works that fit within the gaps of these four essential genres or even cross over into multiple genres.

As with anything, the edges of these categories can become blurry, for example narrative poetry or fictional reference books.

A general rule: You know it when you see it (except, of course, when the author is trying to trick you!).

1. Nonfiction: Is it true?

The core question for nonfiction is, “Is it true?”

Nonfiction deals with facts, instruction, opinion/argument reference, narrative nonfiction, or a combination.

A few examples of nonfiction (more below): reference, news, memoir, manuals, religious inspirational books, self-help, business, and many more.

2. Fiction: Is it, at some level, imagined?

The core question for fiction is, “Is it, at some level, imagined?”

Fiction is almost always story or narrative. However, satire is a form of “fiction” that's structured like nonfiction opinion/essays or news. And one of the biggest insults you can give to a journalist, reporter, or academic researcher is to suggest that their work is “fiction.”

3. Drama: Is it performed?

Drama is a genre of literature that has some kind of performance component. This includes theater, film, and audio plays.

The core question that defines drama is, “Is it performed?”

As always, there are genres within this essential genre, including horror films, thrillers, true crime podcasts, and more.

4. Poetry: Is it verse?

Poetry is in some ways the most challenging literary genre to define because while poetry is usually based on form, i.e. lines intentionally broken into verse, sometimes including rhyme or other poetic devices, there are some “poems” that are written completely in prose called prose poetry. These are only considered poems because the author and/or literary scholars  said  they were poems.

To confuse things even more, you also have narrative poetry, which combines fiction and poetry, and song which combines poetry and performance (or drama) with music.

Which is all to say, poetry is challenging to classify, but again, you usually know it when you see it.

Next, let's talk about the genres and subgenres within those four essential literary genres.

The 100+ Literary Genres and Subgenres with Definitions

Genre is, at its core, subjective. It's literally based on the tastes of readers, tastes that change over time, within markets, and across cultures.

Thus, there are essentially an infinite number of genres.

Even more, genres are constantly shifting. What is considered contemporary fiction today will change a decade from now.

So take the lists below (and any  list of genres you see) as an incomplete, likely outdated, small sample size of genre with definitions.

1. Fiction Genres

Sorted alphabetically.

Action/Adventure. An action/adventure story has adventure elements in its plot line. This type of story often involves some kind of conflict between good and evil, and features characters who must overcome obstacles to achieve their goals .

Chick Lit. Chick Lit stories are usually written for women who interested in lighthearted stories that still have some depth. They often include romance, humor, and drama in their plots.

Comedy. This typically refers to historical stories and plays (e.g. Shakespeare, Greek Literature, etc) that contain a happy ending, often with a wedding.

Commercial. Commercial stories have been written for the sole purpose of making money, often in an attempt to cash in on the success of another book, film, or genre.

Crime/Police/Detective Fiction. Crime and police stories feature a detective, whether amateur or professional, who solves crimes using their wits and knowledge of criminal psychology.

Drama or Tragedy. This typically refers to historical stories or plays (e.g. Shakespeare, Greek Literature, etc) that contain a sad or tragic ending, often with one or more deaths.

Erotica. Erotic stories contain explicit sexual descriptions in their narratives.

Espionage. Espionage stories focus on international intrigue, usually involving governments, spies, secret agents, and/or terrorist organizations. They often involve political conflict, military action, sabotage, terrorism, assassination, kidnapping, and other forms of covert operations.

Family Saga. Family sagas focus on the lives of an extended family, sometimes over several generations. Rather than having an individual protagonist, the family saga tells the stories of multiple main characters or of the family as a whole.

Fantasy. Fantasy stories are set in imaginary worlds that often feature magic, mythical creatures, and fantastic elements. They may be based on mythology, folklore, religion, legend, history, or science fiction.

General Fiction. General fiction novels are those that deal with individuals and relationships in an ordinary setting. They may be set in any time period, but usually take place in modern times.

Graphic Novel. Graphic novels are a hybrid between comics and prose fiction that often includes elements of both.

Historical Fiction. Historical stories are written about imagined or actual events that occurred in history. They usually take place during specific periods of time and often include real or imaginary characters who lived at those times.

Horror Genre. Horror stories focus on the psychological terror experienced by their characters. They often feature supernatural elements, such as ghosts, vampires, werewolves, zombies, demons, monsters, and aliens.

Humor/Satire. This category includes stories that have been written using satire or contain comedic elements. Satirical novels tend to focus on some aspect of society in a critical way.

LGBTQ+. LGBTQ+ novels are those that feature characters who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or otherwise non-heterosexual.

Literary Fiction. Literary fiction novels or stories have a high degree of artistic merit, a unique or experimental style of writing , and often deal with serious themes.

Military. Military stories deal with war, conflict, combat, or similar themes and often have strong action elements. They may be set in a contemporary or a historical period.

Multicultural. Multicultural stories are written by and about people who have different cultural backgrounds, including those that may be considered ethnic minorities.

Mystery G enre. Mystery stories feature an investigation into a crime.

Offbeat/Quirky. An offbeat story has an unusual plot, characters, setting, style, tone, or point of view. Quirkiness can be found in any aspect of a story, but often comes into play when the author uses unexpected settings, time periods, or characters.

Picture Book. Picture book novels are usually written for children and feature simple plots and colorful illustrations . They often have a moral or educational purpose.

Religious/Inspirational. Religious/ inspirational stories describe events in the life of a person who was inspired by God or another supernatural being to do something extraordinary. They usually have a moral lesson at their core.

Romance Genre. Romance novels  or stories are those that focus on love between two people, often in an ideal setting. There are many subgenres in romance, including historical, contemporary, paranormal, and others.

Science Fiction. Science fiction stories are usually set in an imaginary future world, often involving advanced technology. They may be based on scientific facts but they are not always.

Short Story Collection . Short story collections contain several short stories written by the same or different authors.

Suspense or Thriller Genre. Thrillers/ suspense stories are usually about people in danger, often involving crimes, natural disasters, or terrorism.

Upmarket. Upmarket stories are often written for and/or focus on upper class people who live in an upscale environment.

Western Genre. Western stories are those that take place in the west during the late 19th century and early 20th century. Characters include cowboys, outlaws, native Americans, and settlers.

2. Nonfiction Genres

From the BISAC categories, a globally accepted system for coding and categorizing books by the Book Industry Standards And Communications group.

Antiques & Collectibles. Nonfiction books about antiques and collectibles include those that focus on topics such as collecting, appraising, restoring, and marketing antiques and collectibles. These books may be written for both collectors and dealers in antique and collectible items. They can range from how-to guides to detailed histories of specific types of objects.

Architecture. Architecture books focus on the design, construction, use, and history of buildings and structures. This includes the study of architecture in general, but also the specific designs of individual buildings or styles of architecture.

Art. Art books focus on visual arts, music, literature, dance, film, theater, architecture, design, fashion, food, and other art forms. They may include essays, memoirs, biographies, interviews, criticism, and reviews.

Bibles. Bibles are religious books, almost exclusively Christian, that contain the traditional Bible in various translations, often with commentary or historical context.

Biography & Autobiography. Biography is an account of a person's life, often a historical or otherwise famous person. Autobiographies are personal accounts of people's lives written by themselves.

Body, Mind & Spirt. These books focus on topics related to human health, wellness, nutrition, fitness, or spirituality.

Business & Economics. Business & economics books are about how businesses work. They tend to focus on topics that interest people who run their own companies, lead or manage others, or want to understand how the economy works.

Computers. The computer genre of nonfiction books includes any topics that deal with computers in some way. They can be about general use, about how they affect our lives, or about specific technical areas related to hardware or software.

Cooking. Cookbooks contain recipes or cooking techniques.

Crafts & Hobbies.  How-to guides for crafts and hobbies, including sewing, knitting, painting, baking, woodworking, jewelry making, scrapbooking, photography, gardening, home improvement projects, and others.

Design. Design books are written about topics that include design in some way. They can be about any aspect of design including graphic design, industrial design, product design, fashion, furniture, interior design, or others.

Education. Education books focus on topics related to teaching and learning in schools. They can be used for students or as a resource for teachers.

Family & Relationships. These books focus on family relationships, including parenting, marriage, divorce, adoption, and more.

Foreign Language Study. Books that act as a reference or guide to learning a foreign language.

Games & Activities. Games & activities books may be published for children or adults, may contain learning activities or entertaining word or puzzle games. They range from joke books to crossword puzzle books to coloring books and more.

Gardening. Gardening books include those that focus on aspects of gardening, how to prepare for and grow vegetables, fruits, herbs, flowers, trees, shrubs, grasses, and other plants in an indoor or outdoor garden setting.

Health & Fitness. Health and fitness books focus on topics like dieting, exercise, nutrition, weight loss, health issues, medical conditions, diseases, medications, herbs, supplements, vitamins, minerals, and more.

History. History books focus on historical events and people, and may be written for entertainment or educational purposes.

House & Home. House & home books focus on topics like interior design, decorating, entertaining, and DIY projects.

Humor. Humor books are contain humorous elements but do not have any fictional elements.

Juvenile Nonfiction. These are nonfiction books written for children between six and twelve years old.

Language Arts & Disciplines. These books focus on teaching language arts and disciplines. They may be used for elementary school students in grades K-5.

Law. Law books include legal treatises, casebooks, and collections of statutes.

Literary Criticism. Literary criticism books discuss literary works, primarily key works of fiction or memoir. They may include biographies of authors, critical essays on specific works, or studies of the history of literature.

Mathematics. Mathematics books either teach mathematical concepts and methods or explore the history of mathematics.

Medical. Medical books include textbooks, reference books, guides, encyclopedias, and handbooks that focus on fields of medicine, including general practice, internal medicine, surgery, pediatrics, obstetrics/gynecology, and more.

Music. Music books are books that focus on the history, culture, and development of music in various countries around the world. They often include biographies, interviews, reviews, essays, and other related material. However, they may also include sheet music or instruction on playing a specific instrument.

Nature. Nature books focus on the natural world or environment, including natural history, ecology, or natural experiences like hiking, bird watching, or conservation.

Performing Arts. Books about the performing arts in general, including specific types of performance art like dance, music, and theater.

Pets. Pet books include any book that deals with animals in some way, including dog training, cat care, animal behavior, pet nutrition, bird care, and more.

Philosophy. Philosophy books deal with philosophical issues, and may be written for a general audience or specifically for scholars.

Photography. Photography books use photographs as an essential part of their content. They may be about any subject.

Political Science. Political science books deal with politics in some way. They can be about current events, historical figures, or theoretical concepts.

Psychology. Psychology books are about the scientific study of mental processes, emotion, and behavior.

Reference. Reference books are about any subject, topic, or field and contain useful information about that subject, topic or field.

Religion. These books deal with religion in some way, including religious history, theology, philosophy, and spirituality.

Science. Science books focus on topics within scientific fields, including geology, biology, physics, and more.

Self-Help. Self-help books are written for people who want to improve their lives in some way. They may be about health, relationships, finances, career, parenting, spirituality, or any number of topics that can help readers achieve personal goals.

Social Science. Focus on social science topics.

Sports & Recreation. Sports & Recreation books focus on sports either from a reporting, historical, or instructional perspective.

Study Aids. Study aids are books that provide information about a particular subject area for students who want to learn more about that topic. These books can be used in conjunction with classroom instruction or on their own.

Technology & Engineering. Technology & engineering nonfiction books describe how technology has changed our lives and how we can use that knowledge to improve ourselves and society.

Transportation. Focus on transportation topics including those about vehicles, routes, or techniques.

Travel. Travel books are those that focus on travel experiences, whether from a guide perspective or from the author's personal experiences.

True Crime. True Crime books focus on true stories about crimes. These books may be about famous cases, unsolved crimes, or specific criminals.

Young Adult Nonfiction.  Young adult nonfiction books are written for children and teenagers.

3. Drama Genres

These include genres for theater, film, television serials, or audio plays.

As a writer, I find some of these genres particularly eye-roll worthy. And yet, this is the way most films, television shows, and even theater productions are classified.

Action. Action genre dramas involve fast-paced, high-energy sequences in which characters fight against each other. They often have large-scale battles, chase scenes, or other high-intensity, high-conflict scenes.

Horror.  Horror dramas focus on the psychological terror experienced by their characters. They often feature supernatural elements, such as ghosts, vampires, werewolves, zombies, demons, monsters, and aliens.

Adventure. Adventure films are movies that have an adventurous theme. They may be set in exotic locations, feature action sequences, and/or contain elements of fantasy.

Musicals (Dance). Musicals are dramas that use music in their plot and/or soundtrack. They may be comedies, dramas, or any combination.

Comedy (& Black Comedy). Comedy dramas feature humor in their plots, characters, dialogue, or situations. It sometimes refers to historical dramas (e.g. Shakespeare, Greek drama, etc) that contain a happy ending, often with a wedding.

