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Updated: October 26, 2023, Reading time: 6 minutes

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When people think of the arts and humanities, literature is probably one of the first things they think of. Literature can mean anything from a classic, ancient story to modern horror novels. Different literature genres help readers choose a story they will enjoy and help those who study the humanities break down their massive area of study into smaller categories.

Typically, people walk into a library knowing if they want a suspenseful horror story, a lighthearted comedy, or a factual book about an event or person. If literature weren’t sorted into genres, finding the perfect book would be a nearly impossible task. The ways that literature types are grouped and sorted vary slightly, but 12 groups are commonly accepted by those who study the humanities.

GSC_Literary Genre - fact
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Fiction, quite simply, is made up. Works of fiction are written without concern for reality or factual accuracy. Some of the most well-known books are fictional and popular because the author takes readers on a journey that creates an escape from reality. Fiction encompasses other categories and can be written in many ways, as long as the author doesn’t attempt to write fact and the story isn’t marketed to readers as “real.” A fun way to remember what fiction is is to remember that fiction is fake, and they both start with F.


Comedy is a type of literature that is often fiction. It will make its readers laugh and is usually light-hearted and fun. Comedy can be slapstick or witty, but either way, it should make the reader walk away happy and feeling good. Many readers love to use comedy as a great escape when they need a mental break from things in life.


Drama can be fiction or nonfiction, and it is often written as a play. Dramas will have a clear plot with character development playing a large role in the story. Well-written dramas are some of the most long-lasting stories within today’s world. When drama comes up in any conversation, many people think of things like Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. This is a fantastic example of how drama can mold and inform culture as we know it.


Fantasy is a fun and exciting genre to read, as it incorporates elements that are not possible in real life. Fantasy stories may include things like vampires, talking animals, or time travel. In recent years, fantasy books have been very popular, with some of them being turned into hit movies and TV series as well. Fantasy elements often show up in children’s books as well, as they captivate imaginative younger readers.


Horror is one genre that most people either really enjoy or altogether avoid. Horror stories attempt to make the reader feel terror or revulsion. Some horror stories use imagery to create an atmosphere that gives the reader goose bumps of anticipation or dread. Horror stories are most often fictional but can be written about real-life events.


Mythology is type of fiction that typically includes gods, goddesses, and/or fantastical creatures. Stories with ancient beings and their dragons and superpowers are myths, as are the classic tales of the Greek and Roman gods. Myths are often handed down from generation to generation through word of mouth, and even after being written down, there are often many versions of the same basic story.


Nonfiction is the genre people turn to when researching or wanting to learn more about a particular subject. The author can write about something they know about from personal experience or write on a topic after doing their own research. Nonfiction literature stems from reality and should always be created in this mindset.

Realistic Fiction

Realistic fiction combines fiction and nonfiction: The setting is often rooted in reality, while the story’s characters are at least in part made up. For example, you could write a book about the British royal family from the point of view of a maid or other commoner who doesn’t exist.


The elements of a romantic story typically include a beginning in which one of the main characters makes a poor decision in finding love and a narrative in which they find their own love story. Romance stories usually have a hero and heroine who rescue each other in some way.


Satire is a humorous critique of a flaw within society made slightly more comfortable to understand through simplification and humor. Satires are often political in nature. One of the most famous is Animal Farm by George Orwell. Satires convey a message to the masses in an entertaining way.


Tragedies can be fictional, or they can be written accounts of actual events. The main element that exists across almost all of tragic literature is a story of human suffering. This suffering can vary in severity, time, or manner, but tragedies are always about someone hurting. This suffering can be centered around physical, emotional, or mental anguish. Tragedies usually leave the reader sad or worried, but they can also help readers process their own tragedies.


Tragicomedies are typically fiction, as they are challenging to create if they are based on real-world events. Tragicomedies combine tragedy and comedy elements by either inserting funny things into a sorrowful and tragic story or by writing an ending to a sad story that redeems one or more characters and/or allows them to recover from the tragedy. Both of these will result in the reader walking away in a happier mood.

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