Sunday, October 21, 2012

At the Editor’s Desk

Scenario: a friend has just approached you, explained that he has heard that you are a writer, and asked you to review and critique his book. Your first reaction is probably a hasty fabrication of some general remark to make on the book, such as ‘your style is very original,’ or ‘the story was an easy read’—something definite enough to convince your friend that you actually read his book and sufficiently foggy to allow you to retain him as your friend.

The art of constructive criticism isn’t an easy one. Yet, take the personal element out of it, and you are still no nearer the goal of objectively determining whether a book is good or not. You probably have a whole list of favourite books, but can you say exactly what it is about the books that makes you love them? And we all know that there are two kinds of‘good’ books: those that are snapped up by the masses and are usually cranked out in series of seventy volumes or so and those that the elite critics (e.g. those who review books for a living) approve—usually dull, depressing, or difficult to make sense of, and almost never as popular among ordinary people as the first kind are.

This conundrum is easily explained by the fact that there are two ways of judging a book. In the editors' own opinion, there is only one way, but we will explain the two commonly-recognised methods first.

Popular books are judged by how much amusement they afford the reader. People like books that are fun to read and don’t take too many brain cells to digest. But critics judge a book by how well the author wrote it—his techniques, special effects, and over-all writing style. A very well-written book may not be terribly amusing.

But, in our opinion, there is one way to judge a book: by whether or not you like it. A book does not have to be popular or well-written for you to like it, and if you do not like it, it does not necessarily matter to you if it is on the New York Times best sellers list or the Princeton Review.

In the first place, a book must not be judged as an inanimate thing. You might judge its dust jacket, or its cover photograph, or its type of paper as in and of themselves inanimate components, but even in this you may misjudge a book. (We dislike to digress, but we would mention that we’ve judged paperback copies or hardcovers bound in gaudy colours, such as orange, or with silly-looking pictures on the fronts rather severely and later regretted it, for we’ve found wonderful friends in books with even these handicaps.)

You ought to judge a book as you would a person. A person can help some of his faults but not all of them, and the greater part of his faults are faults only in your own eyes: to another person they may be mere eccentricities. A book, too, has faults and eccentricities, but these do not necessarily prevent you from being friends with a book. We have never found a book that we could sincerely say was without fault, although we’re still looking for such a phenomenon. Likewise, although we say it with hesitation knowing this article will be read by several of our friends, we have never met a person without fault, either. we like people with their faults and in spite of them, because otherwise we should not be able to like anyone (and because we know that, unless they did the same by us, we should be very unpopular people).

And unless we liked books with faults, we would never be able to like any books at all. Most people understand this principle. What people do not understand so readily is a very subtle, and yet important, operation that nearly every thing performs in one way or another. This operation has not been scientifically analysed as yet, and has been named by the expression (in default of a better) that a thing ‘grows on you’.

The odd idea of a sort of cannibalistic process exerted on one creature by another is so bizarre that it would be repelling were it not quite accurate. When something ‘grows on you,’ it becomes a part of you. We have met many books (to say nothing of people) whom we did not take a particular liking to first off, but which after a while we came to love dearly. When this happens, it is usually not because the book (or person) has changed in any way, but because we ourselves changed in the way we saw things and interpreted them.

We must take a case in point. We once read a book which, when we started it, we did not expect to like at all because we knew from the first page on (or perhaps even sooner) exactly how it was going to end—the sort of story that one would call predictable. However, when we did get to the end (and it ended as we had expected), we found that we had enjoyed the story immensely and that the book had become one of our favourites. Our great mistake was focusing on one shortcoming of the book instead of taking the story as a whole.

The reason why we could predict the end of the story was because it treated commonly over-treated themes, such as war, forgiveness, and ethnic misunderstanding; and, because we’d read many books which treated the same themes in the same way, we had a fair idea of what would happen in the story.

