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Literary Fiction Genres

Genres Fo - Ho

Fiction Genre Definitions


Genres Fo-Ho


(Definitions and Examples)

Most readers have a favorite genre, while only the most avid (or studious) are well-versed in every major genre. For reasons open to debate, genres such as Romance are enjoyed almost exclusively by women, and Westerns largely by men. Science Fiction is gaining more female fans and authors.

Folklore (contemporary, international, old European)
These beloved tales consist of short stories, sometimes a whole series of them, tied to a specific place and culture. (Often with songs and costumes and oral recitations and more.) These serve a cultural function, and often incorporate genuine historical elements. The word 'folklore' was coined in 1846 by British scholar William Thoms, and there are literally countless examples. (They are generally a bit more realistic than 'fairy tale' stories.)
Contemporary folklore continues to flourish, often in the guise of 'urban legends.' More controversially, tales such as Bigfoot and UFO encounters might be considered modern folklore.
International folklore is fantastically rich and diverse, with professional and scholarly folklorists helping to collect and share it all. Neil Gaiman's novels American Gods and Anansi Boys retell traditional west African folk tales, and connect them to the modern world.
Old European folklore is especially familiar in the USA and much of the world, due to its widespread dissemination. The story of Robin Hood is a famous example. (Scholars such as Joseph Campbell sought deeper meaning from such enduring tales.)

Frame Story literature is an entirely descriptive category, referring to a story-within-a-story, in which a main character tells another a fascinating story (or many). There are numerous ancient and medieval examples, such as the Arabian One Thousand and One Nights. William Goldman's novel and movie The Princess Bride is framed by a story-telling grandfather.

Frat Lit or Fratire is quite new (as a genre), and began in response to the popularity of 'chick lit.' Despite its name, this genre doesn't usually focus on fraternity life, though often carrying such an irreverent flavor. It focuses on male behavior, often presenting things in a fictional style that would otherwise be found offensive. By far the most popular example is Tucker Max's novel I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell. The movie Animal House, from John Landis, is a well-known spoof of fraternity life.

Gothic Fiction is a huge descriptive category. Traditionally it overlaps with, indeed combines, elements of 'horror' and 'romance' genre tales. The oldest example is probably Horace Walpole's 1764 novel The Castle of Otranto. The literary term 'atmospheric' is tied with this genre, also an emphasis on emotion over rationality. Goston Leroux's novel The Phantom of the Opera is a classic example, and Diane Setterfield's The Thirteenth Tale a modern one.

Historical fiction is a vast and widely-inclusive category, overlapping every other genre. Anything in the past: places and events and people and more, can be included. This genre contains stories written about the past (usually, set beyond living memory), as contrasted with literature written in the past. The Boston Girl, by Anita Diamant, is an oft-cited example.

Historiographical Metafiction is a scholarly designation, with an equally complicated description. Basically it injects modern ideas and attitudes into the past, often retelling history in a new way, as narrative and/or within the characters or something else. Michael Ondaatje's novel The English Patient is one example. Matthew Reilly's 'thriller' novels, such as The Temple, grant medieval characters a wholly modern style and mindset.

Holiday (vacation)
Holiday genre stories are focused on those special days and times, especially Christmas. Most of these are positive in outlook, reflecting the history and character of those memorable days. Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol is a favorite example, and Max Lucado's The Christmas Candle another. The movie Planes, Trains and Automobiles, from John Hughes, is a heartfelt example, centered on a journey home for Thanksgiving.
Vacation stories are, of course, set during that (hopefully enjoyable) leisure travel activity. Many are humorous, but they can overlap with several genres, even 'horror.' K. K. Beck's "Iris Cooper & Jack Clancy" novels overlap with the 'mystery' genre. National Lampoon's "Vacation" movies are famous 'comedic' examples.

Hollywood genre stories center around that locus of fictional production and false-front lives. Such novels appeared in the 1930s, almost as soon as the movie-making industry, with its popular stars, got rolling. An early example is Serenade, by James M. Cain. Several of James Ellroy's and Elmore Leonard's popular 'Hollywood' novels were themselves made into movies.


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