(California Department of Education)

All Fiction

  • Drama — Stories composed in verse or prose, usually for theatrical performance, where conflicts and emotion are expressed through dialogue and action.
  • Fable — Narration demonstrating a useful truth, especially in which animals speak as humans; legendary, supernatural tale.
  • Fairy Tale — Story about fairies or other magical creatures, usually for children.
  • Fantasy — Fiction with strange or other worldly settings or characters; fiction which invites suspension of reality.
  • Fiction — Narrative literary works whose content is produced by the imagination and is not necessarily based on fact.
  • Fiction in Verse — Full-length novels with plot, subplot(s), theme(s), major and minor characters, in which the narrative is presented in (usually blank) verse form.
  • Folklore — The songs, stories, myths, and proverbs of a people or “folk” as handed down by word of mouth.
  • Historical Fiction — Stories with fictional characters and events in a historical setting.
  • Horror — Fiction in which events evoke a feeling of dread in both the characters and the reader.
  • Humor — Fiction full of un, fancy, and excitement, meant to entertain; but can be contained in all genres.
  • Legend — Story, sometimes of a national or folk hero, which has a basis in fact but also includes imaginative material.
  • Mystery — Fiction dealing with the solution of a crime or the unraveling of secrets.
  • Mythology — Legend or traditional narrative, often based in part on historical events, that reveals human behavior and natural phenomena by its symbolism; often pertaining to the actions of the gods.
  • Poetry — Verse and rhythmic writing with imagery that creates emotional responses.
  • Realistic Fiction — Story that can actually happen and is true to life.
  • Science Fiction — Story based on impact of actual, imagined, or potential science, usually set in the future or on other planets.
  • Short Story — Fiction of such brevity that it supports no subplots.
  • Tall Tale — Humorous story with blatant exaggerations, swaggering heroes who do the impossible with nonchalance.

All Nonfiction

  • Biography/Autobiography — Narrative of a person’s life, a true story about a real person.
  • Essay — A short literary composition that reflects the author’s outlook or point.
  • Narrative Nonfiction — Factual information presented in a format which tells a story.
  • Nonfiction — Informational text dealing with an actual, real-life subject.
  • Speech — Public address or discourse.



Main Genres

  • Action – Usually include high energy, big-budget physical stunts and chases, possibly with rescues, battles, fights, escapes, destructive crises (floods, explosions, natural disasters, fires, etc.), non-stop motion, spectacular rhythm and pacing, and adventurous, often two-dimensional ‘good-guy’ heroes (or recently, heroines) battling ‘bad guys’ – all designed for pure audience escapism.
  • Adventure – Exciting stories, with new experiences or exotic locales, very similar to or often paired with the action film genre.
  • Comedy – Light-hearted plots consistently and deliberately designed to amuse and provoke laughter (with one-liners, jokes, etc.) by exaggerating the situation, the language, action, relationships and characters.
  • Crime & Gangster – Developed around the sinister actions of criminals or mobsters, particularly bankrobbers, underworld figures, or ruthless hoodlums who operate outside the law, stealing and murdering their way through life.
  • Drama – Serious, plot-driven presentations, portraying realistic characters, settings, life situations, and stories involving intense character development and interaction. Usually, they are not focused on special-effects, comedy, or action.
  • Epics/Historical – Take a historical or imagined event, mythic, legendary, or heroic figure, and add an extravagant setting and lavish costumes, accompanied by grandeur and spectacle, dramatic scope, high production values, and a sweeping musical score.
  • Horror – Designed to frighten and to invoke our hidden worst fears, often in a terrifying, shocking finale, while captivating and entertaining us at the same time in a cathartic experience.
  • Musicals/Dance – Cinematic forms that emphasize full-scale scores or song and dance routines in a significant way (usually with a musical or dance performance integrated as part of the film narrative), or they are films that are centered on combinations of music, dance, song or choreography.
  • Science Fiction – Often quasi-scientific, visionary and imaginative – complete with heroes, aliens, distant planets, impossible quests, improbable settings, fantastic places, great dark and shadowy villains, futuristic technology, unknown and unknowable forces, and extraordinary monsters (‘things or creatures from space’), either created by mad scientists or by nuclear havoc.
  • War – Acknowledge the horror and heartbreak of war, letting the actual combat fighting (against nations or humankind) on land, sea, or in the air provide the primary plot or background for the action of the film.
  • Westerns – A eulogy to the early days of the expansive American frontier.


  • Biopics. . These films depict the life of an important historical personage (or group) from the past or present era. It covers many other genres.
  • Chick Flicks. Include formulated romantic comedies (with mis-matched lovers or female relationships), tearjerkers and gal-pal films, movies about family crises and emotional carthasis, some traditional ‘weepies’ and fantasy-action adventures, sometimes with foul-mouthed and empowered females, and female bonding situations involving families, mothers, daughters, children, women, and women’s issues. These films are often told from the female P-O-V, and star a female protagonist or heroine.
  • Detective/Mystery. Focuses on the unsolved crime (usually the murder or disappearance of one or more of the characters, or a theft), and on the central character – the hard-boiled detective-hero, as he/she meets various adventures and challenges in the cold and methodical pursuit of the criminal or the solution to the crime.
  • Disaster. Big-budget disaster films provided all-star casts and interlocking, Grand Hotel-type stories, with suspenseful action and impending crises (man-made or natural) in locales such as aboard imperiled airliners, trains, dirigibles, sinking or wrecked ocean-liners, or in towering burning skyscrapers, crowded stadiums or earthquake zones. Often noted for their visual and special effects, but not their acting performances.
  • Fantasy. Fantasies take the audience to netherworld places (or another dimension) where events are unlikely to occur in real life – they transcend the bounds of human possibility and physical laws. They often have an element of magic, myth, wonder, and the extraordinary.
  • Film Noir. Strictly speaking, film noir is not a genre, but rather the mood, style or tone of various American film. Noirs are usually black and white films with primary moods of melancholy, alienation, bleakness, disillusionment, disenchantment, pessimism, ambiguity, moral corruption, evil, guilt and paranoia.
  • Guy Films. Composed of macho films that are often packed with sophomoric humor, action, cartoon violence, competition, mean-spirited putdowns and gratuitous nudity and sex.
  • Melodramas/Weepers. Characterized by a plot to appeal to the emotions of the audience.
  • Road Films. An episodic journey on the open road (or undiscovered trail), to search for escape or to engage in a quest for some kind of goal — either a distinct destination, or the attainment of love, freedom, mobility, redemption, the finding or rediscovering of onself, or coming-of-age (psychologically or spiritually).
  • Romance. These are love stories, or affairs of the heart that center on passion, emotion, and the romantic, affectionate involvement of the main characters (usually a leading man and lady), and the journey that their love takes through courtship or marriage. Romance films make the love story the main plot focus.
  • Sports. Films that have a sports setting (football or baseball stadium, arena, or the Olympics, etc.), event (the ‘big game,’ ‘fight,’ ‘race,’ or ‘competition’), and/or athlete (boxer, racer, surfer, etc.) that are central and predominant in the story.
  • Supernatural. They have themes including gods or goddesses, ghosts, apparitions, spirits, miracles, and other similar ideas or depictions of extraordinary phenomena. Interestingly however, until recently, supernatural films were usually presented in a comical, whimsical, or a romantic fashion, and were not designed to frighten the audience.
  • Thriller/Suspense. They are types of films known to promote intense excitement, suspense, a high level of anticipation, ultra-heightened expectation, uncertainty, anxiety, and nerve-wracking tension.



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