List of writing genres

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Writing genres (commonly known, more narrowly, as literary genres) are determined by narrative technique, tone, content, and by critics' definitions of the genres. Writing genres may be fictional or non-fictional.

Forms versus genre

Major forms of literary and semi-literary fiction

The major forms of strictly and non-strictly literary fiction are:


Various works of literature are written in and further categorized by genre. Sometimes forms are used interchangeably to define genre. However, a form, e.g., a novel or a poem, can be written in any genre.

Major genres

Genre is a label that characterizes elements a reader can expect in a work of literature. The major forms of literature can be written in various genres. Genre is a category characterized by similarities in style, or subject matter.

The classic major genres of literature are:

Genre categories: fiction and nonfiction

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

Common genres: fiction

Subsets of genres, known as common genres, have developed from the archetypes of genres in written expression.

  • Drama – stories composed in verse or prose, usually for theatrical performance, where conflicts and emotion are expressed through dialogue and action
  • Classic – fiction that has become part of an accepted literary canon, widely taught in schools
  • Comic/Graphic novel – scripted fiction told visually in artist drawn pictures, usually in panels and speech bubbles
  • Crime/Detective – fiction about a committed crime, how the criminal gets caught, and the repercussions of the crime
  • Fable – narration demonstrating a useful truth, especially in which animals speak as humans; legendary, supernatural tale
  • Fairy tale – story about fairies or other magical creatures.
  • Fanfiction – fiction written by a fan of, and featuring characters from, a particular TV series, movie, etc.
  • Fantasy – fiction with strange or otherworldly settings or characters; fiction which invites suspension of reality
  • Fiction narrative – literary works whose content is produced by the imagination and is not necessarily based on fact
  • Fiction in verse – full-length novels with plot, subplot(s), theme(s), major and minor characters, in which the narrative is presented in verse form (usually free verse)
  • Folklore – the songs, stories, myths, and proverbs of a people or "folk" as handed down by word of mouth
  • 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
  • Humour – 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
  • Metafiction – 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 – this is fiction dealing with the solution of a crime or the unraveling 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 – this is fiction where characters from religious mythology, traditional myths, folklores and history are recast into a re-imagined realm created by the author.
  • Realistic fiction – story that is true to life, if not necessarily based on actual, historical events and people.
  • Science fiction – story based on impact of actual, imagined, or potential science, usually set in the future or on other planets
  • Short story – fiction of such brevity that it supports no subplots
  • Suspense/Thriller – fiction about harm about to befall a person or group and the attempts made to evade the harm
  • Tall tale – humorous story with blatant exaggerations, swaggering heroes who do the impossible with nonchalance
  • Western – set in the American Old West frontier and typically set in the late eighteenth to late nineteenth century

Common genres: nonfiction

  • Biography/Autobiography - Narrative of a person's life. A true story about a real person.
  • Essay - A short literary composition that reflects the author's outlook or point.
  • Narrative nonfiction/Personal narrative - Factual information about a significant event presented in a format which tells a story.
  • Memoir - Factual story that focuses on a significant relationship between the writer and a person, place, or object. Reads like a novel.
  • Speech - Public address or discourse.
  • Textbook - Authoritative and detailed factual description of a topic.
  • Reference - Dictionary, thesaurus, encyclopedia, almanac, atlas, etc.
  • Self-help - Information with the intention of instructing readers on solving personal problems.
  • Journalism - reporting on news / current events

Literary fiction vs. genre fiction

Literary 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. There are many sources that help readers find and define literary fiction and genre fiction.[1][2]

Genres and subgenres

Some genres listed may reappear throughout the list, indicating cross-genre status.[citation needed]

Nonfiction genres

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


  1. Nancy Pearl, Now Read This: A Guide to Mainstream Fiction, Libraries Unlimited, 1999, 432 pp. (1-56308-659-X)
  2. Saricks, J. (2001). The Readers' Advisory Guide to Genre Fiction. Chicago and London: American Library Association.
  3. "Jewish fiction". Goodreads.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>