When it comes to literary genres, most of the readers cringe or shy away as there’s so much confusion regarding all the possible genres and sub-genres in literature. But today we bring you a comprehensive yet compact guide to the 12 main literary genres that every reader must know.

We’ll be discussing the sub-categories of some of the genres mentioned below in our upcoming articles, so keep an eye out.

A Comprehensive Guide To The 12 Main Literary Genres

1. Fiction

Stories or works that are based on a person’s imagination (not having their base in history or facts.) The story, characters and or settings in fiction books are not accurately based on real people, things or places; they are the product of the author’s imagination.

Fiction is often defined in two ways: Literary Fiction and Genre Fiction.

Literary Fiction: Literary Fiction often involves social concerns, complex storylines, political or legislative reproval, human conditions and tends to focus on the intense study of complex characters and deep observation of humanity on the whole. This work of fiction is often referred to as “elegantly written, lyrical, and … layered.”
Literary Fiction works tend to be slow-paced and darker than those of Genre Fiction and generally preferred by intellectuals.

Genre Fiction: Genre fiction (also referred to as popular fiction) focuses on the plot. They are plot-driven works of fiction that are written to fit into one or more particular literary genre (other than Fiction, like horror or romance) in order to appeal to the audiences already familiar with those genres.
Genre Fiction is generally fast-paced and is widely preferred by the masses.

2. Comedy

Any story or work that is intended to be humorous or written with the intention of inducing laughter or amuse in the audience. It can even be in the form of Satire and Parody:

Satire: A form of comedy in which vices, follies, abuses, and shortcomings are held up to ridicule, ideally with the intent of shaming individuals, corporations, government, or society itself into improvement. Although satire is usually meant to be humorous, its greater purpose is often constructive social criticism, using wit to draw attention to both particular and wider issues in society.

Parody: also called a spoof, send-up, take-off, or lampoon) is a work created to imitate, make fun of, or comment on an original work—its subject, author, style, or some other target—by means of satiric or ironic imitation.

3. Drama

Drama is the specific mode of fiction represented in performance.The enactment of drama in theatre, performed by actors on a stage before an audience, presupposes collaborative modes of production and a collective form of reception. The structure of dramatic texts, unlike other forms of literature, is directly influenced by this collaborative production and collective reception.

4. Fantasy

Fantasy is a genre that uses magic and other supernatural forms as a primary element of plot, theme, and/or setting. Fantasy is generally distinguished from science fiction and horror by the expectation that it steers clear of technological and macabre themes, respectively, though there is a great deal of overlap between the three (collectively known as speculative fiction or science fiction/fantasy.)

5. Horror

Horror fiction is fiction in any medium intended to scare, unsettle, or horrify the audience. Historically, the cause of the “horror” experience has often been the intrusion of a supernatural element into everyday human experience. Since the 1960s, any work of fiction with a morbid, gruesome, surreal, or exceptionally suspenseful or frightening theme has come to be called horror. It creates an eerie and frightening atmosphere. Horror is frequently supernatural, though it can be non-supernatural. Often the central menace of a work of horror fiction can be interpreted as a metaphor for the larger fears of a society.

6. Mythology

The term mythology can refer to a body of myths or to any traditional story. A myth is a sacred narrative explaining how the world and humankind came to be in their present form. The main characters in myths are usually gods or supernatural heroes.

Alternatively, Mythology refers variously to the collected myths of a group of people[1] or to the study of such myths.[2] Myths are the stories people tell to explain nature, history, and customs.

7. Non-fiction

Non-fiction or nonfiction is content (sometimes, in the form of a story) whose creator, in good faith, assumes responsibility for the truth or accuracy of the events, people, or information presented. Non-fiction is an account or representation of a subject which is presented as fact. This presentation may be accurate or not; that is, it can give either a true or a false account of the subject in question. However, it is generally assumed that the authors of such accounts believe them to be truthful at the time of their composition. Note that reporting the beliefs of others in a non-fiction format is not necessarily an endorsement of the ultimate veracity of those beliefs, it is simply saying that it is true that people believe that (for such topics as mythology, religion).

8. Realistic fiction

To put it simply, Realistic Fiction seems like real life, with characters dealing with real life problems. The plot often takes place in the present time. The situations are true or could be, but the main characters are fictional. Realistic fiction typically involves a story whose basic setting (time and location in the world) is real and whose events could feasibly happen in a real-world setting; non-realistic fiction involves a story where the opposite is the case, often being set in an entirely imaginary universe, an alternative history of the world other than that currently understood as true, or some other non-existent location or time-period, sometimes even presenting impossible technology or a defiance of the currently understood laws of nature. However, all types of fiction arguably invite their audience to explore real ideas, issues, or possibilities in an otherwise imaginary setting, or using what is understood about reality to mentally construct something similar to reality, though still distinct from it.

9. Romance

According to the Romance Writers of America, “Two basic elements comprise every romance novel: a central love story and an emotionally-satisfying and optimistic ending.” Both the conflict and the climax of the novel should be directly related to that core theme of developing a romantic relationship, although the novel can also contain subplots that do not specifically relate to the main characters’ romantic love. Other definitions of a romance novel may be broader, including other plots and endings or more than two people, or narrower, restricting the types of romances or conflicts.
Romance stories or works, place their primary focus on the relationship and romantic love between two people, and must have an “emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending.” There are many subgenres of the romance novel including fantasy, historical romance, paranormal fiction, and science fiction.

10. Satire

As stated above (in Comedy),  Satire is a form of comedy in which vices, follies, abuses, and shortcomings are held up to ridicule, ideally with the intent of shaming individuals, corporations, government, or society itself into improvement. Although satire is usually meant to be humorous, its greater purpose is often constructive social criticism, using wit to draw attention to both particular and wider issues in society.

11. Tragedy

Tragedy, in a general sense, is a form of literature based on human suffering that offers its audience pleasure in audiences. While many cultures have developed forms that provoke this paradoxical response, the term tragedy often refers to a specific tradition of drama that has played a unique and important role historically in the self-definition of Western civilization.

12. Tragicomedy

Tragicomedy is a literary genre that blends aspects of both tragic and comic forms. Most often seen in dramatic literature, the term can variously describe either a tragic play which contains enough comic elements to lighten the overall mood or a serious play with a happy ending.

Source of definition: Wikipedia and Goodreads

We hope that these definitions will aid you in easily distinguishing between different literary genres as well as help you in determining one for the book(s) you’re reading.

If you have something more to add to this, please share it with us in the comments below.

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