Thursday, March 21, 2013

Which Literary Genre are You?

More than once, when I have comforted friends with problems in their life and shared some of my own, I have explained how I see my life as a book. There are happy and sad chapters, roller-coaster turns, surprising twists, and often a page-turner adventure. All the chapters belong in that book called The Life of Heidi. I cannot remove any of the chapters, nor add fake ones. It is what it is and I am grateful for it.

Today I started thinking: Which genre is my book - or somebody else's for that matter?
According to the word is French, hence the cute pronunciation, and means "kind" or "sort".
The Greek explanation is that it is the term for any category.

The genres are formed by conventions that change over time as new genres are invented and the use of old ones are discontinued. A literary genre is a category of literary composition.

Genres may be determined by literary technique, tone, content, or even length. It is never an age-related category, like e.g. adult or children's. It is not a graphic or picture book.

Essentially, genres can be divided into epic, tragedy, comedy, novel, short story, and creative non-fiction. Some can be prose or poetry. But there are many more - definitions are not set in stone. Satire, allegory are a couple of other genres.

It all goes back to Plato and Aristotle. The latter had  a system with four types of classical genres; tragedy, epic, comedy, and parody. offers this list:

  • Drama - stories composed in verse or prose, usually for theatrical performance, where conflicts and emotion are expressed through dialogue and action.
  • 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, usually for children.
  • Fantasy - fiction with strange or other worldly 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 (usually blank) verse form.
  • 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 in both the characters and the reader.
  • Humor - fiction full of fun, fancy, and excitement, meant to entertain; 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.
  • Mystery - 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.
  • Poetry - verse and rhythmic writing with imagery that creates emotional responses.
  • Realistic fiction - story that can actually happen and is true to life, but hasn't happened yet.
  • 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.
  • Tall tale - humorous story with blatant exaggerations, swaggering heroes who do the impossible with nonchalance.

But there are new genres popping up. Now and then I have to look up the definition of some of them.
E.g. "steampunk", which is a sub-genre of science fiction. It features steam-powered machinery.
And "chick-lit", which addresses issues of modern womanhood, often with a humorous and lighthearted approach.

So, in which literary genre is the book of your life written? Where do you feel at home?
What kind of book do you pick up when you need a new read?
Me? Definitely a "Historical Fiction", with a touch of "Fairy tale".

In which literary genre is the book of your life written? (Click to tweet)

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