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Exploring Fiction Genres: Definitions with Examples

written by: Elizabeth Wistrom • edited by: Noreen Gunnell • updated: 1/5/2012

Learn more about the different types of genre found in fiction stories. Here we will define the different genres and provide sample book titles to illustrate the point.

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    What is a Genre?

    According to thefreedictionary.com, the word "genre" can be defined as a "kind, category, or sort, of literary or artistic work." In other words, the "genre" of a book is basically the type of book. Books are classified into genres, because they share a common characteristic.

    When it comes to literature which can be classified as general fiction, there are several different types of "genres" which one might encounter. Here, we will identify and define the major types of genre in fiction which students encounter in their schoolwork, as well as provide works of literature which may serve as examples.

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    Traditional Literature

    Traditional Literature selections are those which have typically been passed down through history either orally or through the written word, although many literary examples were first derived from the oral tradition. Included in this genre would be folktales, legends, fables, fairy tales, tall tales and myths from both the reader's culture and cultures different from their own. Here are several popular selections which are representative of the Traditional Literature genre:

    • Cinderella
    • Hansel and Gretel
    • The Three Bears
    • Stone Soup
    • Paul Bunyan
    • The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

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    Fantasy

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    Fantasy stories are those which include elements in the plot which could not possibly happen in real life. For example, talking animals or the powers of magic. Young children may struggle to identify Fantasy because they are not yet capable of distinguishing between it and reality. Here are a few examples of literature which would be considered Fantasy:

    • The Harry Potter series
    • The Percy Jackson series (which also has some elements of Traditional Literature)
    • Alice in Wonderland
    • The Chronicles of Narnia

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    Science Fiction

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    Similar to Fantasy, the Science Fiction genre uses plots which revolve around science and technology - often incorporating speculative story lines set in the future. These stories give the reader a glimpse at what our world "could" be like someday. Science Fiction readers will recognize the following selections:

    • The Time Machine
    • Dinotopia
    • The Guardians
    • Alex Rider
    • The Kingdom Keepers
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    Realistic Fiction

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    Stories which are considered Realistic Fiction are often based on fact, but incorporate made-up characters or story elements. In other words, there is the possibility that these stories could happen in real life were it not for the fictitious elements thrown in. Characters from stories in this genre are facing real problems and often find real solutions. Here are a few examples of stories which could be considered Realistic Fiction:

    • The Box Car Children
    • Holes
    • How to Eat Fried Worms
    • Ramona the Brave
    • Catcher in the Rye
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    Historical Fiction

    Historical Fiction typically features a story where the characters and the plot are made-up, but the setting is real. Historical facts are often woven into the story, as if to validate its authenticity. Examples of Historical Fiction include:

    • Abe Lincoln's Hat
    • The Night Crossing
    • Anne of Green Gables
    • Meet Samantha, An American Girl
    • Uncle Jed's Barbershop
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    Mystery

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    A favorite among students, the Mystery genre presents a perplexing event which must be solved and completed by the end of the story. Some favorite mystery books are;

    • The Nancy Drew series
    • The 39 Clues
    • The Cam Jansen series
    • Nate the Great
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    Poetry

    While often listed as a genre, poetry is really a style of writing. The poems themselves can be in the form of rhyme, free verse or even concrete verse taking a shape related to the words. Poetry as a genre is of great interest, for it can be based in fiction or non-fiction - for example, a poem about the Revolutionary War. Shel Silverstein is probably one of the most recognized authors of fictional poetry.

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