Writing genres (more commonly known as literary genres) are categories
that distinguish literature
(including works of prose
, hybrid forms
, etc.) based on some set of stylistic criteria. Sharing literary conventions, they typically consist of similarities in theme/topic
, and storytelling devices
; common settings
and character types
; and/or formulaic patterns of character interactions and events, and an overall predictable form.
A literary genre may fall under either one of two categories: (a) a work of fiction
, involving non-factual descriptions and events invented by the author
; or (b) a work of nonfiction
, in which descriptions and events are understood to be factual. In literature, a work of fiction can refer to a short story
, and novel
, the latter being the longest form of literary prose. Every work of fiction falls into a literary subgenre, each with its own style, tone, and storytelling devices.
Moreover, these genres are formed by shared literary conventions that change over time as new genres are emerge while others fade. Accordingly, they are often defined by the cultural expectations and needs of a particular historical and, cultural moment or place.
According to Alastair Fowler
, the following elements can be used to define genres: organizational features (chapters
); length; mood
; the reader’s role (e.g., in mystery works, readers are expected to interpret evidence); and the author’s reason for writing (an epithalamion
is a poem composed for marriage).
Genres are formed by shared literary conventions that change over time as new genres emerge while others fade. As such, genres are not wholly fixed categories of writing; rather, their content evolves according to social and cultural contexts and contemporary questions of morals and norms.
The most enduring genres are those literary forms that were defined and performed by the Ancient Greeks
; definitions sharpened by the proscriptions of modern civilization's earliest literary critics
scholars, such as Plato
, and others. The prevailing genres of literary composition in Ancient Greece were all written and constructed to explore cultural, moral, or ethical questions; they were ultimately defined as the genres of epic
, and comedy
. Aristotle's proscriptive analysis of tragedy, for example, as expressed in his ''Rhetoric
'' and ''Poetics
,'' saw it as having 6 parts (music, diction
, character, thought, and spectacle
) working together in particular ways. Thus, Aristotle established one of the earliest delineations of the elements that define genre.
(or literary fiction
): works with artistic/literary merit
that are typically character-driven
rather than plot-driven
, following a character’s inner story. They often include political criticism
, social commentary
, and reflections on humanity.
These works are part of an accepted literary canon
and widely taught in schools.
(including comic novel
, light poetry
, and comedic journalism
): usually a fiction full of fun, fancy, and excitement, meant to entertain and sometimes cause intended laughter; but can be contained in all genres.
** Comedy horror
** Surreal comedy
** Tall tale
: humorous story with blatant exaggerations, such as swaggering heroes who do the impossible with nonchalance.
: a work containing elements of both comedy and tragedy.
: works that focus on the psychological and moral growth of a character from youth into adulthood.
: a narrative
defined by heroic or legendary adventures presented in a long format.
** Epic poetry
: narrative poetry
about extraordinary feats occurring in a time before history, involving religious underpinnings and themes.
** Animal tale
: short story that anthropomorphizes
non-humans in order to illustrate a moral lesson
** Fairy tale
: story, sometimes of a national or folk hero
, that has a basis in fact but also includes imaginative material
: traditional narrative, often based in part on historical events, that reveals human behavior and natural phenomena by its symbolism; often pertaining to the actions of the gods.
** Personal narrative
** Urban legend
: works that take place in the past—which can be real, imagined, or a combination of both.
Many such works involve actual historical figures or historical events within historical settings.
** Alternate history
: fiction in which one or more historical events occur differently than how they transpired in reality. Example: ''The Man in the High Castle
** Historical fantasy
** Historical mystery
** Historical romance
*** Regency romance
** Nautical fiction
*** Pirate novel
(aka romantic irony in the context of Romantic literature
): uses self-reference
to draw attention to itself as a work of art while exposing the "truth" of a story.
** Nonsense verse
* Pop culture
: fiction written with the intention of being filled with references from other works and media. Stories in this genre focused solely on using pop culture
: works that are set in a time and place that are true to life (i.e. that could actually happen in the real world), abiding by real-world laws of nature
. They depict real people, places, and stories in order to be as truthful as possible.
: fiction that explores the theological ideas
that shape attitudes towards religious expression.
