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Genre is a French word that means "type" or "kind." When we talk about genres of writing, we are talking about the different types of writing such as fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and drama. Each of these broad categories has multiple forms called subgenres within it. For example, nonfiction has the subgenres of biography and autobiography. Below are some of the main characteristics, or features, of different literary genres.
Fiction is the class of literature made up of works whose content is produced by the imagination and is not necessarily based on fact. Fiction consists of narration invented by the imagination. It is usually told in prose form, the ordinary language people use in everyday speaking or writing that does not use the meter or rhyme characteristic of poetry or verse. Common types of fiction include novels and short stories.
A novel is a fictional piece of writing usually of considerable length, typically having a plot that is unfolded by the actions, speech, and thoughts of the characters.
A short story is a fictional prose narrative that is shorter and less complex than other pieces, usually under 10,000 words.
A myth is a story handed down from earlier times, especially a story popularly believed to be historical. These types of stories often attempt to explain why things are the way they are now. For example, a myth may try to explain why the sky is blue through an interesting story.
A legend is a story coming down from the past whose truth is popularly accepted but cannot be checked. Legends are based on beliefs and customs and are often particular to local areas. A legend may explain why bears hibernate in the winter.
Satire is a literary work in which the writer tries to point out human vices or follies in order to scorn or ridicule them. The writer can do so by using irony, wit, or sarcasm.
Historical fiction is a fictional story that is based on a time, event, or series of events that have taken place in history. The players or characters in the story are either entirely fictional, or they are based on a real person or real persons in history.
Realistic fiction is set in the real world and has characters with normal human powers. Realistic fiction contains characters who behave in ways that are relatable to the reader.
Science fiction is a story about the future, based on guesses of how the author thinks the future will be. Most science fiction stories focus on themes like outer space, technology, and time travel.
Mysteries are stories where a person, like a detective, solves a crime or a puzzling event. The entire story is centered on a person who is conducting the investigation.
Fantasy is any story that has unreal parts. It has events that cannot happen in real life. Fantasy stories can have unreal settings (e.g, a magical land where fairies, dragons, and elves live). They can have unreal characters (e.g., talking animals and witches). They can also have unreal events (e.g., humans turning into birds).
A fairy tale is a story that usually has characters such as fairies, witches, goblins, dwarves, giants, and other folkloric creatures. The plot of a fairy tale also includes elements of magic. A fairy tale is also a type of fantasy story.
A fable is a short story that teaches a moral lesson. The characters in a fable are often animals or inanimate objects that have human traits.
A tall tale is a story that greatly exaggerates the features and accomplishments of a character. A tall tale usually includes events that cannot happen in real life.
Nonfiction is a literary work in which the content is based on fact. Nonfiction writing is not made up or imaginary. In other words, it is not fiction. There are many kinds of nonfiction writing, including biographies, autobiographies, essays, and documents from history. Most nonfiction is considered expository, or informational.
A biography is an account of a person's life written, composed, or produced by another person. A biography is written by someone other than the person whose life is being described. Many famous people have biographies written about them that tell their life story. If you were to write a book about the life of George Washington, you would be writing a biography.
An autobiography is a piece of writing that a person writes about his or her own life. Autobiographies are written in first person using the pronouns "I," "me," "us," and "we." If you were to write about your summer vacation, that work would be autobiographical.
An essay is a relatively short literary composition in prose on a single subject, usually presenting the personal view of the author. The writer discusses a topic, often restricted in scope, or tries to persuade the reader to accept a particular point of view.
A historical document is a record of historical events. Examples of real historical documents include the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution.
Technical documents provide directions to do something. These documents—such as manuals and applications—are not used for entertainment but for practical purposes. For example, a college application instructs a student how to provide information needed on the form.
A memoir is an account of an actual person's experience. It is very similar to an autobiography, but it is more personal in nature.
A diary is a written account of events or circumstances in a person's life where each entry is dated. A journal is similar to a diary in that it includes a dated record of daily events. Both diaries and journals may include a person's thoughts and feelings about the events that are recorded. The difference is that a journal is more likely to be a continuous log of each day's events, whereas a diary is not used everyday.
