List of writing genres

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Writing genres (more commonly known as literary genres) are categories that distinguish literature (including works of prose, poetry, drama, hybrid forms, etc.) based on some set of stylistic criteria. Sharing literary conventions, they typically consist of similarities in theme/topic, style, tropes, 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, novella, 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.[1]

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, acts, scenes, stanzas); length; mood; style; 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).[2]


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 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 6 parts (music, diction, plot, character, thought, and spectacle) working together in particular ways. Thus, Aristotle established one of the earliest delineations of the elements that define genre.

Fiction genres[edit]

Action and adventure[edit]

Action fiction and adventure fiction. The hero’s journey is the most popular narrative structure of an adventure novel.[4]

Crime and mystery[edit]

Crime fiction (including crime comics) centers on a crime(s), how the criminal gets caught and serves time, and the repercussions of the crime


Fantasy (including comics and magazines) 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.[1]


Horror (including comics and magazines) 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.[1] Horrors generally focus on themes of death, demons, evil spirits, and the afterlife.


Romantic fiction is those which give primary focus around a love story between two people, usually having an "emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending."[1]

Science fiction[edit]

Science fiction (including comics, magazines, novels, 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.)[1]

Non-fiction genres[edit]

Literary fiction vs. genre fiction[edit]

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.[10] There are many sources that help readers find and define literary fiction and genre fiction.[11][12]

Other nonfiction genres[edit]

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


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  2. ^ Mikics, David. 2007. A New Handbook of Literary Terms. Yale University Press. pp. 132–33, as cited by Purdue.
  3. ^ Elliott, Robert C (2004), "The nature of satire." Encyclopædia Britannica.
  4. ^ "How to Write an Adventure Story." Master Class. November 8, 2020.
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  6. ^ "What Makes a Cozy Just That? | Cozy Mystery List". Retrieved 2021-02-28.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g
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  10. ^ French, Christy Tillery. "Literary Fiction vs Genre Fiction". AuthorsDen. Retrieved 10 April 2013.
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  12. ^ Saricks, J. (2001). The Readers' Advisory Guide to Genre Fiction. Chicago and London: American Library Association.
  13. ^ Dumville, David N. (1976), "Echtrae and Immram: Some Problems of Definition", Ériu, Royal Irish Academy, 27: 73–94, JSTOR 30007669
  14. ^ Deane, Bradley (2008). "Imperial Barbarians: Primitive masculinity in Lost World fiction". Victorian Literature and Culture. 36: 205–25. doi:10.1017/S1060150308080121.
  15. ^ Oxford English Dictionary.
  16. ^ Weaver-Hightower, Rebecca. Empire Islands: Castaways, Cannibals, And Fantasies of Conquest, University of Minnesota P, 2007, ISBN 978-0816648634
  17. ^ Coogan, Michael. A Brief Introduction to the Old Testament, Oxford: Oxford University Press.2009 p 424
  18. ^ Christiansen, Rupert (2004) [1988], Romantic Affinities: Portraits From an Age, 1780–1830 (paperback reprint ed.), London: Pimlico, pp. 192–96, ISBN 1-84413421-0.
  19. ^ Picker, Lenny (3 March 2010). "Mysteries of History". Publishers Weekly. Retrieved 13 November 2013.
  20. ^ "Home - Society for Classical Studies".
  21. ^ "Jewish fiction". Goodreads.