And in this case we were right, but we weren’t upset by the fact. We might have been more upset if the author had not followed the basic formula. In the first place, the story worked well because it was a children’s story, and children are not so well versed in predicting endings as more experienced readers are. Because it was a children’s story the themes needed to be treated in a simple, easily-understood way—the way they are most often treated in stories (i.e. the little girl learns that not all Germans are bad). The story itself was a simple, straightforward tale (and in case you want to know, it is called The Little Riders, by Magaretha Shemin); the author did not intend to show off her superior skills in convoluted plot or modern style, she only intended to tell a good story.

Most importantly, the story had a happy ending. While we are in favour of surprise endings, we don’t like a surprise ending at the expense of a good story. Authors often attempt to surprise the reader by making things turn out differently than they usually do in books. The author may marry the heroine to someone other than the hero, or the author may kill off a character and really kill him off, thereby disappointing any readers who may fondly await his miraculous return at the end of the story. We enjoy these surprises occasionally, but sometimes they completely spoil the story and, what is more, the majority of readers would agree with us. For example, if we may take an example from an actual story, if the hero has been disinherited in favour of the villain, it is not likely that anyone will be particularly pleased to find out at the end of the story that the villain is not really the villain after all—it may surprise the reader, but the reader will be disappointed that the hero can’t get his ancestral estate (or title, or millions, etc.) back.

But even this sort of unsatisfactory surprise may be a success if it works well in the story. The main thing is that you must take a book as a whole; you cannot take it apart like a vivisectionist or you will lose the delicate vitality of the thing. Look at it in context; look at it as a living, dynamic entity; and don’t necessarily judge it by other books you’ve read.

But we our sure you are wanting a practical guide to critiquing a book, or what will you tell your friend? So far everything we’ve said applies to determining whether or not you like a book. But when asked to critique a book, your ultimate goal is to like it and all that is required is your advice as to how the author may arrive at that goal. Keep in mind that it is difficult to maintain a balance between trying to help an author make his book better and trying to make an author write the book the way you want it. It is helpful to have a list of things to look for so that you can adequately represent the author’s audience without taking over his job of writing the book.

Whenever we don’t like a book, it is usually because it lacks one (or more) of three things: a strong beginning, likeable characters, or a satisfactory end. But we do not mind boring-ness and extraneous material and many readers do, so we may as well add two other items to the tally and list five important requirements for a book.

A Compelling Introduction
The very first lines of a book should catch the reader’s attention and hold it tightly. A book does not have to start out suspenseful, but it should be interesting and make the reader want to read more. If your friend’s story does not catch your interest at the very outset, kindly suggest that he revise it.

A Strong Beginning
Most readers want to know where the story is going so that they know whether or not they really want to keep reading it. A good, obvious problem in the story helps them see where the story is headed, as well as a few plot direction indicators, such as either/or choices the main character must make, supplementary problems, and moments of discovery.

A Solid Plot
Though the story may amble about a bit, it should basically stick to what the story is about, or the reader may become bored or lost.

Likeable Characters
These are what make the editors personally like a book or dislike it. The author may make any mistake he chooses and we will still like the book if the characters are loveable. On the other hand, if we don’t like the characters, it doesn’t make much difference to us how wonderful the rest of the story may be.

A Happy Ending
Almost everybody loves a happy ending. It is not required in a story, but very preferable. The ending should make the reader feel that the problems are solved, the characters are happy, and the story’s potential is realised.

You will notice that many of these points have to do with the beginning of the story. The beginning is the crucial part, because that is what most people read first. If the reader doesn’t like the beginning, he is not likely to press on. The characters (at least some of them), the problem, and the over-all style of the story are introduced at the beginning, and those are three of the most important factors of a book.

The happy ending is probably the third most important part, after the characters and the beginning. One book came very close to receiving five stars from the author of this article, but its anti-climactic ending cost it the perfect rating. The ending must live up to the rest of the book because that is what most people read last and that is the impression of the book that they are left with.

