List of writing genres

"Written genres" (more commonly known as "literary genres") are those works of prose, poetry, drama, hybrid forms, or other literature that are distinguished by shared literary conventions, similarities in topic, theme, style, tropes, or common settings, character types, or formulaic patterns of character interactions and events, and an overall predictable form. Genres are not wholly fixed categories of writing, but 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 our earliest literary critics and rhetorical scholars such as Plato, Aristotle, Socrates, Aeschylus, Aspasia, Euripides 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, tragedy, and comedy. Aristotle's proscriptive analysis of tragedy, for example, as expressed in his Rhetoric and Poetics, saw it as having six parts (music, diction, plot, character, thought, and spectacle) working together in particular ways. Thus Aristotle establishes one of the earliest delineations of the elements that define genre.

Literary genres are often defined by the cultural expectations and needs of a particular historical and, cultural moment or place.

Genre categories: fiction and nonfictionEdit

A genre may fall under one of two categories: fiction and nonfiction. Any genre can be either a work of fiction (nonfactual descriptions and events invented by the author) or a work of nonfiction (in which descriptions and events are understood to be factual).

Common genres: fictionEdit

Subsets of genres, known as common genres (or sub-genres), have developed from the types of genres in written expression.

  • Classic – fiction that has become part of an accepted literary canon, widely taught in schools
  • Crime/detective – fiction about a crime, how the criminal gets caught and serves time, and the repercussions of the crime
  • Epic – a genre of narrative poetry in a time before history about extraordinary feats that involve religious underpinnings and themes
  • Fable – legendary, supernatural tale demonstrating a useful truth
  • Fairy tale – story about fairies or other magical creatures
  • Fantasy – fiction in an unreal setting that often includes magic, magical creatures, or the supernatural
  • Folktale – the songs, stories, myths, and proverbs of a people or "folk" as handed down by word of mouth
  • Gothic fiction or Gothic Romanticism
  • Historical fiction – story with fictional characters and events in a historical setting
  • Horror – fiction in which events evoke a feeling of dread and sometimes fear in both the characters and the reader
  • Humor – usually a fiction full of fun, fancy, and excitement, meant to entertain and sometimes cause intended laughter; but can be contained in all genres
  • Legend – story, sometimes of a national or folk hero, that has a basis in fact but also includes imaginative material
  • Magical realism – story where magical or unreal elements play a natural part in an otherwise realistic environment
  • Meta fiction (also known as romantic irony in the context of Romantic works of literature) – uses self-reference to draw attention to itself as a work of art while exposing the "truth" of a story
  • Mystery – fiction dealing with the solution of a crime or the revealing of secrets
  • Mythology – legend or 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
  • Mythopoeia – fiction in which characters from religious mythology, traditional myths, folklore and/or history are recast into a re-imagined realm created by the author
  • Realistic fiction – story that is true to life
  • Romance  – genre which place their primary focus on the relationship and romantic love between two people, which usually has an "emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending".
  • Satire – usually fiction and less frequently in non-fiction, in which vices, follies, abuses and shortcomings are held up to ridicule, with the intent of shaming individuals, corporations, government, or society itself into improvement.[1]
  • Science fiction – story based on the impact of actual, imagined, or potential science, often set in the future or on other planets
  • Short story – fiction of great brevity, usually supports no subplots.
  • Spy fiction – fiction involving espionage and establishment of modern intelligence agencies.
  • Superhero fiction – fiction involving costumed crime fighters known as superheroes who often possess superhuman powers and battle with similarly powered criminals known as supervillains.
  • Swashbuckler – story based on a time of swordsmen, pirates and ships, and other related ideas, usually full of action
  • Tall tale – humorous story with blatant exaggerations, such as swaggering heroes who do the impossible with nonchalance
  • Theological fiction – explores the theological ideas which shape attitudes towards religious expression.
  • Suspense/thriller – fiction about harm about to befall a person or group and the attempts made to evade the harm
  • Tragicomedy – a play or novel containing elements of both comedy and tragedy.
  • Travel – literature containing elements of the outdoors, nature, adventure, and traveling
  • Western  – fiction set in the American Old West frontier and typically in the late nineteenth to early twentieth century.

Common genres: nonfictionEdit

  • Biography  – a narrative of a person's life; when the author is also the main subject, this is an autobiography or memoir
  • Essay  – a short literary composition that reflects the author's outlook or point
  • Journalism – reporting on news and current events
  • Memoir  – factual story that focuses on a significant relationship between the writer and a person, place, or object; reads like a short novel
  • Narrative nonfiction/personal narrative  – factual information about a significant event presented in a format that tells a story
  • Reference book  – such as a dictionary, thesaurus, encyclopedia, almanac, or atlas
  • Self-help book  – information with the intention of instructing readers on solving personal problems
  • Speech  – public address or discourse
  • Textbook  – authoritative and detailed factual description of a thing

Literary fiction vs. genre fictionEdit

Literary fiction is a term used to distinguish certain fictional works that possess commonly held qualities to readers outside genre fiction.[citation needed] 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.[citation needed] 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.[2] There are many sources that help readers find and define literary fiction and genre fiction.[3][4]

Nonfiction genresEdit

These are genres belonging to the realm of nonfiction. Some genres listed may reappear throughout the list, indicating cross-genre status.


  1. ^ Elliott, Robert C (2004), "The nature of satire", Encyclopædia Britannica
  2. ^ French, Christy Tillery. "Literary Fiction vs Genre Fiction". AuthorsDen. Retrieved 10 April 2013.
  3. ^ Nancy Pearl, Now Read This: A Guide to Mainstream Fiction Archived 2012-09-14 at the Library of Congress Web Archives, Libraries Unlimited, 1999, 432 pp. (1-56308-659-X)
  4. ^ Saricks, J. (2001). The Readers' Advisory Guide to Genre Fiction. Chicago and London: American Library Association.
  5. ^ Dumville, David N. (1976), "Echtrae and Immram: Some Problems of Definition", Ériu, Royal Irish Academy, 27: 73–94, JSTOR 30007669
  6. ^ Deane, Bradley (2008). "Imperial Barbarians: Primitive masculinity in Lost World fiction". Victorian Literature and Culture. 36: 205–25. doi:10.1017/S1060150308080121.
  7. ^ Oxford English Dictionary.
  8. ^ Weaver-Hightower, Rebecca. Empire Islands: Castaways, Cannibals, And Fantasies of Conquest, University of Minnesota P, 2007, ISBN 978-0816648634
  9. ^ Coogan, Michael. A Brief Introduction to the Old Testament, Oxford: Oxford University Press.2009 p 424
  10. ^ Christiansen, Rupert (2004) [1988], Romantic Affinities: Portraits From an Age, 1780–1830 (paperback reprint ed.), London: Pimlico, pp. 192–96, ISBN 1-84413421-0.
  11. ^ Picker, Lenny (3 March 2010). "Mysteries of History". Publishers Weekly. Retrieved 13 November 2013.
  12. ^ "Home - Society for Classical Studies".
  13. ^ "Jewish fiction". Goodreads.