Science Fiction. Science fiction dramas are usually set in an imaginary future world, often involving advanced technology. They may be based on scientific facts but do not have to be.

Crime & Gangster. Crime & Gangster dramas deal with criminals, detectives, or organized crime groups. They often feature action sequences, violence, and mystery elements.

War (Anti-War). War (or anti-war) dramas focus on contemporary or historical wars. They may also contain action, adventure, mystery, or romance elements.

Drama. Dramas focus on human emotions in conflict situations. They often have complex plots and characters, and deal with serious themes. This may also refer to historical stories (e.g. Shakespeare, Greek Literature, etc) that contain a sad or tragic ending, often with one or more deaths.

Westerns. Westerns are a genre of American film that originated in the early 20th century and take place in the west during the late 19th century and early 20th century. Characters include cowboys, outlaws, native Americans, and settlers.

Epics/Historical/Period. These are dramas based on historical events or periods but do not necessarily involve any real people.

Biographical (“Biopics”). Biopics films are movies that focus on real people in history.

Melodramas, Women's or “Weeper” Films, Tearjerkers. A type of narrative drama that focuses on emotional issues, usually involving love, loss, tragedy, and redemption.

“Chick” Flicks. Chick flicks usually feature romantic relationships and tend to be lighthearted and comedic in nature.

Road Stories. Dramas involving a journey of some kind, usually taking place in contemporary setting, and involving relationships between one or more people, not necessarily romantic.

Courtroom Dramas. Courtroom dramas depict legal cases set in courtrooms. They usually have a dramatic plot line with an interesting twist at the end.

Romance. Romance dramas feature love stories between two people. Romance dramas tend to be more serious, even tragic, in nature, while romantic comedies tend to be more lighthearted.

Detective & Mystery. These dramas feature amateur or professional investigators solving crimes and catching criminals.

Sports. Sports dramas focus on athletic competition in its many forms and usually involve some kind of climactic tournament or championship.

Disaster. Disaster dramas are adventure or action dramas that include natural disasters, usually involving earthquakes, floods, volcanoes, hurricanes, tornadoes, or other disasters.

Superhero. Superhero dramas are action/adventure dramas that feature characters with supernatural powers. They usually have an origin story, the rise of a villain, and a climactic battle at the end.

Fantasy. Fantasy dramas films are typically adventure dramas that feature fantastical elements in their plot or setting, whether magic, folklore, supernatural creatures, or other fantasy elements.

Supernatural. Supernatural dramas feature paranormal phenomena in their plots, including ghosts, mythical creatures, and mysterious or extraordinary elements. This genre may overlap with horror, fantasy, thriller, action and other genres.

Film Noir. Film noir refers to a style of American crime drama that emerged in the 1940s. These dramas often featured cynical characters who struggled, often fruitlessly, against corruption and injustice.

Thriller/Suspense. Thriller/suspense dramas have elements of suspense and mystery in their plot. They usually feature a character protagonist who must overcome obstacles while trying to solve a crime or prevent a catastrophe.

Guy Stories. Guy dramas feature men in various situations, usually humorous or comedic in nature.

Zombie . Zombie dramas are usually action/adventure dramas that involve zombies.

Animated Stories . Dramas that are depicted with drawings, photographs, stop-motion, CGI, or other animation techniques.

Documentary . Documentaries are non-fiction performances that attempt to describe actual events, topics, or people.

“Foreign.”  Any drama not in the language of or involving characters/topics in your country of origin. They can also have any of the other genres listed here.

Childrens – Kids – Family-Oriented . Dramas with children of various ages as the intended audience.

Sexual – Erotic . These dramas feature explicit sexual acts but also have some kind of plot or narrative (i.e. not pornography).

Classic . Classic dramas refer to dramas performed before 1950.

Silent . Silent dramas were an early form of film that used no recorded sound.

Cult . Cult dramas are usually small-scale, independent productions with an offbeat plot, unusual characters, and/or unconventional style that have nevertheless gained popularity among a specific audience.

4. Poetry Genres

This list is from Harvard's Glossary of Poetic Genres  who also has definitions for each genre.

Dramatic monologue

Epithalamion

Light verse

Occasional verse

Verse epistle

What Are the Components of Genre In Literature? The 7 Elements of Genre

Now that we've looked, somewhat exhaustively, at examples of literary genres, let's consider how these genres are created.

What are the elements of literary genre? How are they formed?

Here are seven components that make up genre.

  • Form . Length is the main component of form (e.g. a novel is 200+ pages , films are at least an hour, serialized episodes are about 20 minutes, etc), but may also be determined by how many acts or plot lines they have. You might be asking, what about short stories? Short stories are a genre defined by their length but not their content.
  • Intended Audience . Is the story meant for adults, children, teenagers, etc?
  • Conventions and Tropes . Conventions and tropes describe patterns or predictable events that have developed within genres. For example, a sports story may have a big tournament at the climax, or a fantasy story may have a mentor character who instructs the protagonist on the use of their abilities.
  • Characters and Archetypes. Genre will often have characters who serve similar functions, like the best friend sidekick, the evil villain , the anti-hero , and other character archetypes .
  • Common Settings and Time Periods . Genre may be defined by the setting or time period. For example, stories set in the future tend to be labelled science fiction, stories involving the past tend to be labelled historical or period, etc.
  • Common Story Arcs . While every story type may use each of the six main story arcs , genre tends to be defined by specific story arcs. For example, comedy almost always has a story arc that ends positively, same with kids or family genres. However, dramas often (and when referring to historical drama, always) have stories that end tragically.
  • Common Elements (such as supernatural elements, technology, mythical creatures, monsters, etc) . Some genres center themselves on specific elements, like supernatural creatures, magic, monsters, gore, and so on. Genre can be determined by these common elements.

As you consider these elements, keep in mind that genre all comes back to taste, to what readers want to consume and how to match the unlimited variations of story with the infinite variety of tastes.

Read What You Want, Write What You Want

In the end, both readers and writers should use genre for what it is, a tool, not as something that defines you.

Writers can embrace genre, can use genre, without being controlled by it.

Readers can use genre to find stories or books they enjoy while also exploring works outside of that genre.

Genre can be incredibly fun! But only if you hold it in tension with your own work of telling (or finding) a great story.

What are your favorite genres to read in? to write in?  Let us know in the comments!

Now that we understand everything there is to know about literary genres, let's put our knowledge to use with an exercise. I have two variations for you today, one for readers and one for writers.

Readers : Think of one of your favorite stories. What is the literary genre of that story? Does it have multiple? What expectations do you have about stories within that genre? Finally, how does the author of your favorite story use those expectations, and how do they subvert them?

Writers : Choose a literary genre from the list above and spend fifteen minutes writing a story using the elements of genre: form, audience, conventions and tropes, characters and archetypes, setting and time periods, story arcs, and common elements.

When you’re finished, share your work in the Pro Practice Workshop here .  Not a member yet? Join us here !

How to Write Like Louise Penny

Joe Bunting

Joe Bunting is an author and the leader of The Write Practice community. He is also the author of the new book Crowdsourcing Paris , a real life adventure story set in France. It was a #1 New Release on Amazon. Follow him on Instagram (@jhbunting).

Want best-seller coaching? Book Joe here.

Top 150 Short Story Ideas

So how big does an other-genre element need to get before you call your book “cross-genre”? Right now, I’m writing a superhero team saga (which is already a challenge for platforms that don’t recognize “superhero” as a genre, since my team’s powers lie in that fuzzy land where the distinction between science and magic gets more than a little blurry), so it obviously has action/adventure in it, but it’s also sprouting thriller and mystery elements. I’m wondering if they’re big enough to plug the series to those genres.

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Definition of Genre

When I fall in love, it will be forever.

Difference Between Style and Genre

Common examples of genre, common examples of fiction genre.

Here are some common examples of genre fiction and their characteristics:

Examples of Writers Associated with Specific Genre Fiction

Famous examples of genre in other art forms, examples of genre in literature.

As a literary device, the genre is like an implied social contract between writers and their readers. This does not mean that writers must abide by all conventions associated with a specific genre. However, there are organizational patterns within a genre that readers tend to expect. Genre expectations allow readers to feel familiar with the literary work and help them to organize the information presented by the writer. In addition, keeping with genre conventions can establish a writer’s relationship with their readers and a framework for their literature.

Example 1: Macbeth by William Shakespeare

Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow , Creeps in this petty pace from day to day To the last syllable of recorded time, And all our yesterdays have lighted fools The way to dusty death. Out, out , brief candle! Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player That struts and frets his hour upon the stage And then is heard no more: it is a tale Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing.

The formal genre of this well-known literary work is Shakespearean drama or play. Macbeth can be sub-categorized as a literary tragedy in that the play features the elements of a classical tragic work. For example, Macbeth’s character aligns with the traits and path of a tragic hero –a protagonist whose tragic flaw brings about his downfall from power to ruin. This tragic arc of the protagonist often results in catharsis (emotional release) and potential empathy among readers and members of the audience .

Example 2: The Color Purple by Alice Walker

All my life I had to fight. I had to fight my daddy . I had to fight my brothers. I had to fight my cousins and my uncles. A girl child ain’t safe in a family of men. But I never thought I’d have to fight in my own house. She let out her breath. I loves Harpo, she say. God knows I do. But I’ll kill him dead before I let him beat me.

Example 3: A Word to Husbands by Ogden Nash

To keep your marriage brimming With love in the loving cup, Whenever you’re wrong, admit it; Whenever you’re right, shut up.

Synonyms of Genre

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Genres in Literature

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In literature, every piece of writing falls under a general category, also known as a genre. We experience genres is other parts of our daily lives, such as movies and music, and in each case, the individual genres typically have distinctive styles in terms of how they are composed. At the most basic level, there are essentially three main genres for literature - poetry, prose and drama - and each can be broken down even further, resulting in dozens of subgenres for each. Some resources will cite only two genres: fiction and non-fiction, though many classics will argue that fiction and non-fiction can, and do, both fall under poetry, drama or prose.  

While there is much debate over what constitutes a genre in literature, for the purposes of this article, we will break down the classic three. From there, we will outline some of the subgenres for each, including those that some believe should be classified as main genres.

Poetry is a style of writing that tends to be written in verses, and typically employs a rhythmic and measured approach to composition. It characteristically is known for evoking emotional responses from readers through its melodic tone and use of creative language that is often imaginative and symbolic in nature. The word “poetry” comes from the Greek word “poiesis” which essentially means, making, which is translated into the making of poetry. Poetry is typically divided into two main subgenres, narrative and lyric, which each have additional types that fall under their respective umbrellas. For example, narrative poetry includes ballads and epic tales, while lyric poetry includes sonnets, psalms and even folk songs. Poetry can be fiction or nonfiction.

Prose is essentially identified as written text that aligns with the flow of conversation in sentence and paragraph form, as opposed to verses and stanzas in poetry . Writing of prose employs common grammatical structure and a natural flow of speech, not a specific tempo or rhythm as is seen in traditional poetry. Prose as a genre can be broken down into a number of subgenres including both fiction and non-fiction works. Examples of prose can range from news, biographies and essays to novels, short stories, plays and fables. The subject matter, if it is fiction versus nonfiction and length of the work, are not taken into consideration when classifying it as prose, but rather the style of writing that is conversational is what lands works in this genre.

Drama is defined as theatrical dialogue that is performed on stage and traditionally is comprised of five acts. It is generally broken down into four subgenres including comedy, melodrama, tragedy and farce. In many cases, dramas will actually overlap with poetry and prose, depending on the writing style of the author. Some dramatic pieces are written in a poetic style, while others employ a more casual writing style seen in prose, to better relate to the audience. Like both poetry and prose, dramas can be fiction or nonfiction, though most are fictional or inspired by real life, but not completely accurate.

The Genre and Subgenre Debate

Beyond these three basic genres, if you conduct an online search for “genres of literature,” you will find dozens of conflicting reports that claim any number of main genres that exist. There is often debate over what constitutes genre, but in most cases, there is a misunderstanding of the difference between genre and subject matter. It’s common for subject matter to be considered a genre in not only literature, but also in movies and even games, both of which are often based on or inspired by books . These subjects can include biography, business, fiction, history, mystery, comedy, romance and thrillers. Subjects may also include cooking, self help, diet and fitness, religion and many many more.  

Subjects and subgenres, however, can often be intermixed. Though, it can be a challenge to determine how many subgenres or subjects actually exist, as there are differing opinions on each, and new ones are created regularly. For example, young adult writing has become increasingly popular, and some would classify it as a subgenre of prose.

The difference between genre and subject is often blurred by the world around us. Think of a time when you last visited a bookstore or library. Most likely, the books were divided into sections - fiction and non-fiction for sure - and further categorized based on the type of books, such as self-help, historic, science fiction and others. Many people assume that these categorizations of subject matter are genre, and as a result, common language today has adopted a casual use of genre to mean subject.

