Major Genre Differences

Well, now that you are here… In college I was told there were three major genres in which a writer can write: fiction, poetry, and nonfiction. Wait, what? What about all those genres we see in the bookstore like horror, science fiction, and romance?

Well, I was baffled. I had grown up reading and loving fantasy books. They are still there, don’t worry, but they are sub-genres of fiction.

How so? Well, I will go ahead and explain the major difference and how a writer can benefit from writing in all three (and other sub-genres as well by extension).

First, we will cover fiction. What is it? Fiction is the telling of false stories, as the basic word implies. In telling “lies,” as it were, fiction writers attempt to create as realistic scenarios (scenes) for as realistic people as possible to either illuminate upon “the human condition” or to entertain readers (or both). Fiction, if you do not write it, is a great way to explore situations and character that would be impossible with other forms. Also, most movies are fictitious in nature, and people like movies. Well, people like stories. Fiction offers readers a way to explore new worlds, magical words, romances, feel terror, etc. As a writer, fiction offers freedom as the imagination is the limit—depending on sub-genre rules.

Genre: Also a gay men's magazine

Next there is nonfiction. What is it? Nonfiction is, basically the opposite of fiction. It means “not fiction” or, in other words, true stories. Nonfiction has plenty of sub-genres as well. Some are memoir, travel, textbooks, “how to” books, blogs, essays, etc. The hallmark of nonfiction is that it aims to offer the truth. As we know, the truth is subjective. Memoir, or creative nonfiction, shares many characteristics of fiction that other forms of nonfiction may not make use of. As a writer, nonfiction is a great tool for research, expressing opinions in a way that is more direct that fiction can offer. Nonfiction is often the mode of writing we are taught in school.

Last, there is poetry. Many people don’t “get” poetry, and more don’t like it. Give poetry a chance! Okay, back to our program. Poetry is fluid in form and meaning. Poetry can be true, and it can also be completely invented. Poetry has, perhaps, the most freedom and the most restrictions. I’ve heard many times that people will not critique poems because of this nature. So, what can poetry do for you? As a writer, poetry lets you explore emotions, thought processes, stories, other perspectives, other worlds.  Poetry is pretty amazing. I find that the more I understand it (meaning the more I read), the more I find I love poetry (though fiction is first in my heart). I think, perhaps, that poetic structures and the necessity of careful word choice offer exceptional lessons for both fiction and nonfiction writers alike.

So those are the major genres of writing. As Western people we like to classify things, so of course there are gray areas between all three, and perhaps modes we are not aware of! I hope this has been informative, and gives you a reason to try your hand at writing within other forms.

Best writing!


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