Obviously, what you like in a book may not be what someone else likes, but criticism is rarely, if ever, objective. It is subject to the opinions of the odd, erratic, and very subjective people who produce it—that is, everybody. But criticism is a high and lofty art to which few have attained with credit. Let the noble aim of honourable criticism be yours as you pursue your editorial career.

Monday, October 15, 2012

The Lost Idea

By Clinton Bean

This week I did a thing rather rare for me — I picked up a newspaper. Newspapers have always been rather depressing things in my opinion, and more so in the last few years. But I have always felt that anything one reads, be it fiction, non-fiction, media, or anything else, should change one’s opinion of the world. And this newspaper succeeded in doing this. The article I read was by a prominent journalist, a man of no poor talent and, I think, no small audacity, to propose the question which he did. The question thus propounded was this; ‘What happens when the government replaces God?’ Though, as I have admitted, I rarely touch newspapers, I have seen enough of them to know that I have never personally encountered the word ‘God’ in any of them — which fact is what made me read this article in the first place. The piece itself was, admittedly, lacking in literary merit, but there is little to expect in the modern journalistic age, and overall, it was fairly written. But it was the theme and content, more than the style, that changed the way I view the world. It made me more of an optimist. It supported a theory that I have had for a long time but have not had supported by very many of the great thinkers around me. The world is not as bad as all that. I can and, more increasingly of late, have believed this world and the people in it capable of many things. Among the philosophers, the theologians, the thinkers and the average good-hearted people with whom I have the privilege to associate myself, one thought have I encountered repeatedly and with crescent incidence; the pessimistic idea that the world grows daily worse and, outside of our own circles, there is ‘None that doeth good, no not one.’ This last is an unstated theory rather than a declared truth — or even a declared hypothesis. But one can see a grave thing growing in conservative and especially Christian conservative circles. It is not so much pessimism, for pessimism is not as grave as a pessimist should like to believe. This thing is not so much an idea as a lack of ideas, not so much a feeling as a lack of feeling, not so much a realisation as the total absence of it. It is a missing hope, a missing faith, a missing meaning and a missing ideal. The good people of this age have forgotten that there are good people. And sometimes I’m inclined to think they have forgotten there is a good God. I have never believed in the inherent goodness of man. It is a crazy thing to think when one looks at the real world. The idea of inherent goodness began with a flawed idea of goodness. When man ceased to believe that goodness was determined by God, then and only then did man commence to believe that man is good. But if man decides what goodness is, there is no possible way for him not to be good. That is just the point — man is bad before God, but immensely good before himself. A snake may make a very good snake, but it makes a very poor human. But I also eschew the inherent badness of man; and by this I mean, not that man has not sinned and fallen, nor that all men have sinned and fallen, but that man cannot be completely bad for one simple reason. He was made in the image of God. He has parts of God’s nature in him, as small as they may be. One knows it when he revels in the glory of a sunset. One feels it when he gloats in the smells of autumn. The fact that a man knows what is beautiful and what is good displays that man possesses a part of something it is not too unthinkable to call the soul of God. But in these modern days, men have forgotten this. My inspiration the journalist who proposed this great intellectual question has a good point near the end of his article, when he says; ‘Americans need to get right with God.’ The world needs to get right with God. But there is something in its way. The problem is not so much that we have lost the knowledge or even the respect of God, though I certainly believe we have. More than this, we have lost the idea of God. What is this idea? The idea of a justice and a truth that transcends all others, the idea that there is One who can determine goodness and is not held by any law of the world. In earlier human history, men who did not have the true God made up their own. But today this has fallen from the world. Children grow up without the idea in their heads. They can’t get their minds around it. It has become too big for all of us, and with this, or perhaps in consequence of this, our minds have grown smaller. In a way, people of this day have made their own gods. They are polytheists, worshipping the fashions and the ideas and the persons of the people we call ‘celebrities’ but might as well call ‘deities.’ The ancient Romans and Greeks had gods and goddesses who were exalted men and women with great powers. Our modern celebrities lack the powers but have the looks, the wealth — and the worshippers. But in one way these people cannot take the place of gods for us, for they are only people. The gods invented by the druids or the Romans had powers of some sort. All our gods today have is money. And they do nothing for the people that worship them except, once in a while, dole out money to charities that, most of the time, are not worth supporting. We have lost the idea of God because we have lost the idea that we need one. We are basically capable. I don’t even think that men believe they are basically good anymore. They have realised, as the rational conclusion of a sinful worldview would have inevitably made them realise, that they don’t have to be good. They see that there is no need to be good. All they have to be is basically capable. Like H.G. Wells’ aliens, the only point of life from here forward is continual growth towards greater efficiency. So that is the mind of man. As G. K. Chesterton said, we have ‘thought back to thought itself’ and we have been led into ‘thinking there is nothing but thought.’ But there is more than thought, and it is called the soul of man. A man can live in his mind, but such a life is a pointless existence with no real destination except for great intelligence. But intelligence is useless with nowhere to go. If, however, the soul of man is to go up, it must only go to God. And I believe that there is a soul in most people. All they must do is find it. I can only thank the audacious journalist for revealing at least one thing that I truly benefited from learning. There is a real person in the world. And I know, as a result, that there are more somewhere.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Genre: a Classification

