Jeffry C. Davis: Common Literary Genres


Autobiography - The story of a person's life, written by him or herself; often in the form of diaries, journals, or letters.

Biography - As Dryden defined it in 1683, "the history of particular men's lives"; the story of a person's life according to another person who writes it.

Drama - Aristotle termed it "imitated human action"; once wrongly thought to have evolved from the Greeks' religious ceremonials, it can simply be thought of as a story creatively constructed and acted out on a stage.

Essay - A moderately brief prose piece of writing that focuses upon a particular topic; the examination by the author of a specific subject, usually in an opinionated manner.

Novel - Any extended fictional prose narrative; generally this type of writing has several characters and a distinct plot.

Poem - A piece of writing characterized by its compact, powerful, concrete language; it usually presents truth, emotion, or beauty through rhythmic and orderly arrangement.

Short story - A relatively brief fictional narrative written in prose form; generally it ranges in length from 500 words all the way up to 20,000 words (a long short story).

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