Newspapers are publications that usually are printed daily or weekly. They contain current news, editorials, feature articles, and usually advertising.
An article reports information about current events that happen locally and globally. They contain current news, editorials, and feature articles. Newspaper articles present facts and information. The authors of editorials and columns write essays to express opinions.
An editorial is a short article that gives the opinions of the author, editor, or publishers. Editorials are most often found as columns in newspapers and magazines, and on some Web sites, especially in the form of blogs (Web logs).
A brochure is a small booklet or pamphlet, often containing information about a certain event, service, or product. Brochures often use pictures and catchy headlines in addition to prose.
A letter is a written or typed message that is addressed to a person or an organization. A letter is a means of communication. Business and friendly letters are types of letters.
A speech is a piece of writing that it is meant to be spoken aloud to an audience. Because the audience is addressed directly, the speaker can connect to the listeners. The speech often has words like "you," "your," "we," and "our." A speech usually focuses on specific topic or issue in order to persuade, encourage, or educate the audience.
Poetry is a type of writing designed to convey experiences, ideas, or emotions in a vivid and imaginative way. Poems are characterized by literary techniques such as rhyme and rhythm. Poetry is usually (but not always) written in short lines, and the lines often rhyme. A poem may tell a story, create images, or just share a feeling or thought. Poems can be written in special forms, such as sonnets, ballads, epics, and lyrics.
A sonnet is a form of poetry written in fourteen lines and ending in a couplet (two lines that rhyme). Sonnets also have a specific rhythm the poet must follow.
An epic is a poem that combines classical literature, myths, and folklore. Elements of epics include a hero or heroine, a muse who describes the quest, a quest or heroic task to accomplish, a heroic friend who is needed to accomplish the task, and magical weapons or tools to help them achieve success. Also, the hero or heroine must survive long enough to accomplish the task, but the heroic friend sometimes dies in the midst of it. Homer's The Odyssey is an example of an epic poem.
Narrative poems are poems that tell a story. They have characters and plot just like a story. Sometimes they have dialogue, themes, and conflicts. Narrative poems can sometimes be categorized as another form, such as ballads or epics.
A ballad is a narrative poem, often of folk origin and intended to be sung, consisting of simple stanzas and usually having a refrain.
An elegy is traditionally written in response to the death of a person or group. In content, it is similar to an epitaph (written on a tombstone) or a eulogy (written using prose). An elegy focuses on the loss or grief itself.
Lyric poetry is a form of poetry that does not attempt to tell a story, as do ballads and epic poetry. Lyric poetry is of a more personal nature. Rather than portraying characters and actions, the lyric poet addresses the reader directly, portraying the speaker's feelings, states of mind, and perceptions. Lyric poetry often is written with a specific rhyme scheme and meter (the rhythmic pattern determined by the number of syllables in each line).
Free verse is poetry written without regard to form, rhyme, rhythm, meter, or line breaks. A poem written in free verse does not have a clear traditional form.
A song lyric looks like written poetry, but is intended to be sung, for the most part accompanied by music. Songs usually follow a particular rhyme scheme and form and often have a refrain (a repeated phrase or verse).
Drama is written to be performed on a stage. Dramas are not written in paragraph form. The characters' names are written out, and the dialogue they speak is written beside them. There are no quotation marks. In dramas, there are special instructions that tell explain how the stage should be set. The instructions also tell actors how to speak and act. Plays that can be categorized as comedies or tragedies are example of dramas.
A tragedy is a dramatic presentation of serious actions in which the chief character has a disastrous fate. Not all plays set in ancient Greece are tragedies, and neither are all love stories. Many have successful or happy endings. A literary work can be classified as a tragedy whether or not it is realistic.
A comedy is a funny presentation using humor with an intent to provoke laughter. Comedy often portrays situations and characters that are ridiculous and not meant to be taken seriously. Humor is being subjective and judged according to a person's taste.