‘Genre’ is the general term used in reference to the broad and interesting study of the classification of stories--'literary genre' more specifically, and 'fictional literary genre' to be quite correct.

Classification is an art form and--as the basic tool of the artist is a pencil, and that of the architect a compass--the basic tool of the taxonomist is a list. Thus we chose to employ the form of an alphabetical list to discuss the subject of genre in this article. It must be said, however, that, desirable as this approach may be, a problem is created by it, and before we commence we will take a moment to treat this problem.

A list, though wondrously helpful in many ways, still suffers from the disability of being one-dimensional. Even the Venn diagram cannot achieve complete accuracy when it comes to classifying multi-faceted ideas or objects. Perhaps no list-maker has such a difficult profession as the biological taxonomist, not because living plants and animals are so difficult to place in categories, but because they are so hard to place in only one. The platypus and the venus flytrap are two notable examples.

Stories are difficult to list for the same reason: they often cannot be placed in only one category because they are fluid entities, constantly changing and combining many characteristics of other different ‘kinds’ of stories. One single story may fit into many different genres. Moby Dick, for instance, may be considered a sea story, an historical novel, a philosophical treatise, a collection of essays, or all of the above. Genres, too, often fit into multiple categories. In order to be as exhaustive as possible, we chose to list some of these genres more than once.

But, you may ask, apart from the avid love of the born taxonomist to list any and every thing, is it really necessary to classify stories into genres? Are there any beneficial results?

To both questions we reply in the affirmative. For instance, suppose your friend tells you that he has just read an excellent book and suggests that you read it also. Naturally, you would like to know just a little about the book, so that you can determine whether it is worth your while to read it. Without telling you the whole story, your friend can give you a fair idea of the type of book it is by simply telling you what genre it falls under. If he tells you that the book is a detective story, you will know that it contains certain elements, such as suspense, crime, and an astute forensic brain, that all detective stories include. This is the reason for classification of any sort: to make information easier to convey by condensing it into a term.

Because there is no official list of literary genres, our own product is highly subjective. In our research we came across many and varied genres, from those that encompassed a broad range of story types to those that were so highly specialized as to include only one or two books. In the last hundred years especially, literary experimentation has added many new forms and techniques, some bordering on the bizarre and some going rather further than the expression implies. We chose to list only the genres which were represented by well-known works of literature and which we and our readers would be familiar with.

We also felt it in the interests of readers and writers to list as genres writing styles that are represented by large portions of literature: e.g. sea stories. One might as easily have a desert story as a sea story, but there are hundreds of well-known sea stories, while desert stories are more scarce.

