The study of genre is not an exact science. Some texts may belong in more than one genre. For example: Romeo and Juliet is a drama, a tragedy, and an Elizabethan play. The idea of genre is open to discussion and there is good reason to discuss genre. Understanding genre will help you know what to expect from a text based on its genre; it will also help you notice when an author is playing with your expectations. Wouldn’t you like to be in on the joke? First, you must learn some basics:
Main Genres and Subgenres
Some consider these to be the main genres of writing: fiction, nonfiction, poetry, drama, and folklore. Every piece of writing can fall into one of these categories. Each main genre has a group of subgenres. Each subgenre has as set of characteristics that you must learn in order to identify them. This list does not contain all of the possible subgenres, but it should give you a pretty thorough overview.
- Fiction: stories that come from the author’s imagination.
- Historical Fiction: based on a person or event from history.
- Science Fiction: dealing with aliens, the distant future, or advanced technology.
- Fantasy: containing monsters, magic, or other supernatural elements.
- Realistic Fiction: a story that could have happened, but didn’t.
- Nonfiction: writing that is true or factual.
- Informational Writing: provides information on a topic.
- Persuasive Writing: attempts to influence the reader.
- Autobiography: the story of one’s life told by oneself.
- Biography: the story of one’s life told by another.
- Drama: writing that is meant to be acted on a stage (a play).
- Comedy: has a happy ending.
- Tragedy: ends in death and sadness.
- Poetry: writing that is concerned with the beauty of language
- Folklore: stories handed down through speech from generation to generation.
- Fairy Tale: a story with magic, monsters, and/or talking animals (like fiction / fantasy, but part of the oral tradition).
- Fable: a very short story that has a moral or life lesson; usually has talking animals as main characters.
- Myth: has gods or goddesses and often accounts for how something came to be.
- Legend: an exaggerated story about something that may have been real at one time.
- Tall Tale: stories set in the Wild West; the main character’s strengths, skills, or size have been exaggerated and the tone is funny.
Common Core State Standards Related to Genre and Subgenre
View All CCSS Standards Related to Genre and Subgenre
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.9 – Analyze how two or more texts address similar themes or topics in order to build knowledge or to compare the approaches the authors take.
ELA Standards: Literature
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.K.9 – With prompting and support, compare and contrast the adventures and experiences of characters in familiar stories.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.1.9 – Compare and contrast the adventures and experiences of characters in stories.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.2.9 – Compare and contrast two or more versions of the same story (e.g., Cinderella stories) by different authors or from different cultures.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.3.9 – Compare and contrast the themes, settings, and plots of stories written by the same author about the same or similar characters (e.g., in books from a series)
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.4.9 – Compare and contrast the treatment of similar themes and topics (e.g., opposition of good and evil) and patterns of events (e.g., the quest) in stories, myths, and traditional literature from different cultures.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.5.9 – Compare and contrast stories in the same genre (e.g., mysteries and adventure stories) on their approaches to similar themes and topics.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.6.9 – Compare and contrast texts in different forms or genres (e.g., stories and poems; historical novels and fantasy stories) in terms of their approaches to similar themes and topics.