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50+ Literary Genres and Subgenres Every Student Should Know

So many genres, so little time to read them all…

Examples of literary genres including man on motorcycle with dog as an example of a farce and a colorful land as an example of fantasy.

Once kids learn to read, they unlock a very rich world of books and other writings to explore. This list of literary genres and subgenres offers definitions and examples for a wide array of writing styles. Encourage students to explore them all!

What are literary genres?

Chart showing the four main literary genres (fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and drama) with descriptions of each

Source: The Chalkboard Unicorn

A genre (ZHAHN-ruh) is a category of literature in which the various works share certain characteristics. We often break writing into four main literary genres: fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and drama. (Some people consider fiction and nonfiction to be one category called prose.)

Each of the literary genres has its own set of subgenres. There’s no definitive list of literary subgenres, and authors regularly invent new styles. For our list, we’ve chosen common literary genres and subgenres that students should learn to recognize. This is not a complete list by any means.

Students should also understand that many literary works fit into multiple categories, so narrowing down the literary genres and subgenres can be difficult. Still, knowing these different types can help kids learn which types of books they enjoy most and make it easier to find more of them.

Fiction subhead on navy background

Stories, poems, and plays that tell imaginary tales are called fiction. The people and events may be completely imaginary or based on real people and events but in fictionalized form.

When fiction is written as it is spoken, it’s known as prose. If the structure includes a focus on rhyme and rhythm, we call it poetry. Prose fiction can be broken down into categories by its length.

We use the term “novel” to describe a long piece of fiction, often described as “book-length.” Graphic novels use illustrations to help tell the tale, while novels in verse are very long poems that tell a story.

Examples: Moby Dick by Herman Melville, Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

Novellas are shorter than full-length novels but longer than a short story. There’s no one accepted definition of the length of a novella; they generally range from 10,000 to 50,000 words.

Examples: A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

Short Story

A short story tells a complete tale with a fully developed theme, but it’s shorter than a novel or novella. They’re usually about 10,000 words or less.

Examples: “The Gift of the Magi” by O. Henry, “The Story of an Hour” by Kate Chopin

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While fiction is one of the major literary genres, it can be broken down into many categories known as subgenres. These subgenres describe the style and/or subjects of the literary work. It’s important to note that many works of fiction can fit into multiple subgenres.

Bildungsroman

Also described as a “coming-of-age” book, the bildungsroman (German for “education book”) tells the story of a protagonist from childhood to adulthood. It explores their moral and psychological growth, and is often (but not always) written in the first person.

Examples: Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

Originally, this term was used to describe long poems that tell the story of a hero’s journey’s and adventures. Over the years, this term has evolved to include novels and plays that trace a person or family’s history over a long period of time.

Examples: The Odyssey by Homer, War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

Fables are short stories that teach a specific moral. Aesop is the most famous author of fables; his tales often use animals to tell the story and state the moral at the end.

Examples: “The Tortoise and the Hare” by Aesop, Fables for Our Time by James Thurber

Fairy tales are highly fictionalized short stories that generally include magic and fantastical characters. They’re usually intended for children and often feature a protagonist who receives a “happy ending” and an antagonist (villain) who is punished in the end.

Examples: “Cinderella” by the Brothers Grimm, “The Little Mermaid” by Hans Christian Andersen

Fantasy works are set in imaginary magical worlds and include mythical creatures like dragons, witches, vampires, and more. Avoid confusing this genre with science fiction; remember that fantasy deals with the impossible, while sci-fi explores the possible. (The two are frequently combined, though, and many works have characteristics of each.)

Examples: The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling

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Folktales are similar to fairy tales but originally were passed down orally rather than being written down. Therefore, they often don’t have attributed authors. Many folktales have more realistic settings than fairy tales.

Examples: Paul Bunyan stories, “Headless Horseman”

Gothic/Horror

Stories that involve ghosts, otherworldly beings, and mystical happenings that cannot be explained rationally fall into the category of gothic or horror. These novels seek to cause a sense of fear in their readers. Gothic novels were very popular in the 18th and 19th centuries, and gave rise to horror writers like Stephen King.

Examples: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

Historical Fiction

Any fiction writing set in the past, in a real place and time, fits the definition of historical fiction. The characters can be real people or imaginary ones living through the events of that time.

Examples: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck

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Legend/Myth

Legends and myths are ancient tales that explain early history or natural events, often using supernatural characters. Greek, Roman, and Egyptian myths remain popular today, though all cultures have their own myths and legends that have been passed down for hundreds or thousands of years. As most started as oral tradition, they rarely have attributed authors.

Examples: “Theseus and the Minotaur,” “Robin Hood,” “King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table”

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In a mystery, the characters must solve a puzzle, usually a crime of some sort. Generally, the solution isn’t revealed until the end of the story. The reader can use clues to try to solve the mystery themselves as they read.

Examples: Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie, The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin

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Roman à clef

French for “novel with a key,” a roman à clef (pronounced “roh-MAHN ah clay”) is a story about real-life people and events, thinly disguised as fiction. The characters are given fictional names, and other details may be changed slightly. The “key” is the hints the author gives the reader to help them make the connection between fact and fiction.

Examples: The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath, Animal Farm by George Orwell

Any writing that primarily focuses on the love story between two (or more) people is a romance. These stories often have happy or emotionally satisfying endings, though some end tragically instead.

Examples: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Satire ridicules a topic or person, in an attempt to provoke the reader into rethinking their opinions on the subject. They may use irony, caricature, parody, and other literary devices, and characters and plots are often exaggerated or extreme to make the author’s point.

Examples: Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift, Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

Science Fiction

Also called sci-fi, this form of fiction speculates about potential changes to the real world based on scientific principles. Many sci-fi works focus on space travel, parallel universes, and time travel. They often take place in the future or on distant planets or worlds. Generally science fiction is considered to be stories that are possible based on our understanding of science, while fantasy works include magic or other supernatural elements. The two are often combined, and many works fit into both categories.

Examples: The Time Machine by H.G. Wells, Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes

  • 16 Thrilling Sci-Fi Books for Tweens and Young Adults

Utopian/Dystopian

In utopian literature, the writer imagines a “perfect” world, while dystopian writing posits a dark and cataclysmic future or alternate present. In many cases, the imaginary world is initially presented as utopian, but as more details emerge, the dystopian elements become clear. Therefore, these literary genres are often lumped together.

Examples: The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

The opposite of fiction is nonfiction, which focuses on information and facts about real people, events, and other topics. Nonfiction can be full-length books or shorter compositions like articles or essays. It also includes “how-to” writing like cookbooks and self-help books.

Nonfiction subgenres subheading on navy background.

There are many categories of nonfiction, usually based on the topic or subject. Here are some common nonfiction subgenres kids should learn about.

Autobiography/Biography

A biography tells the story of a person’s life, usually from birth to death. When a person writes their own biographical work, it’s called an autobiography.

Examples: The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

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An essay is a short nonfiction work on a specific topic. It’s usually a personal reflection on a subject, in which the author shares their own experiences and thoughts. Sometimes authors publish their essays together in collections as books. These collections can include essays on related topics or simply be a compilation of an author’s works.

Examples: A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf, Walden by Henry David Thoreau

Expository Nonfiction

This catch-all category includes any nonfiction book that seeks to tell its readers about a specific topic. It often uses illustrations, diagrams, and quotes from original sources.

Examples: We Are Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom, Freakonomics by Stephen J. Dubner and Steven Levitt

Any nonfiction book that focuses on real people or events of the past is a history book. Biographies and autobiographies can fall into this category, but histories usually encompass a larger group of people and their impact on contemporary events.

Examples: Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly, 1776 by David McCullough

While memoirs are similar to autobiographies, they differ in a few small ways. Memoirs don’t generally try to tell the entire story of a person’s life. Instead, they reflect on a person’s experiences during important parts of their life. They are nearly always written in the first person.

Examples: All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson, I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai

Narrative Nonfiction

In narrative nonfiction, the author tells the tale of a real person or event in a way that feels more like a fiction story. The information is factual, but the style is entertaining and engaging.

Examples: In Cold Blood by Truman Capote, Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann

When an author writes about their travel experiences, we call it a travelogue or simply “travel writing.” Usually, the author recounts a specific trip or series of related journeys. They describe the people and places they see along the way, offering their own thoughts and opinions about these encounters.

Examples: A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson, The Mosquito Coast by Paul Theroux

Also called verse, poetry gives special importance to the use of words, imagery, and rhythm. Poems are individual works of poetry. Poems usually break down into lines and stanzas rather than sentences and paragraphs. They can be fiction or nonfiction and of any length from a few lines to an entire book.

We can break poetry into subgenres based on characteristics like rhyme scheme (or lack thereof), rhythmic patterns, subject, and more. Here are some common poetic literary genres kids should know. See their definitions and details here: 15 Types of Poetry to Teach Kids and Teens .

  • Blackout Poetry
  • Blank Verse
  • Concrete Poetry
  • Narrative Poetry
  • Sonnet (Shakespearean and Petrarchan)
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This literary genre includes plays, musical, operas, and operettas, written to be performed in front of an audience. Students often study plays in literature classes, reading them instead of seeing them performed. They can be short, or longer works broken into multiple scenes and acts.

While dramatic works can be nonfictional, they are usually fiction. Experts break plays and other dramatic works into multiple categories. These are the most common.

Make them laugh! Comedies are light and humorous dramatic works. The Greeks and Romans used this term for plays where the hero faces adversity and overcomes it in the end. By Shakespeare’s time, comedies involved humor, silly situations, and happy endings all around, and that’s how we usually use the term today.

Examples: The Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare, The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde

A farce is a type of comedy, with exaggerated characters and improbable situations. There’s usually a lot of physical comedy, with characters taking ludicrous circumstances and happenings very seriously.

Examples: The Comedy of Errors by William Shakespeare, She Stoops to Conquer by Oliver Goldsmith

A tragedy tells the story of a protagonist with a tragic flaw, which ultimately leads to their downfall. Tragedies can also relate terrible or sorrowful events, from the point of view of one or more characters.

Examples: Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare, Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller

Tragicomedy

As the name implies, these dramatic works have elements of both comedy and tragedy. They can have sad or happy endings, or even those that are inconclusive. They often tell tragic tales, with enough humor to lighten the overall mood throughout.

Examples: The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare, Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett

History Play

Today, we use this term almost exclusively to describe Shakespeare’s plays about real historical people and events. These dramatic works were very popular during Elizabethan times.

Examples: Richard III and Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare

Problem Play

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, playwrights began writing dramatic works to draw attention to social issues or problems. Henrik Ibsen and George Bernard Shaw are well-known for this subgenre.

Examples: A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen, Mrs. Warren’s Profession by George Bernard Shaw

We believe in encouraging kids to read all kinds of literary genres and books, including these 16 Banned Books to Read Before 12th Grade .

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The four main literary genres are fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and drama. But there are lots of subgenres kids should learn about too.

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  • Literary Terms
  • Definition & Examples
  • When & How to Write Within a Genre

I. What is a Genre?

A genre is a category of literature identified by form, content, and style. Genres allow literary critics and students to classify compositions within the larger canon of literature. Genre (pronounced ˈzhän-rə) is derived from the French phrase genre meaning “kind” or “type.”

II. Types and Examples of Genres

Literature could be divided into countless genres and subgenres, but there are three main genres which preside over most subgenres. Here are the main genres in literature:

As poetry has evolved, it has taken on numerous forms, but in general poetry is the genre of literature which has some form of meter or rhyme with focus based on syllable counts, musicality, and division of lines (lineation). Unlike prose which runs from one end of the page to the other, poetry is typically written in lines and blocks of lines known as stanzas .

Here is an excerpt from Maya Angelou’s “Still I Rise”:

You may write me down in history

With your bitter, twisted lies,

You may trod me in the very dirt

But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?

Why are you beset with gloom?

‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells

Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,

With the certainty of tides,

Just like hopes springing high,

Still I’ll rise.

Prose encompasses any literary text which is not arranged in a poetic form. Put simply, prose is whatever is not poetry. Prose includes novels, short stories, journals, letters, fiction and nonfiction, among others. This article is an example of prose.

Drama is a text which has been written with the intention of being performed for an audience. Dramas range from plays to improvisations on stage. Popular dramas include Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet , Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun , and Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire.

A Streetcar Named Desire Official Trailer - Marlon Brando Movie (1951)

III. The Importance of Using Genres

Genres give writers a specific type of literature to work within. They allow writers to specialize in one genre or to dabble in others. Students in creative writing may focus in a variety of genres from poetry to prose to nonfiction to playwriting. Genres allow us to classify literature, to deem what is appropriate for a certain type of literature, and to judge the merit of literature based on its genre. In general, genre is a classifying tool which allows us to compare and contrast works within the same genre and to study how works broaden or challenge certain genre-based constraints. New genres like media (writing for television, film, websites, radios, billboards, etc.) and the graphic novel (comic books) are expanding what we consider literature today.