In order to simplify the list as much as possible, we have chosen to list the many different genres under four main types that all other types in the list seemed to fall under. Under these are the major genres, which often contain many sub-genres, and these in turn sometimes contain their own mini-sub-genres. We were forced by necessity to invent some names for genres that existed but which had not been officially named. We also claimed the right of pioneers and expeditionists to discover and name a few genres of our own.

The reader may notice that we did not include any age-related genres, such as ‘children’s,’ ‘adult,’ or ‘young-adult.’ This is because for a large section of classic literature the distinction between an adult’s story and a children’s story is so fine as to be difficult to discern and in some books is non-existent. In other words, the best books are those that anyone, of any age or sex or nationality, can enjoy.

Adventure genres tell a story. They are not as concerned about the actual people and setting as they are with the plot--will the hero conquer? The people and settings do play a major role in some adventure genres, though--such as westerns or romance novels. By far the largest group of genres, adventure satisfies the desire of the majority of the public for a simple ‘good story.’
1. Action-Adventure
Action-packed genres appeal to males of all ages, but especially to boys between the ages of twelve and eighteen. This type of genre usually includes much shooting and explosions, high-speed chases, and hardened criminals. Action could also fall under the heading of ‘thriller’ because of the high-adrenaline factor, but unlike many thrillers, a good action story focuses on the plot and incorporates a sense of the adventurous and heroic.
a. Battleground
Set either during a war or in hostile territory, battle adventures provide plenty of opportunities for bomb blasts and other loud and exciting noises, not to mention gore and macho-ness. b. Graphic
Also known as ‘comic books,’ graphic novels are almost always action-adventures. Brightly-coloured pictures and speech bubbles with liberal exclamation points facilitate fast-paced reading.
c. Sea
Of all action genres, sea stories tend to make the most use of setting. The sea has its own mood and mystery that have fascinated people since the beginning of time. The ocean and the elements create excitement and danger enough even without the addition of sharks and buccaneers.
i. Pirate
Constitutes a large portion of sea stories. The author personally does not consider any nautical story complete without pirates.
ii. Submarine
Not so common, but a definite group by merit of Jules Vernes’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea and copious world war spy and saboteur fiction.
d. Sports
An exception to the rule of shooting and criminals, the sports genre depends on team spirit and individual prowess to create suspense and excitement. A common feature is a moment of final suspense in which the protagonist has an opportunity to either win or lose the game. Sports stories are, however, handicapped by the lack of a life-and-death struggle and dearth of large and dangerous weapons, and the author personally finds them dull. But their place in literature is cemented by such illustrious representatives of the genre as the poem ‘Casey at the Bat,’ and Rudyard Kipling’s The Maltese Cat.
e. Western
Setting is important in westerns, but does not usually play such a dynamic role as it does in sea stories--westerns are always set in the American West, but they are more typically identified by gun slinging and red indians.
2. Ballad Typically both rhyme and melody are used to tell a story when it is written in ballad form, but in the resurgence of ballad-writing during the nineteenth century ballads were commonly written as poems without music.
3. Fantasy
Fantasy is probably among the oldest of literary genres and is characterised by liberal use of the imagination and a suspension of recognised rules of science.
a. Allegory
Uses a fictional setting and characters as mediums to convey spiritual truths.
b. Fairy Tales
Fairy tales tend to take an extremely simplistic view of the world. The people and rules in them are easily understood and stay fairly the same. Fairy tales deal with the real world, improving and populating it from the rich stock of the imagination.
c. Folk Tales
Markedly similar to fairy tales, folk tales often focus less on the actual story and more on a lesson to be derived from it.
d. Nonsense
Nonsense almost always takes place in a fictional setting. More on nonsense later.
e. Sword and Stone
We give this title to a genre of whose name we are uncertain. The genre is that most commonly meant when the term ‘fantasy’ is used: its distinguishing characteristics are alternate worlds, magic, and a quasi-mediaeval setting. The most obvious difference between fairy tales and ‘grown-up’ fantasy (the author’s term for this genre) is the preference of children for the former and of older youths and adults for the latter. Fairy tales are also usually set in an actual (though usually vague) location--they take place in the real world; while fantasy is almost always set in a fictional ‘world’ with its own set of rules. ‘Sword and stone’ fantasy tends to afford action, suspense, and an alternate reality as its primary attractions--often at the expense of strong plot and good writing style.
4. Historical Fiction
When writing historical fiction, an author can either take a certain historical period or event and write a story about it, or he can write the story first and set it against a historical backdrop. The former method is usually employed by educationalists who desire to instil a certain amount of knowledge into their readers; such stories tend to lack originality and to follow predictable patterns (e.g. Jews in Warsaw in WWII must escape being sent to a concentration camp; brothers meet in battle on opposing sides in the American Civil War; British soldier mistreats helpless patriot boy in American Revolution.)
