Literary genres – an overview
When writing, it is important to be aware of how a literary work is classified, that is, the literary genre it is placed in. Traditionally, two main types of genres exist. Within each main literary genre, there are many subsets of genres which in which a literary may be classified. There are also the newer genres, such as ‘paranormal’, ‘urban fantasy’ which have gained popularity in the Western culture in the late 20th century.
Types of literary genres
Common types of literary genres are listed below:
- action-adventure: stories involving adventures of the characters. May be crossed with other genres including mystery, romance and western genres.
- comic or graphic fiction: graphic or image style fiction such as manga
- comedy: humorous fiction.
- crime: fiction dealing with resolving crimes.
- drama: stories expressed in prose and verse especially for theatrical performances.
- fantasy: fiction set in a fantasy world with fantasy creatures or characters.
- historical fiction: fiction set in the past. May be crossed with other genres including romance, mystery, horror etc.
- horror: fiction evoking dread and fear in the readers and the characters.
- legend: stories of a national hero, sometimes in folklore, but usually based on fact.
- mystery: fiction dealing with the unraveling of secrets.
- paranormal: fiction dealing with other-worldly creatures including vampires and shapeshifters.
- poetry: verse and rhythmic writing.
- realistic fiction: stories that may happen in real life.
- romance: stories of love and relationship between the main characters usually with a ‘happily ever after’ ending.
- science fiction: stories influenced by the impact of potential science or technology. Usually set in other planets or based in the future.
- thriller: stories that use suspense and excitement as main elements.
- western: stories set in the American Old West
- adult fiction: stories with adult themes.
- biography: a real account of a person’s life written by another person.
- autobiography: a real account of a person’s life written by the author.
- reference books: textbooks, encyclopedias etc.
There are yet more types of works that may be classified in various other ‘newly identified’ literary genres including:
- chick lit
- blog lit
It may be difficult to classify a particular piece of work as cross-genre works are commonly produced by authors. For example, many books and novels exist in the cross-genres of ‘paranormal’ and ‘romance’ in teen fiction.
Literary fiction versus genre fiction (popular fiction)
Some traditionalists within the writing and publishing industry feel that literary fiction is more superior than genre fiction. There is not much difference between the two. Literary fiction is said to be darker and more serious, while genre fiction is written by authors with the express intention of making their books appealing to readers.
Others argue that literary fiction is another type of literary genre which is characterized by intense internalizing and rationalizing of self by the character. Literary novelists usually receive critical acclaim and are supported by patronage through employment at universities and colleges.