IV. Genres in Literature

The three main genres in literature are prose, poetry, and drama, but there are many more subgenres, or genres within genres. Here are a few examples of other genres in literature:

Maus: A Survivor’s Tale by Art Spiegelman

Maus is an example of a literary genre called the graphic novel, sometimes better known as the comic book. In Maus , Spiegelman tells the story of the Holocaust using animal characters .

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

THE FIRST TEN LIES THEY TELL YOU IN HIGH SCHOOL 1. We are here to help you. 2. You will have time to get to your class before the bell rings. 3. The dress code will be enforced. 4. No smoking is allowed on school grounds. 5. Our football team will win the championship this year. 6. We expect more of you here. 7. Guidance counselors are always available to listen. 8. Your schedule was created with you in mind. 9. Your locker combination is private. 10.These will be the years you look back on fondly.   TEN MORE LIES THEY TELL YOU IN HIGH SCHOOL 1. You will use algebra in your adult lives. 2.Driving to school is a privilege that can be taken away. 3. Students must stay on campus during lunch. 4. The new text books will arrive any day now. 5. Colleges care more about you than your SAT scores. 6. We are enforcing the dress code. 7. We will figure out how to turn off the heat soon. 8. Our bus drivers are highly trained professionals. 9. There is nothing wrong with summer school. 10. We want to hear what you have to say.

Speak is an example of young adult fiction, another subgenre of prose. YA fiction appeals to young adults from the ages of twelve to eighteen with coming-of-age stories about various subjects from high school struggles to family conflict to relationships.

There are numerous genres in literature, including poetry and prose, fiction and nonfiction, short stories and novels, dramas, fables , fairytales, legends , biographies, and reference books. The list goes on with countless genres and subgenres categorizing literature in numerous ways based on numerous characteristics and styles of writing.

V. Genres in Pop Culture

Genres are not limited to literature. There are genres of movies, television shows, and songs as well. Here are a few examples of genres in pop culture.

The Notebook Movie Trailer [HD]

Nicholas Sparks’ The Notebook is considered by many to be the quintessential example of the romance genre in both fiction books and movies. Other movie genres include drama, comedy, romantic comedy, sci-fi, animated, and fantasy.

The are a lot of musical genres. The following are some of the most popular genres:

  • Hip hop music
  • Classical period
  • Country music
  • Classical music
  • Popular music
  • Rhythm and blues
  • Heavy metal
  • Electronic dance music
  • Alternative rock
  • Instrumental

VI. Related Terms: Style vs. Genre

Often, an aspect of what allows us to define a genre is the specific style of the writing. The mystery genre purposely uses suspense and withholding certain information from the reader. Different subgenres of poetry are written in different styles: haikus tend to be peaceful or playful, sonnets are often romantic, and free verse is free to hop styles with or without rhyme, with or without line breaks. The difference between style and genre is that genre is an overarching type of literature, whereas style can be considered an aspect of a genre or even of a specific writer’s voice. Here is an example of style versus genre:

We have no idea what’s going on! Who knows? Who could possibly know? Who murdered Mr. Brown?! Everyone is panicking! No one knows what to do! This is insane!

The style of this writing is choppy, overly dramatic, and panicked.

This story investigates the murder of Mr. Brown, who was found dead in the library. 

The genre, on the other hand, is the murder mystery.

VII. In Closing

Genres allow us to divide various types of literature, music, movies, and other art forms into classifiable groups. Beyond the classical genres of prose, poetry, and drama in literature, there are numerous subgenres ranging from fantasy to nonfiction.

List of Terms

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literature , a body of written works. The name has traditionally been applied to those imaginative works of poetry and prose distinguished by the intentions of their authors and the perceived aesthetic excellence of their execution. Literature may be classified according to a variety of systems, including language , national origin, historical period, genre , and subject matter.

For historical treatment of various literatures within geographical regions, see such articles as African literature ; African theater ; Oceanic literature ; Western literature ; Central Asian arts ; South Asian arts ; and Southeast Asian arts . Some literatures are treated separately by language, by nation, or by special subject (e.g., Arabic literature , Celtic literature , Latin literature , French literature , Japanese literature , and biblical literature ).

Definitions of the word literature tend to be circular. The 11th edition of Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary considers literature to be “writings having excellence of form or expression and expressing ideas of permanent or universal interest.” The 19th-century critic Walter Pater referred to “the matter of imaginative or artistic literature” as a “transcript, not of mere fact, but of fact in its infinitely varied forms.” But such definitions assume that the reader already knows what literature is. And indeed its central meaning, at least, is clear enough. Deriving from the Latin littera , “a letter of the alphabet,” literature is first and foremost humankind’s entire body of writing; after that it is the body of writing belonging to a given language or people; then it is individual pieces of writing.

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But already it is necessary to qualify these statements. To use the word writing when describing literature is itself misleading, for one may speak of “oral literature” or “the literature of preliterate peoples.” The art of literature is not reducible to the words on the page; they are there solely because of the craft of writing. As an art, literature might be described as the organization of words to give pleasure. Yet through words literature elevates and transforms experience beyond “mere” pleasure. Literature also functions more broadly in society as a means of both criticizing and affirming cultural values.

Hand with pencil writing on page. (handwriting; write)

The scope of literature

Literature is a form of human expression. But not everything expressed in words—even when organized and written down—is counted as literature. Those writings that are primarily informative—technical, scholarly, journalistic—would be excluded from the rank of literature by most, though not all, critics. Certain forms of writing, however, are universally regarded as belonging to literature as an art. Individual attempts within these forms are said to succeed if they possess something called artistic merit and to fail if they do not. The nature of artistic merit is less easy to define than to recognize. The writer need not even pursue it to attain it. On the contrary, a scientific exposition might be of great literary value and a pedestrian poem of none at all.

The purest (or, at least, the most intense) literary form is the lyric poem, and after it comes elegiac, epic , dramatic, narrative, and expository verse. Most theories of literary criticism base themselves on an analysis of poetry , because the aesthetic problems of literature are there presented in their simplest and purest form. Poetry that fails as literature is not called poetry at all but verse . Many novels —certainly all the world’s great novels—are literature, but there are thousands that are not so considered. Most great dramas are considered literature (although the Chinese , possessors of one of the world’s greatest dramatic traditions, consider their plays, with few exceptions, to possess no literary merit whatsoever).

The Greeks thought of history as one of the seven arts, inspired by a goddess, the muse Clio. All of the world’s classic surveys of history can stand as noble examples of the art of literature, but most historical works and studies today are not written primarily with literary excellence in mind, though they may possess it, as it were, by accident.

The essay was once written deliberately as a piece of literature: its subject matter was of comparatively minor importance. Today most essays are written as expository, informative journalism , although there are still essayists in the great tradition who think of themselves as artists. Now, as in the past, some of the greatest essayists are critics of literature, drama , and the arts.

Some personal documents ( autobiographies , diaries , memoirs , and letters ) rank among the world’s greatest literature. Some examples of this biographical literature were written with posterity in mind, others with no thought of their being read by anyone but the writer. Some are in a highly polished literary style; others, couched in a privately evolved language, win their standing as literature because of their cogency, insight, depth, and scope.

Many works of philosophy are classed as literature. The Dialogues of Plato (4th century bc ) are written with great narrative skill and in the finest prose; the Meditations of the 2nd-century Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius are a collection of apparently random thoughts, and the Greek in which they are written is eccentric . Yet both are classed as literature, while the speculations of other philosophers, ancient and modern, are not. Certain scientific works endure as literature long after their scientific content has become outdated. This is particularly true of books of natural history, where the element of personal observation is of special importance. An excellent example is Gilbert White’s Natural History and Antiquities of Selbourne (1789).

Oratory , the art of persuasion, was long considered a great literary art. The oratory of Native Americans, for instance, is famous, while in Classical Greece, Polymnia was the muse sacred to poetry and oratory. Rome’s great orator Cicero was to have a decisive influence on the development of English prose style. Abraham Lincoln ’s Gettysburg Address is known to every American schoolchild. Today, however, oratory is more usually thought of as a craft than as an art. Most critics would not admit advertising copywriting, purely commercial fiction , or cinema and television scripts as accepted forms of literary expression, although others would hotly dispute their exclusion. The test in individual cases would seem to be one of enduring satisfaction and, of course, truth. Indeed, it becomes more and more difficult to categorize literature, for in modern civilization words are everywhere. Humans are subject to a continuous flood of communication . Most of it is fugitive, but here and there—in high-level journalism, in television, in the cinema, in commercial fiction, in westerns and detective stories, and in plain, expository prose—some writing, almost by accident, achieves an aesthetic satisfaction, a depth and relevance that entitle it to stand with other examples of the art of literature.

Storyboard That

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Literary Genres

Types of genres are categories of literature that are generally determined by technique, length, tone, and content. When we list literary forms in broader terms, they can be more abstract, flexible, and loosely defined. However, as we get more specific and into subcategories, the distinctions and rules of the genre become crystal clear.

What are the literature genres? Though we may think there are several types of written art forms, there are actually only 3 genres of literature. You may be wondering, what are the three genres of literature? Poetry, drama, and prose. That’s right. All the other genre types fit into one of these three categories. Students will typically encounter these narrative types of literature in English for most of what they read and write about in school. Therefore, they must be able to identify examples of literary artistic expressions, know their key characteristics, and list the genres of literature.

Literary Genres - types of literature

Keep reading to learn more about the different literary genres examples, along with ways for students and teachers to storyboard their forms of literature examples. In the genres of literature chart below, each of the storyboards and examples can be copied and used in an assignment with your students.

Literary Genres Examples

Here are some literary forms examples for you to check out. Different types of genres have different purposes. As you read through these examples, notice how the techniques, lengths, tones, and contents change.

Literary forms can be classified in many ways. In this section, we will take a closer look at 3 genres of literature: poetry, drama, and prose. Understanding the different classifications of literary expression in English will not only enhance your students’ reading experience but improve their writing skills too.

Types of Literary Genres

Poetry is a genre of literature that uses aesthetic and rhythmic qualities of language—such as phonaesthetics, sound symbolism, and metre — to evoke meanings in addition to, or in place of, the literal or mundane meaning. Poetry has a very long history, dating back to prehistoric times with the creation of hunting chants and burial songs.

Among the different genre examples, poetry is considered by many to be the most intense literature genre. It allows a writer to express their deepest emotions and thoughts in a very personal way. It relies heavily on figurative language, rhythm, and imagery to relay its message to readers. Poetic writing uses beautiful language to express deep thoughts and feelings. Poetic expressions can help you understand your emotions and thoughts better, and it also helps you learn how to write more expressively.

Sub-Genres of Poetry

  • Songs and Ballads

Sub-genres of Poetry - forms of literature

Drama is a mode of fictional representation through dialogue and performance. It is one of the kinds of literature which includes epic poetry, lyric poetry, and novel. Aristotle’s Poetics defines drama as “a representation of an action that is whole and complete and has a beginning, a middle, and an end.”

Drama is often performed on stage in front of a live audience, but it can also be presented in other forms, such as radio, film, and television. It is usually written by a playwright, although it can be adapted from other sources, such as novels, short stories, poems, or even real-life events. Or it can be read silently by individuals.

It contains dialogue, and actors impersonate the characters. Imaginary characters are frequently introduced to its narratives, allowing the playwright to explore complex human emotions and conflicts through both real-life and fantastical figures. Characters often encounter conflict, whether internal or external, as it serves as a driving force for character development and narrative tension. It is usually divided into acts or scenes and relies on props or imaginative dialogue to create a visual experience for the audience. Dramatic literary works are a good place to start, as they are usually pretty easy to understand at face value and captivates the audience with cliffhangers and mind-capitulating events.

Sub-Genres of Drama

Sub-genres of Drama - different types of genre

This form of literary expression has no formal metrical structure. It applies a natural flow of speech, and ordinary grammatical structure, rather than rhythmic structure, such as in the case of traditional poetry. Prose is an example of literary text that is typically written in paragraphs, although there are some exceptions, such as in the case of drama or fiction.

Prose can be found in books, magazines, newspapers, online articles, blogs, etc. It is the most common form of writing. Examples of famous works of prose include To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee & Charlotte's Web by E.B. White. The prose is simple, straightforward language. It can be either fiction or nonfiction . The prose is typically divided into paragraphs, and it uses regular grammar. It can be either serious or funny.

Fiction is narrative writing that originates from the author’s imagination. It is designed to entertain, but it can also inspire, inform, or persuade.

Sub-Genres of Fiction

  • Short Story
  • Myths and Legends
  • Historical Fiction

Prose: Sub-genres of Fiction

Nonfiction is writing that is based on true events, people, places, and facts. It is designed to inform, and sometimes to entertain.