a. Biography
When the author desires to write about a certain individual or event, and endeavours to make it interesting by creating a story about it centred around a fictional character, the results tend to be mediocre at best. (However, two notable exceptions are Scott’s Waverly and Stevenson’s Kidnapped.) If this approach is used, the author must take great care that his plot and characterisations are strong and that the story does not rely on its historical aspect to recommend it.
b. War
Most war stories are set against a historical background, whether or not the primary intent of the author was to educate his readers or not. Wars appeal to authors because they are times of great upheaval and change, providing excellent story material.
i. Home Front
Sometimes the purpose of home front stories is simply to tell what life was like for those living at home during the war--air raids excepted, somewhat tame matter. But with a little innovation this type of story can be very exciting, and the home front has excellent potential as a setting for spy stories.
ii. Nazi
Perhaps because of its immensity and far-reaching repercussions, the second world war has had a monopoly on popular media. Possibly this popularity is due to the aura of the Nazi regime: a force supreme, scientific, insensate, demented, morally degenerate--in short, wholly evil. Nazis figure predominately in World War II literature, to the extent that we felt justified in dedicating a sub-genre to them.
iii. Propaganda
War propaganda can work two ways: it can influence people to support armed struggle, or it can try to convert them to pacifism. Rarely does propaganda take its place among the classics, but Erich Maria Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front is one instance of its success.
iv. Spy
Discussed below.
5. Suspense
Like thriller fiction, the main aim of suspense is to keep the reader turning pages, sometimes sacrificing plot or logical sense to this goal. The following three sub-genres could (and have been) successfully combined, but are distinct forms, nevertheless.
a. Detective
Detective fiction almost always involves crime--the most common forms are murder or theft (usually bank robbery or jewel theft), with kidnapping or political intrigue being an occasional variation.
b. Mystery
A very broad genre, mystery includes and can be combined with many other types. Its main characteristic is a secret that the protagonist is trying to discover the truth about.
c. Spy
Spy and saboteur fiction follows a less structured form than detective fiction--with varied results ranging from Ian Fleming’s James Bond to The Spy Who Came in from the Cold.
6. Romance
The traditional meaning of romance is a sense of the adventurous, unusual, and idealised. It does not always (but often does) include love-making.
a. Brigand
These are idealised tales of robbers like Robin Hood or Rob Roy. They are often less than moralistic as the thief is generally the hero.
b. Cloak and Dagger
A personal favourite of the author, the cloak and dagger genre capitalises on the exciting and heroic, often with the result of being unrealistic (but enjoyable anyway).
c. Lost World
Stories of strange and exotic places lost in time or tucked away in remote locations fall into this category.
d. Monarchy
Neither presidents nor dictators will ever usurp the role royalty plays in literature. Kings, princesses, and conspiring dukes are still as popular now as they ever were.
e. Quest
Many of the tales of King Arthur and his knights follow the form of the quest story. The hero is searching for something important to him and the story is about his adventures along the way and his eventual success.
f. Swash-Buckler
Swash-Bucklers take a variety of forms but their main common characteristic is the idealisation of courage, audacity, irresponsibility, and swank.
7. Saga
A saga is a lengthy (and often leisurely) account of the adventures of an individual or even a whole family.
8. Science Fiction
A classic example of a misnomer, science fiction consists of far more fiction than science. Being purely speculative, this genre might easily be classified under fantasy, but because of its breadth, we chose to list it separately.
a. Alien
The ‘little green men’ have figured prominently in horror/thriller/sci fi stories since extraterrestrials appeared in Woking, England in H. G. Wells’s The War of the Worlds (although Wells’s Martians were not green).
b. Futurist
Many sub-genres fall under futurist fiction, including dystopian (discussed later). We’ve listed only two.
i. Apocalyptic
Relating to the end times, whether the story agrees with the biblical accounts or not.
ii. Nuclear Warfare
Stories in this genre typically end in universal destruction.
c. Machine/Invention
Generally include the added attraction of mad scientists.
d. Psycho
Could include elements such as hypnosis, mind-altering drugs, or even alter egos, as in Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
e. Space Travel
f. Time Travel
These two are occasionally used in conjunction, but are typically either/or.
9. Survival
Survival stories have always been popular--one of the first English novels, Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe, falls into this genre.
10. Travel
Travel stories tend to focus either on exotic places or cultures, or on interesting modes of transportation. Jules Verne’s classic, Around the World in Eighty Days, incorporates both.
a. Air Ship
A definite sub-genre owing to the many stories (such as Twenty-One Balloons by William Pene du Bois and Tom Sawyer Abroad by Mark Twain) centring around this type of travel.
b. Explorer

