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Literary genre types in fiction – Armchair BEA

This entry is part 6 of 17 in the series Armchair BEA 2013 - 2014
The Grimm Brothers devoted their life to literary genre types known as fairy tales.

Grimms Brothers Monument

Literary genre types and categories

Literary genre types or categories exist, too, in addition to all the popular or commercial fiction genres. Sometimes people don’t think of these stories as genres. We’re so used to thinking about them as units unto themselves. Within these genres, subsets and varieties abound. Let’s chat about three of the basic fiction literary genre types.

Fairy tales – Play in the magical world of fiction

Some may not immediately think of fairy tales as falling among the literary genre types but they do. I love fairy tales and most writers have fallen under their charm at one time or another. When I was ten I was on a mission to read all the fairy tale books that crowded the public and school libraries. It took a year but I read about the fairies from all the different countries including French fairy tales and Irish fairy tales as well as the more common Grimm’s Brothers and Hans Christian Andersen’s versions.

Today fairy tales still present popular frameworks and motifs for contemporary writers. The retold fairy tale is a writer’s staple.

Historical Fiction – Relive times past

When it comes to literary genre types that have strong legs, think historical fiction. Writers have been mining this genre forever. Historical fiction first captured my imagination during my teen years. I think I read every book out there on King Henry VIII’s wives. I then moved on to read about everyone else that touched his life. I read authors ranging from Mary Renault to C.S. Forrester. I still remember sailing the ships with Horatio Hornblower.

Historical fiction is definitely a staple of literary fiction. People still love stories of larger-than-life fictional characters set during historical times. Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall captured the imagination of many today with her recreation of Thomas Cromwell during the time of Henry VIII. (It’s on my TBR list.)

Mythology – Enter the world of the gods

After I poured through all the books on religion and fairy tales, this child hit the book section called mythology. Wow, did I love those myths. Once again I traveled around the world consuming myths of every culture and religion I could find. I had no idea I had continued my journey through major literary genre types. To me they were simply great stories.

There were the warrior gods of Rome and the more high falutin’ Greek versions, but none were as raw and earthy as those Norse gods. Talk about characters. All those gods were always up to something. Bullfinch’s Mythology was a constant companion but I also spent a lot of time pouring over Ovid’s Metamorphoses.

For writers today, probably the most well-known and most-used myth is that of The Hero’s Journey. Joseph Campbell brought the hero’s journey center stage in his powerful book and provided a powerful map for the contemporary writer. Hear the man himself speak here on the rapture of being alive and the power of myth. Chris Vogler did a great job of adapting Campbell’s mythic structure into something easily translatable for writers.

As you can tell, I’ve played in some deep rivers and enjoyed every moment exploring these literary genre types in the realm of fiction. What about you? Where have you gone exploring? Did you enjoy your time there? If you’re with Armchair BEA, I know you’re having a great time this week and I hope you’ll return.

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