Sub-Genres of Nonfiction

  • Autobiography
  • Diaries and Journals
  • Narrative Nonfiction

Prose: Sub-genres of Nonfiction

What Are the Three Genres of Literature?

The main examples of genres in literature are poetry, drama, and prose. Poetry is a genre in literature that uses aesthetic and rhythmic qualities of language to evoke meanings in addition to, or in place of, the prosaic ostensible meaning. Drama is a mode of fictional representation through dialogue and performance. The prose is a form of language that has no formal metrical structure. It applies a natural flow of speech and ordinary grammatical structure, rather than rhythmic structure, such as in the case of traditional poetry. Genres of literature in English then fall into subcategories, which make up the three genres of literature.

Forms of literature examples are:

  • Poetry: Ballads, Lyric, Epic, Dramatic, Narrative
  • Drama: Tragedy, Comedy, History, Melodrama, Musical
  • Prose: Fiction (Novel, Novella, Short Story), Nonfiction (Autobiography, Biography, Essay)

Genres of Literature Chart

A literature genres list would include categories like fiction, non-fiction, and folklore, but may also cover specialized types such as science fiction, romance, mystery, and historical fiction, offering a comprehensive overview of the literary landscape.

Genre types subcategories can be explained as the following:

BalladA ballad is a type of poem that tells a story. Ballads are often about love, loss, or murder.
LyricA lyric is a type of poem that expresses the emotions or thoughts of the poet.
EpicAn epic is a long, narrative poem that tells the story of a heroic figure.
DramaticDramatic poetry is a type of poetry that is meant to be performed.
NarrativeA narrative poem is a type of poem that tells a story.
TragedyA tragedy is a type of drama that ends in disaster for the main character.
ComedyA comedy is a type of drama that ends happily or humorously.
HistoryA history play is a type of drama that tells the story of a historical event.
MelodramaA melodrama is a type of drama that features exaggerated emotions and characters.
MusicalA musical is a type of drama that features songs and dance numbers.
Novel A novel is a type of fiction that tells a long, complex story.
NovellaA novella is a type of fiction that tells a shorter, simpler story than a novel.
Short StoryA short story is a type of fiction that tells a brief, self-contained story.
Myth and LegendA myth is a type of story that explains the origins of a culture or natural phenomenon. A legend is a type of story that tells the story of a heroic figure.
FableA fable is a type of short story that features animals as the main characters.
Historical FictionHistorical fiction is a type of fiction set in the past and features historical figures and events.
AutobiographyAn autobiography is a type of nonfiction that tells the story of the author’s life.
Biography A biography is a type of nonfiction that tells the story of someone else’s life.
EssayAn essay is a type of nonfiction that expresses the author’s opinion on a topic.

Different types of literature being classified by genres and subgenres help people better understand the diversity of literary styles, themes, and techniques employed by authors. Each type has its own purpose and style. Whether you’re looking for a light read or something more heavy and informative, there’s definitely a literary genre out there for you.

A Note About Speeches...

While not one of the primary genres of literature, speeches are important historical documents or moments and literature, and they don’t always fit neatly into one of the three primary genre categories. A speech is a formal address given to an audience. Speeches can be found in prose, drama, and poetry, and their primary goals are to persuade, inform, demonstrate, or entertain a reader, an audience, or other characters. They can also be used in nonfiction or fiction, depending on their purpose and use.

Sub-genres of Speeches

Why Use Storyboarding to Learn About Literary Genres Types?

Storyboarding is the perfect way to learn and remember the different genres of literature. When you storyboard, you can visually see how each literary genre differs from the next. You can also track and compare the subcategories within genres, identify key characteristics of each, and even explore the relationships between genres. All of this will help you better understand and remember the genres of literature, making it easier to identify them when you encounter them in your reading.

How Can Storyboard That Enhance the Learning Experience of the Three Genres of Literature?

Storyboard That can help students better understand the three genres of literature by providing a visual representation of each one. By storyboarding, students can identify key characteristics of each genre and see how they differ from one another. Additionally, Storyboard That is a great way to compare and contrast genres, as well as explore the relationships between them. All of this will help students better remember the genres of literature and be able to identify them when they encounter them in their reading.

Looking to add a little creative flair to your literature class? Check out Storyboard That’s easy-to-use, online storyboard creator! With our drag-and-drop software, you can create engaging, visually appealing graphic organizers to help your students learn about the different genres of literature. Plus, our easy-to-use tools make it simple to add text, images, and multimedia content to your storyboards, so you can really bring your lessons to life.

Where to Start When Learning About Literary Genres

If you’re just starting to learn about literary narrative types, the best place to begin is with the three primary genres: prose, drama, and poetry. These genres are the foundation for all other types of literature, so it’s crucial to have a strong understanding of them before moving on to anything else. Each genre will approach plot development, conflict resolution, and the art of delivering a satisfying conclusion in unique and captivating ways, reflecting the rich tapestry of literary expression.

In terms of choosing between the three, poetry tends to be the most complicated to understand as it can go against the usual laws of grammar. There are a lot of deeper meanings within poetry, so it can be hard to break down as a newbie. Start with some short, simple prose articles such as newspaper pieces and short novels.

When you start to get the underlying meanings behind the prose, you can then start to dive into some simple drama. Look into Greek tragedies and Shakespearean plays, as they are a great starting point. These genres will give you a better understanding of the basics before progressing on to more.

When you’re ready to go deeper, poetry is the next stepping stone. Children’s poetry is a great starting point to give you a good foundation of poetic structure and meaning. Then you can go further into complicated poetry, such as that of the Elizabethans and Victorians.

Once you feel comfortable with the three primary genres, you can start exploring the many subgenres that exist within each one. There are endless possibilities when it comes to different types of narratives, so there’s no need to rush. If you enjoy literature with comedic elements, begin by exploring the comedy genre.

Related Activities

The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin - Elements of Mystery

Reading Material to Start With

Start with article number one and work your way down the list. When you are happy you understand each article within the genre, move on to the next set of articles.

  • A Washington Post Newspaper Report of Hurricane Ian
  • The short story called "The Fall of the House of Usher" by Edgar Allan Poe
  • The historical fiction novel by Christopher Paul Curtis: Bud, Not Buddy .
  • "The Miracle Worker" by William Gibson
  • The famous play by the one and only William Shakespeare, “Romeo & Juliet”
  • "Death of a Salesman" by Arthur Miller
  • "The Road Not Taken" by Robert Frost
  • "A Poison Tree" by William Blake
  • "Still I Rise" by Maya Angelou

How to Get a Deeper Understanding

To get a deeper meaning of each genre, get your pen and paper ready and start to highlight the key ideas throughout. It can help to get your understanding of the writings by doing a summary for each one. Once you have done this, start to think about the following key things for each genre:

  • What is the author’s purpose?
  • Who is the audience?
  • What are the main ideas?
  • How does the structure help to emphasize the purpose?
  • What literary devices are used and why?
  • How does the author’s style contribute to the meaning of the text?

Plays can be trickier as you cannot always rely on the written word to give you all the information. This is where watching a performance of the play can come in handy, as it will give you a much better understanding. In addition to the above, when watching a play, you should also be thinking about:

  • How does the stagecraft contribute to the meaning of the play?
  • What do the costumes and makeup tell us about the characters?
  • How does the lighting help to create mood and atmosphere?
  • What do the sound effects and music add to the play?

When reading poetry, it is essential to think about both the literal and figurative meanings of the words. This can be difficult at first, but there are some helpful strategies that you can use. For example, you can try reading the poem aloud or reading it multiple times. You can also look up words you don’t understand and try to break the poem down into smaller chunks. In addition to the above, when reading poetry, you should also be thinking about:

  • What is the speaker’s tone?
  • What is the poem's mood?
  • What are the main themes of the poem?
  • How does the poet use literary devices to create meaning?
  • What is the poem’s form, and how does it contribute to the meaning?

Using a storyboard exercise like StoryBoard That can be helpful when trying to understand the genres. You can map out the key ideas and events for each one, as well as the literary devices that are used. This is a great way to see the genres side-by-side, compare and contrast them and visualize things better.

Related Resources

  • Picture Encyclopedia of Literary Genres
  • Picture Encyclopedia of Literary Elements
  • Elements of an Epic
  • The Five Act Play Structure

How To Incorporate Multicultural Perspectives Into The Study Of Literary Genres

Select texts from diverse authors and cultures.

Choose texts that represent a variety of cultures and perspectives, and that offer insights into different literary traditions and styles. This might involve reading and researching texts from authors and cultures that are different from your own and seeking out recommendations from colleagues, libraries, or online resources.

Discuss Cultural Context and Historical Background

Provide background information and historical context for each text, including information about the author and the cultural and historical context in which the text was written. This can help students understand the unique perspectives and literary traditions represented in each text.

Explore Themes and Literary Devices From Multicultural Perspectives

Encourage students to explore themes and literary devices from a variety of cultural perspectives, such as examining the role of family or community in different cultures, or analyzing how language and storytelling are used in different literary traditions.

Foster Discussion and Collaboration

Encourage open discussion and collaboration among students, and create opportunities for them to share their own perspectives and experiences. This can help students build empathy and understanding for different cultures and perspectives.

Encourage Independent Research and Exploration

Encourage students to research and explore additional texts and authors from different cultures and perspectives on their own. Provide resources and recommendations for students to pursue independent reading and research.

Integrate Multimedia and Other Resources

Integrate multimedia and other resources, such as videos, podcasts, or guest speakers, to enhance students' understanding of different cultures and perspectives. This can help bring the text to life and make it more relevant and engaging for students.

Frequently Asked Questions about Literary Genres

What is a literary genre.

A literary genre is a category or type of literature characterized by common themes, styles, and narrative conventions. It serves as a way to classify and categorize literary works based on shared characteristics and elements. Common literary forms include fiction, non-fiction, and various subgenres within these categories, such as science fiction, romance or love stories, mystery, and historical fiction. This literary genre definition encapsulates the essence of storytelling, providing a framework for understanding and appreciating the various forms, themes, and styles that contribute to the rich tapestry of literature.

What are some examples of different types of fiction genres?

Some well known types of fiction are: mystery, realistic fiction, historical fiction, fables and fairy tales, adventure, magical realism, and science fiction.

What are some examples of different types of nonfiction?

Some common types are biographies, autobiographies, speeches, letters, and informational texts.

What are the 3 forms of literature?

The three main forms of literature are prose, poetry, and drama. Prose encompasses written or spoken language without a metrical structure and includes written forms like novels, short stories, essays, and articles. Poetry employs heightened and imaginative language, often with rhyme and meter, to evoke emotions and convey complex ideas. Drama is written for performance and includes plays, scripts, and screenplays intended for actors to act out on stage or screen. These three forms represent the foundational structure of literary expression, offering diverse avenues for storytelling, creativity, and artistic communication.

What are the five main genres?

  • Fiction: This genre includes works of imaginative storytelling that are not based on real events. It encompasses various subgenres such as science fiction, fantasy, historical fiction, and mystery.
  • Non-fiction: Non-fiction literature is based on real events, facts, and information. This genre includes biographies, autobiographies, essays, memoirs, and other works that present factual content.
  • Poetry: Poetry is a form of literary expression that uses rhythmic and metaphorical language to evoke emotions and convey ideas. It often relies on heightened language and various poetic devices.
  • Drama: Drama involves the portrayal of characters in conflict, usually in a play format. It explores human emotions and relationships through dialogue and performance. Classic examples include works by playwrights like William Shakespeare.
  • Mystery/Thriller: This genre revolves around suspenseful and puzzling narratives. Mystery literature often involves solving a crime or uncovering hidden truths, while thrillers aim to keep readers on the edge of their seats with tension and excitement.

What are the categories of literature?

Here are some common categories used to classify literature:

  • Genre: Fiction: Includes novels, short stories, and novellas. This category encompasses a wide range of genres, such as science fiction, fantasy, romance, historical fiction, and more. Non-fiction: Involves works based on real events, facts, and information. This category includes biographies, autobiographies, essays, memoirs, and journalistic works.
  • Form: Poetry: Characterized by the use of rhythmic and metaphorical language. Poetry often focuses on emotional expression and aesthetic qualities of language. Drama: Consists of plays and scripts written for performance. It includes tragedies, comedies, and other theatrical forms.
  • Period or Movement: Classical Literature: Refers to works from ancient Greece and Rome. Medieval Literature: Covers works from the Middle Ages. Renaissance Literature: Encompasses the revival of arts and learning in Europe during the Renaissance. Modern Literature: Includes works from the late 19th century to the mid-20th century. Contemporary Literature: Encompasses works from the mid-20th century to the present.
  • Nationality or Cultural Identity: American Literature, British Literature, World Literature: Literature can be classified based on the nationality or cultural identity of the author or the setting of the work.
  • Literary Movements: Romanticism, Realism, Naturalism, Modernism, Postmodernism: Literature can be categorized based on the dominant artistic and intellectual movements of a particular time.
  • Themes or Topics: Social Issues: Literature that addresses and explores societal problems, inequalities, and issues. Historical Fiction: Works set in a specific historical period, often incorporating historical events and figures.
  • Age Group: Children's Literature, Young Adult Literature, Adult Literature: Works are sometimes categorized based on the target age group of the readers.

