Characteristics of literary genres with examples

Literary Genres

Some examples of literary genres are lyrical, ethical, and dramatic poetry, biographies, autobiography, diaries, legends, fantasies, or fablesLiterary genres are the different models in which works of literature can be grouped according to their content. Literary Genres and Their Characteristics

Each literary work can be placed in a specific genre and this will depend on the tone, the content, the length of the novel and the literary technique. However, poetry is considered the oldest and most intense way of writing, since it allows the writer to express their deepest emotions and thoughts in a very personal way.

The language used in poetry is figurative; the text has its own rhythm and images are described in order to get the message across to the readers. There are three categories of poetic writing: lyrical, narrative, and dramatic. Literary Genres and Their Characteristics

Each of these categories is in turn divided into subcategories. In the case of lyrics, there are songs, elegies, odes and sonnets. In each type the feelings of a single author are expressed .

The narrative, for its part, has its maximum expression in the epic. In it historical events of national or universal importance are related. They generally refer to the feat of a single person.

In dramatic poetry, there are two broad categories, tragedy and comedy. In the latter a story is told through the use of phrases from the author’s own thought. Each of the literary genres will be described below.

Examples of literary genres

Lyric poetry

Lyric poetry is the literary genre through which the author expresses his feelings. At the same time, it seeks to awaken those feelings in those who read or listen, as it is usually expressed through verses that can be sung. Literary Genres and Their Characteristics

The lyric is divided into four classes. The first one is the song, which follows a musical pattern and covers a wide variety of topics such as love, loyalty, friendship or nature. A good example is The Golden Treasury by Palgrave.

There are also sacred songs, which are called hymns. In them religious, political, patriotic or military ideals are exalted. Some examples are the anthems of the countries, the universities and the states.

Other divisions of the lyric are the elegy and the ode. The first is a meditative poem and somewhat sad, generally it is a lament to the dead. The second, although it is also meditative, expresses a feeling a little more exalted. An example of this is Wordsworth’s Ode to Duty.

The sonnet is composed of fourteen-line verses, which are developed following an established scheme. This literary genre was the favorite of writers like Shakespeare.

Among the modern exponents of lyrical poetry are: Pablo Neruda with his Poem 20 , Gabriela Mistral with Shame and Federico García Lorca with The poet asks his love to write to him .

Epic poetry

Epic poetry is a long narrative poem. It generally recounts the heroic actions carried out by a certain person, who has great courage and incomparable determination.

This literary expression allows to exalt the values ​​of some race, culture, religious group or country, where supernatural forces help the hero to achieve his feat.

 Examples of the epic include: Homer’s Iliad , John Milton’s Paradise Lost , Dante Algihieri’s Divine Comedy , and Lord Byron’s Don Juan Tenorio .

Dramatic poetry

This type of poetry is especially written for the theater, as it can include tragedy, comedy, and dramatic monologues. Literary Genres and Their Characteristics

In it a story is told to an imaginary audience. It is ideal for theatrical staging. It can also have music and singing. There are some classic examples of this genre among them: the monologue entitled Song of love by J. Alfred Prufrock.

However, this classification alone cannot be established, since many other literary genres and subgenres emerge from each of them, which will be mentioned below:

Adventure story

Action is the main element. The protagonist has a mission and must face many challenges. Example: The Lord of the Rings trilogy by JRR Tolkien.


The writer tells his own story and is written in the first person. Example: My life and work, by Henry Ford .


Written in newspapers or magazines. It tells “where”, “when”, “how” and “why” some event happened. It is for informational purposes. The author does not express his own opinion. Example: Great White Sharks by Peter Benchley.


It is written about the life of a person, his activities and the most important events. Example : The story and life of Amelia Earthart . Literary Genres and Their Characteristics


Daily record of experiences, feelings and thoughts. It is written in autobiographical form. Example: The diary of Anna Frank .


Written that shows the opinion of a person, or group of people, in relation to a specific topic. Example: Are professional athletes paid too much? by Justin Hjelm.


Story created to entertain that is inspired by hope. Example: Cinderella by Charles Perrault.


Brief history to highlight values ​​and morals. Example: Aesop’s Fables .


Very imaginative story, which may contain elements that are not found in real life. Example: The Chronicles of Narnia by CS Lewis.


History that has passed by word of mouth through generations. It narrates cultural or ethnic facts.


Stories related to historical events or characters can be fictitious or true. Example: Damon and Pythias: The Drama of a Greek Legend by Fran Kissen. Literary Genres and Their Characteristics

Each of the literary genres described has the peculiarity that they narrate a specific event. They have a structure that characterizes them and they are aimed at a specific audience.

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