Unlike adventure stories, life stories focus less on the actual story and more on the people or setting of the story.
1. Animal Story
Includes stories in which an animal is either the main character or integral to the plot.
2. Cultural
This genre contains stories set in a certain ethnic location, usually in order to introduce the readers to that culture. Sometimes this genre is combined with historical fiction.
3. Didactic
Includes stories expressly designed to teach a lesson or point a moral--generally for the benefit of children.
4. Drama
This would include stories that are intended to be acted out, with or without the accompaniment of music. (Not all forms are listed.)
a. Musical
b. Opera
c. Play
d. Pantomime
5. Historic
Historical fiction also falls under this heading, if the story is not intended to convey events so much as to create a broad idea of what life was like at a certain period.
6. Hollywood
Although Hollywood has utilised many genres in its film-making career, this specific genre is restricted to films or novels about the making of motion pictures or the people who make them. This genre is surprisingly popular and is represented by well-known authors, such as Francis Scott Fitzgerald in his novel, The Last Tycoon.
7. Life
The author was unable to find a more specific name for this genre, which includes an extremely broad range of story types. Some representatives are The Moffats (Eleanor Estes), Understood Betsy (Dorothy Canfield Fisher), Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen), and How Green Was My Valley (Richard Llewellyn). These stories chronicle the life and daily experiences of an individual or group of individuals. Common themes are growing up, family and friend relationships, poverty versus riches, and a personal worldview.
a. Coming of Age
b. Family
c. School
8. Love Story
Love and marriage are such popular themes that they figure in almost every type of story, but so numerous are stories whose sole purpose is to tell about people falling in love that an entire genre is allocated to them.