What are subgenres?

Subgenres in literature refer to more specific categories or classifications within the broader genres. They help to further define and categorize works based on shared characteristics, themes, or stylistic elements.

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Different Literary Genres Understanding Essay

  • To find inspiration for your paper and overcome writer’s block
  • As a source of information (ensure proper referencing)
  • As a template for you assignment

The similarities and differences between the literary forms of the short story, the poem, and drama

The use of literary devices in the writing is a common similarity shared between the different genres of literature. For instance, playwrights can effectively use a literary device such as a simile in poetry, a short story as well as in drama. To enhance symbolism and imagery in these literary texts, the use of these devices becomes inevitable in each on of them.

In fact, all the literary genres have a certain setting: the context within which the author presents his/her story. The setting helps in making the story authentic and further instilling in it a sense of realism. In all the literary genres with poems, short stories as well as drama, there must be a setting in which the characters of the story are located (Henson, 1992, p.23). For instance, the setting of ‘Macbeth’ covers various locations of Scotland as well as England while the setting of the ‘Gift of the Magi’ is in New York City around 1900s.

A major difference between poems and drama and the short story is that the first two have a predefined format of writing which includes the use of more dramatic words as compared to the short story (Henson, 1992, p.44). For instance, in order to achieve its effective dramatic function, poetry and in some cases drama has to utilize stylistic devices such as rhyme, repetition as well as alliteration that cannot stand out effectively in the short story.

Poetry and drama have a predetermined format while the short story does not have. A poem has to feature verses to qualify as poetry while drama has to feature acts and scenes. This does not apply to the short story, which can take the form of a journal entry or even a linear plotted story.

Identify key qualities of drama and poetry which emphasize their performative qualities

Poetry and drama employ the use of dramatic speech, which plays a useful role in the articulation of accompanying actions. For instance, the use of repetition in poetry and drama evokes the dramaturgy, normally accompanied with the words. A good example is the repetition used by Shakespeare in Othello. Othello says, “Put out the light, end then put out the light” (Edith, 1985, p.65). The repetition of these words ensures the elaboration of the statements by the use of accompanying actions.

The use of figures of speech such as rhyme, repetition, assonance and alliteration creates a rhythm useful in the sense that they make the pieces more dramatic. The rhythm that these devices add to the texts is essential in that the audience find it easy to follow the stories or the narrations presented in the text. For instance in poetry, rhythm comes out using a meter, which makes it memorable and possible for the audience to relate with easily.

Using mostly dialogue and narration, poetry and drama becomes more dramatic than the other literary genres. For instance, in poems, the persona may narrate while addressing the audience directly or another character in the story of the poem. A similar case applies in drama where the dialogue between two or more characters brings the text to life. The use of rhetorical questions as it is common in poetry and in drama, more so in soliloquy, holds an important role as it creates a direct link between the text and the reader or the audience. Some questions thrown deliberately to the audience evoke reactions, a case that happens more in poetry and drama than in other literary texts.

Reference List

Edith, J. (1985). Shakespeare’s Othello . New York: Penguin.

Henson, B. (1992). Understanding Different Literary Genres . London: Oxford University Press.

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Writing Explained

What is a Genre? Definition, Examples of Genres in Literature

Home » The Writer’s Dictionary » What is a Genre? Definition, Examples of Genres in Literature

Genre definition: Genre is the organization and classification of writing.

What is Genre in Literature?

What does genre mean? Genre is the organization of literature into categories based on the type of writing the piece exemplifies through its content, form, or style.

Example of Literary Genre

The poem “My Papa’s Waltz” by Theodore Roethke fits under the genre of poetry because its written with lines that meter and rhythm and is divided into stanzas.

It does not follow the traditional sentence-paragraph format that is seen in other genres

Types of Literary Genre

There are a few different types of genre in literature. Let’s examine a few of them.

Poetry : Poetry is a major literary genre that can take many forms. Some common characteristics that poetry shares are that it is written in lines that have meter and rhythm. These lines are put together to form stanza in contrast to other writings that utilize sentences that are divided into paragraphs. Poetry often relies heavily on figurative language such as metaphors and similes in order to convey meanings and create images for the reader.

  • “Sonnet 18” is a poem by William Shakespeare that falls within this category of literature. It is a structured poem that consists of 14 lines that follow a meter (iambic pentameter) and a rhyme scheme that is consist with Shakespearean Sonnets.

Drama : This literary genre is often also referred to as a play and is performed in front of an audience. Dramas are written through dialogue and include stage directions for the actors to follow.

  • The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde would be considered a drama because it is written through dialogue in the form of a script that includes stage directions to aid the actors in the performance of the play.

Prose : Prose is a type of writing that is written through the use of sentences. These sentences are combined to form paragraphs. This type of writing is broad and includes both fiction and non-fiction.

  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee is an example of fictional prose. It is written in complete sentences and divided through paragraphs.

Fiction : Fiction is a type of prose that is not real. Authors have the freedom to create a story based on characters or events that are products of their imaginations. While fiction can be based on true events, the stories they tell are imaginative in nature.

Like poetry, this genre also uses figurative language; however, it is more structural in nature and more closely follows grammatical conventions. Fiction often follows Freytag’s plot pyramid that includes an exposition, inciting incident, rising action, climax, falling action, resolution, and dénouement.

  • The novel Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut is an example of a fictional story about the main character’s experience with his self-acclaimed ability to time travel.

Nonfiction : Nonfiction is another type of prose that is factual rather than imaginative in nature. Because it is more factual and less imaginative, it may use less figurative language. Nonfiction varies however from piece to piece. It may tell a story through a memoir or it could be strictly factual in nature like a history textbook.

  • The memoir Night by Elie Wiesel is a memoir telling the story of Wiesel’s experience as a young Jewish boy during the Holocaust.

The Function of Genre

Genre is important in order to be able to organize writings based on their form, content, and style.

For example, this allows readers to discern whether or not the events being written about in a piece are factual or imaginative. Genre also distinguishes the purpose of the piece and the way in which it is to be delivered. In other words, plays are meant to be performed and speeches are meant to be delivered orally whereas novels and memoirs are meant to be read.

Summary: What Are Literary Genres?

Define genre in literature: Genre is the classification and organization of literary works into the following categories: poetry, drama, prose, fiction, and nonfiction. The works are divided based on their form, content, and style. While there are subcategories to each of these genres, these are the main categories in which literature is divided.

Final Example:

The short story “The Cask of Amontillado” by Edgar Allan Poe is a fictional short story that is written in prose. It fits under the prose category because it is written using complete sentences that follow conventional grammar rules that are then formed into paragraphs.

The story is also identified as fictional because it is an imagined story that follows the plot structure.

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  • How to write a literary analysis essay | A step-by-step guide

How to Write a Literary Analysis Essay | A Step-by-Step Guide

Published on January 30, 2020 by Jack Caulfield . Revised on August 14, 2023.

Literary analysis means closely studying a text, interpreting its meanings, and exploring why the author made certain choices. It can be applied to novels, short stories, plays, poems, or any other form of literary writing.

A literary analysis essay is not a rhetorical analysis , nor is it just a summary of the plot or a book review. Instead, it is a type of argumentative essay where you need to analyze elements such as the language, perspective, and structure of the text, and explain how the author uses literary devices to create effects and convey ideas.

Before beginning a literary analysis essay, it’s essential to carefully read the text and c ome up with a thesis statement to keep your essay focused. As you write, follow the standard structure of an academic essay :

  • An introduction that tells the reader what your essay will focus on.
  • A main body, divided into paragraphs , that builds an argument using evidence from the text.
  • A conclusion that clearly states the main point that you have shown with your analysis.

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Table of contents

Step 1: reading the text and identifying literary devices, step 2: coming up with a thesis, step 3: writing a title and introduction, step 4: writing the body of the essay, step 5: writing a conclusion, other interesting articles.

The first step is to carefully read the text(s) and take initial notes. As you read, pay attention to the things that are most intriguing, surprising, or even confusing in the writing—these are things you can dig into in your analysis.

Your goal in literary analysis is not simply to explain the events described in the text, but to analyze the writing itself and discuss how the text works on a deeper level. Primarily, you’re looking out for literary devices —textual elements that writers use to convey meaning and create effects. If you’re comparing and contrasting multiple texts, you can also look for connections between different texts.

To get started with your analysis, there are several key areas that you can focus on. As you analyze each aspect of the text, try to think about how they all relate to each other. You can use highlights or notes to keep track of important passages and quotes.

Language choices

Consider what style of language the author uses. Are the sentences short and simple or more complex and poetic?

What word choices stand out as interesting or unusual? Are words used figuratively to mean something other than their literal definition? Figurative language includes things like metaphor (e.g. “her eyes were oceans”) and simile (e.g. “her eyes were like oceans”).

Also keep an eye out for imagery in the text—recurring images that create a certain atmosphere or symbolize something important. Remember that language is used in literary texts to say more than it means on the surface.

Narrative voice

Ask yourself:

  • Who is telling the story?
  • How are they telling it?

Is it a first-person narrator (“I”) who is personally involved in the story, or a third-person narrator who tells us about the characters from a distance?

Consider the narrator’s perspective . Is the narrator omniscient (where they know everything about all the characters and events), or do they only have partial knowledge? Are they an unreliable narrator who we are not supposed to take at face value? Authors often hint that their narrator might be giving us a distorted or dishonest version of events.

The tone of the text is also worth considering. Is the story intended to be comic, tragic, or something else? Are usually serious topics treated as funny, or vice versa ? Is the story realistic or fantastical (or somewhere in between)?

Consider how the text is structured, and how the structure relates to the story being told.

  • Novels are often divided into chapters and parts.
  • Poems are divided into lines, stanzas, and sometime cantos.
  • Plays are divided into scenes and acts.

Think about why the author chose to divide the different parts of the text in the way they did.

There are also less formal structural elements to take into account. Does the story unfold in chronological order, or does it jump back and forth in time? Does it begin in medias res —in the middle of the action? Does the plot advance towards a clearly defined climax?

With poetry, consider how the rhyme and meter shape your understanding of the text and your impression of the tone. Try reading the poem aloud to get a sense of this.

In a play, you might consider how relationships between characters are built up through different scenes, and how the setting relates to the action. Watch out for  dramatic irony , where the audience knows some detail that the characters don’t, creating a double meaning in their words, thoughts, or actions.

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Your thesis in a literary analysis essay is the point you want to make about the text. It’s the core argument that gives your essay direction and prevents it from just being a collection of random observations about a text.

If you’re given a prompt for your essay, your thesis must answer or relate to the prompt. For example:

Essay question example

Is Franz Kafka’s “Before the Law” a religious parable?

Your thesis statement should be an answer to this question—not a simple yes or no, but a statement of why this is or isn’t the case:

Thesis statement example

Franz Kafka’s “Before the Law” is not a religious parable, but a story about bureaucratic alienation.

Sometimes you’ll be given freedom to choose your own topic; in this case, you’ll have to come up with an original thesis. Consider what stood out to you in the text; ask yourself questions about the elements that interested you, and consider how you might answer them.

Your thesis should be something arguable—that is, something that you think is true about the text, but which is not a simple matter of fact. It must be complex enough to develop through evidence and arguments across the course of your essay.

Say you’re analyzing the novel Frankenstein . You could start by asking yourself:

Your initial answer might be a surface-level description:

The character Frankenstein is portrayed negatively in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein .

However, this statement is too simple to be an interesting thesis. After reading the text and analyzing its narrative voice and structure, you can develop the answer into a more nuanced and arguable thesis statement:

Mary Shelley uses shifting narrative perspectives to portray Frankenstein in an increasingly negative light as the novel goes on. While he initially appears to be a naive but sympathetic idealist, after the creature’s narrative Frankenstein begins to resemble—even in his own telling—the thoughtlessly cruel figure the creature represents him as.

Remember that you can revise your thesis statement throughout the writing process , so it doesn’t need to be perfectly formulated at this stage. The aim is to keep you focused as you analyze the text.

Finding textual evidence

To support your thesis statement, your essay will build an argument using textual evidence —specific parts of the text that demonstrate your point. This evidence is quoted and analyzed throughout your essay to explain your argument to the reader.

It can be useful to comb through the text in search of relevant quotations before you start writing. You might not end up using everything you find, and you may have to return to the text for more evidence as you write, but collecting textual evidence from the beginning will help you to structure your arguments and assess whether they’re convincing.

To start your literary analysis paper, you’ll need two things: a good title, and an introduction.