: usually fiction and less frequently in non-fiction, in which vices
, abuses, and shortcomings are held up to ridicule, with the intent of shaming individuals, corporations, government, or society itself into improvement.
and political fiction
** Libertarian sci-fi
** Social sci-fi
** Political thriller
): typically dark and suspenseful plot-driven
fiction involving a person or group facing imminent harm, and the attempts made to evade that harm. Thrillers regularly use plot twists
, red herrings
, and cliffhangers
, and seldom include comedic elements.
** Romantic suspense
: fiction set in an urban environment.
: works that follow cowboys, settlers, and outlaws exploring the American frontier
and Old West
, typically in the late-19th to early-20th century.
** Western romance
** Weird West
* Young adult
Action and adventure
and adventure fiction
. The hero’s journey
is the most popular narrative structure of an adventure novel.
* Adventure fantasy
** Heroic fantasy
** Lost world
: fiction involving espionage and establishment of modern intelligence agencies
: spy fiction that includes elements of science fiction.
: fiction based on a time of swordsmen
and ships, and other related ideas, usually full of action.
Crime and mystery
(including crime comics
) centers on a crime(s), how the criminal gets caught and serves time, and the repercussions of the crime
: fiction told from the point of view of the criminals rather than the investigator. Well-known writers in this genre include W. R. Burnett
, John Boland
, Peter O’Donnell
, and Michael Crichton
* Legal thriller
: fiction that follows a crime (e.g., a murder, a disappearance) as it is committed, investigated, and solved, as well as providing clues and revealing information/secrets as the story unfolds.
** Cozy mystery
: mystery fiction that contain no sex, violence, or profanity. Well-known writers in this genre include Dorothy L. Sayers
and Elizabeth Daly
** City mysteries
: fiction that follows a detective or other investigator (professional, amateur, or retired) as they investigate or solve a mystery/crime. Detective novels generally begin with a mysterious incident (e.g., death). One of the most popular examples is the Sherlock Holmes
stories; well-known detective novelists include Agatha Christie
and Raymond Chandler
*** Girl detective
*** Inverted detective story
*** Occult detective
** Historical mystery
** Locked-room mystery
** Police procedural
: mystery fiction that feature a protagonist who is a member of the police force. Well-known novelists in this genre include Ed McBain
, P. D. James
, and Bartholomew Gill
: mystery fiction that focuses on the puzzle regarding who committed the crime.
** Nordic noir
** Tart Noir
) is a speculative fiction
that use imaginary characters set in fictional universes
inspired by mythology and folklore, often including magical elements, magical creatures, or the supernatural
. Examples: ''Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland''
(1885) and the ''Harry Potter'' books
** Lost world
* Fantasy comedy
** Occult detective fiction
** Paranormal romance
* Fantasy of manners
* Magic realism
: works that depict the real world, but with magical elements that are considered normal in the world in which the story takes place.
: fiction that is rooted in, inspired by, or that in some way draws from the tropes, themes, and symbolism of myth
, legend, folklore, and fairy tales.
: fiction in which characters from religious mythology, traditional myths, folklore, and/or history are recast into a re-imagined realm created by the author.
: science fiction based in elements of fantasy.
** Dying Earth
** Planetary romance
** Sword and planet
* Weird fiction
** New weird
* Weird West
) involves fiction in which plot and characters are tools used to elicit a feeling of dread and terror, as well as events that often evoke fear in both the characters and the reader.
Horrors generally focus on themes of death, demons, evil spirits, and the afterlife.
(aka biological): intentionally showcases grotesque or psychologically disturbing violations of the human body (including organ transplantation
** Zombie comedy
(sometimes monster erotica
** Ero guro
* Ghost stories
(aka gothic romanticism; and dark romanticism
): fiction mixing themes of horror, romance, and death
** Southern Ontario
* Monster literature
** Jiangshi fiction
** Werewolf fiction
** Vampire literature
* Weird fiction
* Weird menace
* Weird West
* Zombie apocalypse
is those which give primary focus around a love story between two people, usually having an "emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending."
: One example is ''The Princess Bride''
* Romantic fantasy
: combines explicitly Christian themes
with the development of a romantic relationship.
* Romantic suspense
* Young Adult
, and short stories
) is speculative fiction
with imagined elements that are inspired by natural sciences
(physics, chemistry, astronomy, etc.) or social sciences
(psychology, anthropology, sociology, etc.). Common elements of this genre include time travel
, space exploration
, and futuristic
societies. (Sci-fi was originally regarded as scientific romance
* Apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic
* Utopian and dystopian
: fiction set in a society that the author views as being worse than the one in which they live in at the time of writing. Example: ''Brave New World
'' (1932) and ''Fahrenheit 451
: juxtaposes advanced technology with less-advanced, broken down society.