Authors often take an idea or belief and embody it in a fictional story. The story can be enjoyed either for its own sake or for the ideas presented in it. Many of the most well-known (though not necessarily the most popular) novels are philosophical works.
1. Comedy/Tragedy These two types of fiction are surprisingly similar, both aimed mainly at the reader’s emotions, and often intended to influence his ideas through the medium of his feelings.
a. Comedy
Almost all stories contain some humour, but comedic stories capitalise on laughter and are almost always popular.
i. Black Comedy
Generally gives a sardonic twist to themes not particularly funny.
ii. Humour
The simple ‘make ‘em laugh’ stories: P. G. Wodehouse and Jerome K. Jerome are notable humorous authors.
iii. Nonsense
Though occasionally philosophical, nonsense more commonly falls into the category of pure mental experiment. Nonsense authors have few aims besides simply amusing themselves and their readers with the odd things they think up.
iv. Parody
A delicate art form, parody pokes fun at a recognised institution, individual, book, etc.; often through mimicry.
v. Satire
Jonathon Swift, Charles Dickens, and William Makepeace Thackeray are among the more famous writers of satire, making fun of the hypocrisies and social ills of their day in an effort to bring about reform.
vi. Slapstick
More commonly a film genre, slapstick is humour on the lowest level of human intelligence--but when done well, it can be quite funny.
b. Tragedy
Sometimes even more influential than comedy, tragedy is surprisingly enjoyable in familiar examples such as Shakespeare’s Hamlet.
2. Dystopian
Far more common than utopian literature (which is generally non-fictional, as there are few problems or conflicts involved), dystopian fiction presents a seemingly-perfect environment which, as the story progresses, is revealed to be less than ideal. Dystopian fiction, as in George Orwell’s 1984, is characterised by repressive government, anti-individuality, and a futuristic setting.
3. Epic
A traditional epic is a story written in heroic meter and which spans twelve books. Few traditional epics have been written, but the term has become descriptive of books such as Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables or Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace--books which encompass broad and universal subjects.
4. Political
H. G. Wells, George Bernard Shaw, and many other authors used their books to promote their political views.
5. Social Commentary
Many of Dickens’s novels fall into this category, as he analyzed broad slices of social strata in his writing.

Thrillers differ from pure adventure novels in that thrillers have few objects other than that of providing an adrenaline rush. Plot, characters, and even setting are of secondary importance. Some adventure genres fall into the thriller category if their sensational aspect is emphasized more than their storylines.
1. Action
a. Gangster
Especially popular as radio serials in the 1930s and 40s, gangster stories are usually set in New York City or Chicago. b. Nazi
c. Spy
Both genres have been discussed already and, unfortunately, both tend to lean more towards the sensational than towards the solid story. 2. Ghost
Hamlet’s father’s ghost, Julius Caesar’s ghost, Banquo’s ghost, Marley’s ghost--all literary spooks who have achieved legendary status. Ghosts seem to haunt the pages of classic literature in uncanny fashion. They always provide a thrill, which is perhaps why they are not always unwelcome--at least to the reader.
3. Horror
Fiction that capitalises on the hair-raising factor certainly does create thrills and, though the author is not among their number, there are many avid readers of horror.
a. Apocalypse
b. Curse of the Pharaoh
Popular after the discovery of the Egyptian tombs, ‘curse’ literature soon incorporated imprecations of long-deceased monarchs of other ancient civilisations as well.
c. Dream
Dream fiction, being erratic, tends to be more unsettling than frightening.
d. Gothic
Popular in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, gothic fiction incorporates both fanciful and realistic elements. Some of its more notable elements are family curses, secret passages, and swooning heroines (and, on occasion, heroes!!).
e. Insane
One of Edgar Allen Poe’s favourite genres, insane or psycho horror plays on the public’s fear of maniacs. The Fall of the House of Usher and The Telltale Heart are two of Poe’s insanity stories.
f. Monster/Mummy
g. Murder/Suicide Mystery
h. Sci Fi Horror
Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein was written as a horror story but is now considered one of the first science fictions. ‘Sci fi’ can fall into many different groups depending on the author’s main aim: whether it be, as in Mary Shelley’s case, to simply frighten the reader; out of a genuine love of science (Jules Verne, Journey to the Centre of the Earth); mere mental experimentation (H. G. Wells, The Time Machine); or simply a desire for a good story (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The Lost World).

Much as the author dislikes to end an article on an unpleasant note, alphabetical order dictates thus. Here, then, we close our study of genre and story classification. While no story is likely to fall under one single genre or sub-genre, the elements that characterise certain types of stories are important to learn in order for the aspiring author to either incorporate or intentionally diverge from them in his own writing. -A.P ♔