Your title should clearly indicate what your analysis will focus on. It usually contains the name of the author and text(s) you’re analyzing. Keep it as concise and engaging as possible.

A common approach to the title is to use a relevant quote from the text, followed by a colon and then the rest of your title.

If you struggle to come up with a good title at first, don’t worry—this will be easier once you’ve begun writing the essay and have a better sense of your arguments.

“Fearful symmetry” : The violence of creation in William Blake’s “The Tyger”

The introduction

The essay introduction provides a quick overview of where your argument is going. It should include your thesis statement and a summary of the essay’s structure.

A typical structure for an introduction is to begin with a general statement about the text and author, using this to lead into your thesis statement. You might refer to a commonly held idea about the text and show how your thesis will contradict it, or zoom in on a particular device you intend to focus on.

Then you can end with a brief indication of what’s coming up in the main body of the essay. This is called signposting. It will be more elaborate in longer essays, but in a short five-paragraph essay structure, it shouldn’t be more than one sentence.

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is often read as a crude cautionary tale about the dangers of scientific advancement unrestrained by ethical considerations. In this reading, protagonist Victor Frankenstein is a stable representation of the callous ambition of modern science throughout the novel. This essay, however, argues that far from providing a stable image of the character, Shelley uses shifting narrative perspectives to portray Frankenstein in an increasingly negative light as the novel goes on. While he initially appears to be a naive but sympathetic idealist, after the creature’s narrative Frankenstein begins to resemble—even in his own telling—the thoughtlessly cruel figure the creature represents him as. This essay begins by exploring the positive portrayal of Frankenstein in the first volume, then moves on to the creature’s perception of him, and finally discusses the third volume’s narrative shift toward viewing Frankenstein as the creature views him.

Some students prefer to write the introduction later in the process, and it’s not a bad idea. After all, you’ll have a clearer idea of the overall shape of your arguments once you’ve begun writing them!

If you do write the introduction first, you should still return to it later to make sure it lines up with what you ended up writing, and edit as necessary.

The body of your essay is everything between the introduction and conclusion. It contains your arguments and the textual evidence that supports them.

Paragraph structure

A typical structure for a high school literary analysis essay consists of five paragraphs : the three paragraphs of the body, plus the introduction and conclusion.

Each paragraph in the main body should focus on one topic. In the five-paragraph model, try to divide your argument into three main areas of analysis, all linked to your thesis. Don’t try to include everything you can think of to say about the text—only analysis that drives your argument.

In longer essays, the same principle applies on a broader scale. For example, you might have two or three sections in your main body, each with multiple paragraphs. Within these sections, you still want to begin new paragraphs at logical moments—a turn in the argument or the introduction of a new idea.

Robert’s first encounter with Gil-Martin suggests something of his sinister power. Robert feels “a sort of invisible power that drew me towards him.” He identifies the moment of their meeting as “the beginning of a series of adventures which has puzzled myself, and will puzzle the world when I am no more in it” (p. 89). Gil-Martin’s “invisible power” seems to be at work even at this distance from the moment described; before continuing the story, Robert feels compelled to anticipate at length what readers will make of his narrative after his approaching death. With this interjection, Hogg emphasizes the fatal influence Gil-Martin exercises from his first appearance.

Topic sentences

To keep your points focused, it’s important to use a topic sentence at the beginning of each paragraph.

A good topic sentence allows a reader to see at a glance what the paragraph is about. It can introduce a new line of argument and connect or contrast it with the previous paragraph. Transition words like “however” or “moreover” are useful for creating smooth transitions:

… The story’s focus, therefore, is not upon the divine revelation that may be waiting beyond the door, but upon the mundane process of aging undergone by the man as he waits.

Nevertheless, the “radiance” that appears to stream from the door is typically treated as religious symbolism.

This topic sentence signals that the paragraph will address the question of religious symbolism, while the linking word “nevertheless” points out a contrast with the previous paragraph’s conclusion.

Using textual evidence

A key part of literary analysis is backing up your arguments with relevant evidence from the text. This involves introducing quotes from the text and explaining their significance to your point.

It’s important to contextualize quotes and explain why you’re using them; they should be properly introduced and analyzed, not treated as self-explanatory:

It isn’t always necessary to use a quote. Quoting is useful when you’re discussing the author’s language, but sometimes you’ll have to refer to plot points or structural elements that can’t be captured in a short quote.

In these cases, it’s more appropriate to paraphrase or summarize parts of the text—that is, to describe the relevant part in your own words:

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The conclusion of your analysis shouldn’t introduce any new quotations or arguments. Instead, it’s about wrapping up the essay. Here, you summarize your key points and try to emphasize their significance to the reader.

A good way to approach this is to briefly summarize your key arguments, and then stress the conclusion they’ve led you to, highlighting the new perspective your thesis provides on the text as a whole:

If you want to know more about AI tools , college essays , or fallacies make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples or go directly to our tools!

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By tracing the depiction of Frankenstein through the novel’s three volumes, I have demonstrated how the narrative structure shifts our perception of the character. While the Frankenstein of the first volume is depicted as having innocent intentions, the second and third volumes—first in the creature’s accusatory voice, and then in his own voice—increasingly undermine him, causing him to appear alternately ridiculous and vindictive. Far from the one-dimensional villain he is often taken to be, the character of Frankenstein is compelling because of the dynamic narrative frame in which he is placed. In this frame, Frankenstein’s narrative self-presentation responds to the images of him we see from others’ perspectives. This conclusion sheds new light on the novel, foregrounding Shelley’s unique layering of narrative perspectives and its importance for the depiction of character.

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Short Story: A Literary Genre

The short story, a concise narrative form within the literary canon, is characterized by brevity and focus, typically encapsulating a single theme, conflict, or character development in a limited word count.

Short Story: Literal and Conceptual Meanings

Table of Contents

The short story as a genre epitomizes a dynamic interplay between literal and conceptual meanings, presenting a concise yet potent narrative form that beckons readers to explore beyond its surface. On a literal level, short stories encapsulate succinct plots, well-defined characters, and often a singular theme or conflict within a confined word count. This brevity, however, acts as a canvas for the conceptual dimensions to unfold. Short stories frequently operate as allegories or metaphors, encapsulating broader societal, psychological, or existential truths within their narrative confines. This dual nature of literal brevity and conceptual depth allows short stories to resonate with readers on both immediate and profound levels, challenging them to unravel layers of meaning and prompting contemplation long after the final words have been read.

Short Story: Definition as a Literary Genre

The short story, a concise narrative form within the literary canon, is characterized by brevity and focus, typically encapsulating a single theme , conflict , or character development in a limited word count. It serves as a literary microcosm, offering a snapshot of human experience that demands precision in storytelling.

Defined by its compact structure, the short story demands economy of language while often inviting readers to engage with nuanced layers of meaning and interpretation.

Short Story: Types

Extremely brief narratives often with a twist ending.“For Sale: Baby Shoes, Never Worn” by Hemingway
Explores speculative and futuristic concepts.“The Martian” by Andy Weir
Involves a puzzle or enigma, often with suspense.“The Murders in the Rue Morgue” by Poe
Portrays everyday life without fantastical elements.“A&P” by John Updike
Set in a specific historical period or context.“The Things They Carried” by Tim O’Brien
Involves magical or supernatural elements.“The Hobbit” by J.R.R. Tolkien
Uses humor, irony, or ridicule to criticize society.“Animal Farm” by George Orwell
Elicits fear and suspense through eerie elements.“The Tell-Tale Heart” by Edgar Allan Poe
Explores nightmarish visions of future societies.“The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson
Involves a journey or quest, often with perilous challenges.“The Most Dangerous Game” by Richard Connell
Focuses on love and romantic relationships.“The Gift of the Magi” by O. Henry
Addresses societal issues and challenges.“Harrison Bergeron” by Kurt Vonnegut
Explores the intricacies of the human mind and behavior.“The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
Blends realistic settings with magical elements.“A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings” by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Captures a moment in characters’ ordinary lives.“The Swimmer” by John Cheever
Explores philosophical questions about existence.“The Metamorphosis” by Franz Kafka

This table aims to encompass a wide range of short story types, but the categorization can be fluid as some stories may exhibit characteristics of multiple genres.

Short Story in Literature: Key Features

  • Brevity: Short stories are concise narratives that focus on a single theme, incident, or character. They aim to deliver a complete narrative experience within a limited word count.
  • Central Theme: Short stories often revolve around a central theme or idea, providing a focused exploration of specific emotions, conflicts, or concepts.
  • Character Development: Despite their brevity, short stories can feature well-developed characters that undergo significant changes or face challenges, contributing to the narrative’s depth.
  • Economy of Language: Short stories demand precision in language use. Every word serves a purpose, contributing to the overall impact of the narrative.
  • Limited Setting: Due to their compact nature, short stories often have a limited setting, focusing on specific locations or environments essential to the plot.
  • Crisis or Turning Point: Short stories frequently include a critical moment, often referred to as the climax, where the narrative takes a decisive turn, leading to resolution or a change in the characters’ circumstances.
  • Narrative Structure : While there is flexibility, short stories typically follow a traditional narrative structure with an introduction, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution.
  • Emphasis on Imagery: Short stories often rely on vivid imagery to convey emotions, settings, and characters in a condensed format, engaging the reader’s senses.
  • Open or Closed Endings: Short stories can conclude with either open or closed endings, leaving room for interpretation or providing a definitive resolution to the narrative.
  • Exploration of Human Experience: Whether through realistic portrayals or fantastical elements, short stories aim to capture facets of the human experience, offering insights, reflections, or commentary on life.

These features collectively contribute to the unique appeal and impact of short stories within the broader landscape of literature.

Short Story in World Literature: Best Examples

  • Features: A complex narrative that blends elements of fantasy, philosophy, and detective fiction, exploring the idea of infinite possibilities.
  • Features: A satirical and absurd tale where a man wakes up to find his nose missing, delving into themes of identity and societal absurdity.
  • Features: Blurring the lines between journalism and fiction, Marquez narrates the events leading to a man’s predestined death in a small Colombian town.
  • Features: A poignant exploration of family dynamics and loss, told through the eyes of a young girl whose father works at a lighthouse.
  • Features: A contemporary Japanese story blending romance and coming-of-age elements, capturing the essence of grief, love, and personal growth.

Short Story in British Literature: Best Examples

  • Features: A classic ghost story that blends the supernatural with Dickens’s social commentary, exploring themes of isolation and fate.
  • Features: A poignant exploration of the destructive nature of materialism and the impact of familial expectations on a young boy.
  • Features: The final story in Joyce’s “Dubliners,” offering a rich portrayal of Irish society and delving into themes of love, death, and self-discovery.
  • Features: While Jackson is American, “The Lottery” had a significant impact on British literature. It’s a chilling exploration of blind conformity and the darker aspects of tradition.
  • Features: A darkly humorous and suspenseful tale that showcases Dahl’s skill in blending the macabre with wit, as a young man discovers the unsettling secrets of his landlady.

Short Story in American Literature: Best Examples

  • Features: A Gothic masterpiece that explores the psychological deterioration of an unnamed narrator who becomes obsessed with the “vulture eye” of an old man.
  • Features: A chilling portrayal of a small town’s ritualistic stoning, revealing the dangers of blind conformity and the darker aspects of tradition.
  • Features: A Southern Gothic tale that combines dark humor with profound moral questions, as a family’s road trip takes an unexpected and tragic turn.
  • Features: A story that blends adventure with introspection, exploring themes of regret, death, and the impact of a writer’s choices on his life.
  • Features: A humorous exploration of the effects of sudden wealth on a working-class family, reflecting Chekhov’s keen understanding of human nature.

Short Story in Literature Translation: Best Examples

  • Features: A poignant reflection on language, culture, and loss set against the backdrop of the Franco-Prussian War, emphasizing the importance of education.
  • Features: A thought-provoking exploration of the nature of life, morality, and the pursuit of knowledge, showcasing Chekhov’s mastery of the short story form.
  • Features: A mind-bending narrative that blends elements of fantasy, philosophy, and detective fiction, challenging conventional notions of time and reality.
  • Features: A classic novella that captures the indomitable spirit of an aging Cuban fisherman, exploring themes of resilience, endurance, and the eternal struggle between man and nature.
  • Features: A collection of short stories that delves into Murakami’s surreal and existential themes, often blurring the boundaries between reality and imagination.

Short Story in Literature: Relevant Terms

Sequence of events that make up the narrative structure.
Main character or leading figure in the short story.
Time and place where the events of the story occur.
Central struggle between opposing forces or characters.
Central idea or underlying message explored in the story.
Perspective from which the story is narrated.
Techniques used to develop and portray characters.
A literary device where there is a discrepancy between expectation and reality.
Use of symbols to represent ideas or qualities.
The turning point or moment of greatest intensity in the story.