Derivatives of cyberpunk
**** Japanese cyberpunk
: blends technology with steam-powered
: (often satirical) fiction set in a utopia
; a community
that possesses highly desirable or perfect qualities.
** Climate fiction
** Parallel world
* Science fantasy
: sci-fi inspired by mythology and folklore, often including elements of magic.
** Dying Earth
** Planetary romance
** Sword and planet
* Space opera
: fiction that take place in outer space and center around conflict, romance, and adventure.
* Space Western
: fiction that blends elements of sci-fi with those of the western genre.
: spy fiction that includes elements of science fiction
* Tech noir
** Literature review
: a summary and careful comparison of previous academic work published on a specific topic
** Research article
or research paper
: scholarly publication reporting original empirical
work in the natural
or social sciences
** Technical report
: authoritative and detailed factual description of a thing
(or dissertation): a document submitted in support of candidature for an academic degree
or professional qualification presenting the author's research and findings.
: an organized listing of books or writings
** Annotated bibliography
: a bibliography that provides a summary for each of its entries.
: a written narrative of a person's life; an autobiography
is a self-written biography.
: a biographical account of a particular event or period in a person's life (rather than their whole life) drawn from personal knowledge or special sources (such as the spouse of the subject).
** Misery literature
** Slave narrative
* Creative nonfiction
: factual narrative presented in the form of a story so as to entertain the reader.
** Personal narrative
: a prose relating personal experience
and opinion to a factual narrative.
: a short literary composition, often reflecting the author's outlook or point of view.
** Position paper
* Journalistic writing
: reporting on news and current events
** Video games
* Reference work
: publication that one can refer to for confirmed facts, such as a dictionary
, or atlas
: a work written with information intended to instruct or guide readers on solving personal problems.
: literature containing elements of the outdoors, nature, adventure, and traveling.
** Guide book
: book of information about a place, designed for the use of visitors or tourists
** Travel blog
* True crime
Literary fiction vs. genre fiction
is a term used to distinguish certain fictional works that possess commonly held qualities to readers outside genre fiction. Literary fiction has been defined as any fiction that attempts to engage with one or more truths or questions, hence relevant to a broad scope of humanity as a form of expression. Genre fiction
is a term used to distinguish fictional works written with the intent of fitting into a specific literary genre, in order to appeal to readers and fans already familiar with that genre. There are many sources that help readers find and define literary fiction and genre fiction.
(aka campus novel)
* Adventure fiction
- pre-Christian Old Irish literature about a hero's adventures in the Otherworld
or with otherworldly beings.
- depicts the adventure
s of a roguish, but "appealing hero", of low social class
, who lives by his wits in a corrupt society.
- a "castaway
- details the authors' visions of the end times
as revealed by an angel
or other heavenly messenger.
- "coming of age" story. The German word "Bildung" can mean both "education" and "self-development."
* Crime fiction
** Campus murder mystery
* Historical fiction
* Literary nonsense
** Nonsense verse
* Novel of manners
** Legal thriller
* Romance novel
* Speculative fiction
** Science fiction
* Travel literature
- Old Irish tales concerning a hero's sea journey to the Otherworld
- a travelogue told from memory by a narrator who every now and then would relate how he encountered other characters who told him stories which he would then incorporate into the main tale.
***Christian science fiction
***Contemporary Christian fiction
****Epic / high fantasy
****Fantasy of manners
****Sword and sorcery
***Supernatural / paranormal
, aka Hopepunk
***Hard science fiction
***Military science fiction
, aka alternative universe
***Social science fiction
***Soft science fiction
***portal fantasy aka Isekai
and Accidental travel
**Speculative cross-genre fiction
*****Sword and planet
**LGBT pulp fiction
***Gay male pulp fiction
***Lesbian pulp fiction
***Lesbian erotica fiction
Other nonfiction genres
These are genres belonging to the realm of nonfiction
. Some genres listed may reappear throughout the list, indicating cross-genre status.
****Contemporary slave narrative
*Diaries and journals
***Philosophy of religion
****Christian devotional literature