Short Story in Literature: Suggested Readings

  • Chekhov, Anton. The Essential Tales of Chekhov. Edited by Richard Ford, Ecco, 1999.
  • O’Connor, Flannery. A Good Man Is Hard to Find and Other Stories. Harcourt, 1955.
  • Borges, Jorge Luis. Collected Fictions . Translated by Andrew Hurley, Viking Penguin, 1998.
  • Joyce, James. Dubliners. Oxford University Press, 1996.
  • Murakami, Haruki. Men Without Women . Translated by Philip Gabriel and Ted Goossen, Knopf, 2017.

Anthologies:

  • The Oxford Book of American Short Stories. Edited by Joyce Carol Oates, Oxford University Press, 2012.
  • The Vintage Book of Contemporary American Short Stories . Edited by Tobias Wolff, Vintage, 1994.
  • The Norton Anthology of Short Fiction. Edited by R.V. Cassill and Richard Bausch, W. W. Norton & Company, 1981.
  • The Art of the Short Story . Edited by Dana Gioia and R. S. Gwynn, Pearson, 2005.

Theoretical Works:

  • Poe, Edgar Allan. “The Philosophy of Composition.” The Complete Works of Edgar Allan Poe , edited by James A. Harrison, T. Y. Crowell & Co., 1902, pp. 356-370.
  • Culler, Jonathan. The Pursuit of Signs: Semiotics, Literature, Deconstruction. Cornell University Press, 1981.

Related posts:

  • Prolepsis: A Literary Device
  • Theatrical Devices in Plays/Dramas

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a brief essay on the genres of literature

The Art and Essence of Satire: Understanding its Power and Purpose

This essay is about the nature and significance of satire as a literary genre. It explains how satire uses humor irony and exaggeration to critique societal flaws human behaviors and institutions. The essay traces the history of satire from ancient Greece and Rome to modern times highlighting key examples like Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal” and George Orwell’s “Animal Farm.” It also discusses the techniques satirists use such as irony and hyperbole to expose hypocrisy and provoke thought. Despite its challenges satire remains a powerful tool for social critique encouraging reflection and inspiring change.

How it works

Satire a literary genre that wields humor and wit as its primary weapons has been a powerful tool for social critique and commentary for centuries. Its unique ability to expose the follies and vices of individuals institutions and societies sets it apart from other forms of writing. But what exactly is satire and why does it remain so effective and relevant in contemporary discourse?

At its core satire is a mirror held up to society reflecting its absurdities and shortcomings in a way that is both entertaining and thought-provoking.

Unlike direct criticism or serious argumentation satire employs irony sarcasm and exaggeration to highlight the contradictions and flaws in human behavior and societal norms. This approach allows writers and artists to address controversial or sensitive topics with a certain degree of detachment and humor making their critiques more palatable and engaging for audiences.

The roots of satire can be traced back to ancient Greece and Rome where playwrights like Aristophanes and poets like Juvenal used their works to mock political leaders societal norms and cultural practices. These early satirists laid the groundwork for a tradition that would evolve over the centuries influencing countless writers and thinkers. From Jonathan Swift’s biting critiques of 18th-century British society in “Gulliver’s Travels” to George Orwell’s dystopian satire “Animal Farm” the genre has continually adapted to address the changing concerns and complexities of the world.

One of the key elements that makes satire so compelling is its use of irony. By saying one thing and meaning another satirists can expose the hypocrisy and absurdity of their targets in a way that straightforward criticism often cannot. For example in Swift’s famous essay “A Modest Proposal” he suggests that the impoverished Irish might ease their economic troubles by selling their children as food to the rich. This outrageous proposition is of course not meant to be taken literally; rather it serves to highlight the inhumane attitudes and policies of the British government towards the Irish people. The shock value of the suggestion forces readers to confront the underlying issues in a new and unsettling light.

Exaggeration and hyperbole are also central to the satirical method. By magnifying the flaws and vices of their subjects to ludicrous proportions satirists can effectively showcase the ridiculousness of certain behaviors and attitudes. This technique is evident in the work of modern satirists like Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart whose exaggerated personas and over-the-top commentary on political events and public figures reveal the often absurd nature of contemporary politics and media.

Another important aspect of satire is its ability to provoke thought and inspire change. While it is often humorous and entertaining satire is ultimately a form of social critique that aims to challenge the status quo and encourage reflection. By presenting familiar issues in an unfamiliar and often exaggerated context satirists can prompt audiences to reconsider their assumptions and question the legitimacy of established norms and practices. This transformative potential is what gives satire its enduring power and relevance.

Despite its long history and widespread use satire is not without its challenges and controversies. Because it relies heavily on irony and exaggeration it can sometimes be misunderstood or misinterpreted by audiences. Additionally the use of humor to address serious issues can be seen as trivializing or disrespectful leading to debates about the appropriateness and ethical implications of satirical works. However these challenges also underscore the importance of satire in fostering critical thinking and open dialogue about complex and contentious topics.

In conclusion satire is a multifaceted and dynamic genre that continues to play a crucial role in literary and cultural discourse. Its unique blend of humor irony and exaggeration allows it to effectively critique and comment on the absurdities and injustices of the world. By holding a mirror up to society satire not only entertains but also enlightens challenging us to reflect on our behaviors beliefs and institutions. As long as there are human follies and societal flaws to be addressed satire will remain a vital and powerful form of expression.

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PapersOwl.com. (2024). The Art and Essence of Satire: Understanding Its Power and Purpose . [Online]. Available at: https://papersowl.com/examples/the-art-and-essence-of-satire-understanding-its-power-and-purpose/ [Accessed: 10-Jul-2024]

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  1. Genres of literature

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    a brief essay on the genres of literature

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  1. What Are the Different Genres of Literature? A Guide to 14 Literary

    A Guide to 14 Literary Genres. Fiction refers to a story that comes from a writer's imagination, as opposed to one based strictly on fact or a true story. In the literary world, a work of fiction can refer to a short story, novella, and novel, which is the longest form of literary prose. Every work of fiction falls into a sub-genre, each with ...

  2. Literary Genres: Definition and Examples of the 4 Essential Genres and

    LGBTQ+. LGBTQ+ novels are those that feature characters who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or otherwise non-heterosexual. Literary Fiction. Literary fiction novels or stories have a high degree of artistic merit, a unique or experimental style of writing, and often deal with serious themes.

  3. Genre

    As a literary device, genre refers to a form, class, or type of literary work. The primary genres in literature are poetry, drama / play, essay, short story, and novel. The term genre is used quite often to denote literary sub-classifications or specific types of literature such as comedy, tragedy, epic poetry, thriller, science fiction ...

  4. Literary Genres

    There are four main literary genres: poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and drama. The works within each genre share certain characteristics that place them in the same category. Furthermore, categories ...

  5. Genre in Literature: Definition & Examples

    A genre (ZHAWN-ruh) is a category of literature in which different works share certain accepted conventions. Ancient Greek writers identified three main literary genres—poetry, prose, and drama—as a way of categorizing the written word. But, over the subsequent centuries, evolving literary customs required the addition of numerous genres and subgenres to this list; naturally, some genres ...

  6. Genre Definition and Examples in Literature

    Prose as a genre can be broken down into a number of subgenres including both fiction and non-fiction works. Examples of prose can range from news, biographies and essays to novels, short stories, plays and fables. The subject matter, if it is fiction versus nonfiction and length of the work, are not taken into consideration when classifying it ...

  7. Genre

    genre, a distinctive type or category of literary composition, such as the epic, tragedy, comedy, novel, and short story. Despite critics' attempts to systematize the art of literature, such categories must retain a degree of flexibility, for they can break down on closer scrutiny. For example, hybrid forms such as the tragicomedy and prose ...

  8. 50+ Literary Genres and Subgenres Every Student Should Know

    Essays. An essay is a short nonfiction work on a specific topic. It's usually a personal reflection on a subject, in which the author shares their own experiences and thoughts. ... This literary genre includes plays, musical, operas, and operettas, written to be performed in front of an audience. Students often study plays in literature ...

  9. Genre

    What is a Genre? A genre is a category of literature identified by form, content, and style. Genres allow literary critics and students to classify compositions within the larger canon of literature. Genre (pronounced ˈzhän-rə) is derived from the French phrase genre meaning "kind" or "type.". II. Types and Examples of Genres.

  10. Guide to Literary Terms Literary Genre

    A literary genre is a category of written composition that has a particular subject, form, or style. ... , science fiction, epic, essay, novel, short story, tragedy, satire. Cite this page as ...

  11. Literature

    Fiction is most commonly found in either short stories or novel lengths. Mystery: ... Discuss the major genres of literature; ... Evaluating & Analyzing 20th Century English Literature: Essay Prompts

  12. Literature

    literature, a body of written works.The name has traditionally been applied to those imaginative works of poetry and prose distinguished by the intentions of their authors and the perceived aesthetic excellence of their execution. Literature may be classified according to a variety of systems, including language, national origin, historical period, genre, and subject matter.

  13. Literary Genres

    The main examples of genres in literature are poetry, drama, and prose. Poetry is a genre in literature that uses aesthetic and rhythmic qualities of language to evoke meanings in addition to, or in place of, the prosaic ostensible meaning. Drama is a mode of fictional representation through dialogue and performance.

  14. The 5 Main Literary Genres (Definitions and Examples)

    Discover what literary genres are and learn about the five primary genres of literature, including lists of information about each of their different subgenres. Home. ... Essay: An essay is a short piece of writing in which the author elaborates on an idea or topic after conducting thorough research. An essay may aim to engage its readers ...

  15. 1.8: The Literary Landscape- Four Major Genres

    The Literary Landscape: Four Major Genres. In the landscape of literature, there are four major genres: poetry, drama, fiction, and creative nonfiction. While there are certain key recognizable features of each genre, these are not so much rules as they are tools, or conventions, the author uses. If we think of literature as its own world, it ...

  16. Literary genre

    A literary genre is a category of literature.Genres may be determined by literary technique, tone, content, or length (especially for fiction).They generally move from more abstract, encompassing classes, which are then further sub-divided into more concrete distinctions. The distinctions between genres and categories are flexible and loosely defined, and even the rules designating genres ...

  17. Different Literary Genres Understanding

    The similarities and differences between the literary forms of the short story, the poem, and drama. The use of literary devices in the writing is a common similarity shared between the different genres of literature. For instance, playwrights can effectively use a literary device such as a simile in poetry, a short story as well as in drama.

  18. What is a Genre? Definition, Examples of Genres in Literature

    Define genre in literature: Genre is the classification and organization of literary works into the following categories: poetry, drama, prose, fiction, and nonfiction. The works are divided based on their form, content, and style. While there are subcategories to each of these genres, these are the main categories in which literature is divided.

  19. How to Write a Literary Analysis Essay

    Table of contents. Step 1: Reading the text and identifying literary devices. Step 2: Coming up with a thesis. Step 3: Writing a title and introduction. Step 4: Writing the body of the essay. Step 5: Writing a conclusion. Other interesting articles.

  20. List of writing genres

    Writing genres (more commonly known as literary genres) are categories that distinguish literature (including works of prose, poetry, ... Essay: a short literary composition, often reflecting the author's outlook or point of view. Position paper; Journalistic writing: reporting on news and current events Arts;

  21. Essay in Literature: Definition & Examples

    An essay (ES-ey) is a nonfiction composition that explores a concept, argument, idea, or opinion from the personal perspective of the writer. Essays are usually a few pages, but they can also be book-length. Unlike other forms of nonfiction writing, like textbooks or biographies, an essay doesn't inherently require research. Literary essayists are conveying ideas in a more informal way.

  22. The Modern Essay The Essay As A Literary Genre

    The Essay As A Literary Genre. Georg Lukács. SOURCE: "On the Nature and Form of the Essay: A Letter to Leo Popper," in Soul and Form, translated by Anna Bostock, Merlin Press, 1974, pp. 1-18. [ A ...

  23. Short Story: A Literary Genre

    The short story as a genre epitomizes a dynamic interplay between literal and conceptual meanings, presenting a concise yet potent narrative form that beckons readers to explore beyond its surface. On a literal level, short stories encapsulate succinct plots, well-defined characters, and often a singular theme or conflict within a confined word count. . This brevity, however, acts as a canvas ...

  24. The Genre of "The Great Gatsby": a Multifaceted Classic

    Essay Example: F. Scott Fitzgerald's "The Great Gatsby" hitting shelves in 1925 stands as a literary gem that's hard to pin down. While it's often called a Jazz Age novel its mix of themes and styles goes beyond any single label blending modernism social critique and romance into a captivating

  25. The Art and Essence of Satire: Understanding its Power and Purpose

    This essay is about the nature and significance of satire as a literary genre. It explains how satire uses humor irony and exaggeration to critique societal flaws human behaviors and institutions. The essay traces the history of satire from ancient Greece and Rome to modern times highlighting key examples like Jonathan Swift's "A Modest ...