What are the Types of Narrative Genres?

Narrative genres are a form of classification that one can sort literary works into through their stylistic choices. These stylistic elements may include characteristics such as theme, tropes, settings, character types, and structure. However, it is not uncommon for narrative pieces to fall into multiple genres, mainly if the work contains a multitude of subplots. Some types of narrative genres include:

  • Folklore and Fairy tale
  • Fable
  • Fantasy
  • Science Fiction
  • Romance

Folklore and Fairy Tales

Folklore is cultural tales shared by a particular group that contains traditions, proverbs, myths, and legends. These tales are part of their culture’s identity. Folklore is an ancient narrative genre, with its roots predating writing and being shared in oral storytelling and music.

Folklore deeply reflects a culture’s historical background, reflecting the traditions passed down through the generations. In addition, any folklore stories con

Some famous examples of folklore stories are:

‘Little Red Riding Hood’: This is a European folk tale about a young girl being pursued by a Big Bad Wolf, and records of this tale predate the 17thCentury. This tale demonstrates the dangers of the world beyond the safety of the village and how one should be careful.

‘Hansel and Gretel’: This is a German folk tale about a brother and sister attempting to escape the clutches of a witch. Some say this tale can be traced back to the 16th Century. This tale contains a similar message to Little Red Riding Hood and is a cautionary tale about the world’s dangers.

A fairy tale is a type of narrative genre that is a subgenre of Folklore. These stories are characterized by fantastical creatures such as dragons, elves, and talking animals and contain elements of magic. While some cultures do not distinguish between these two types of narrative genres, others do, characterizing fairy tales as being entirely fictional, having a pleased ending, and being ‘set once upon a time.’

Some famous examples of fairy tales include:

  • ‘Cinderella’ or ‘The Little Glass Slipper’: This fairy tale follows a girl called Cinderella who lives in poverty and is the victim of cruelties done to her by her evil stepmother and stepsisters. However, her circumstances change dramatically with her ascension to the throne and marriage to the prince. Cinderella has its roots in Ancient Egypt and is a quintessential fairy tale.
  • ‘Sleeping Beauty’: This classic fairy tale us about a princess who is cursed by an evil fairy to sleep for 100 years, but she is to be awakened by a handsome prince. The earliest known versions of this narrative are dated around 1330. This is another fairy tale that employs the classic fairy tale trope of defeating evil and living happily ever after.


Fables are a narrative genre that focuses on illustrating a moral lesson. These moral lessons must be discerned from the tale, or an explicit maxim must be stated.

Fables are written in either prose or verse and explicitly feature anthropomorphized animals, plants, mythical and legendary creatures, and natural forces. These elements are a vital part of the fable genre.

However, fables are often confused with parables, but the key difference is that parables actively exclude this anthropomorphizing and heavily focus on human characters instead.

Some famous examples of fables are:

  • Aesop’s fable of ‘The Tortoise and the Hare’ follows the story of a hare and a tortoise in a race. While the hare races ahead and becomes arrogant in its speed and sure victory, the tortoise takes their time. This fable concludes with the hare taking a nap as they underestimate the tortoise, and the tortoise eventually wins the race. This tale tends to teach the maxim ‘slow and steady wins the race’ and portrays the benefits of patience and taking one’s time.
  • Aesop’s fable of ‘The Lion and the Mouse’: A lion shows mouse mercy by freeing them. Later, the lion gets trapped by hunters, but the same mouse who the lion freed helps them escape. This story teaches the importance of showing mercy and gratitude.


Fantasy is a narrative genre that incorporates fantastical and magical elements into the piece that do not exist. While there are tropes that are typical of the fantasy genre, such as the existence of magic and certain mythological beings like elves, it is a genre that is so broad that it includes a variety of subdivisions to categorize it further.

Some of these include:

  • High Fantasy or Epic Fantasy: Works of this kind are separate from our actual world. The author has devised their species, cultures, and scientific laws. In works like these, the stakes tend to be extremely high and on a colossal scale. An example of high fantasy is J.R.R. Tolkien’s ‘Lord of the Rings.’
  • Low Fantasy: Low fantasy tends to differ from high fantasy because it does not always occur in a fantastic place. It tends to incorporate magical elements into an otherwise ordinary world. An example of this fantasy type is J.K. Rowling’s ‘Harry Potter’ series or C.S. Lewis’ ‘The Chronicles of Narnia.’

Science Fiction

Science fiction is a narrative genre that explores worlds with unique technologies. This genre typically contains innovative technologies and deals with space, time travel, and exploration concepts. Stories within this genre can go from almost fantasy-like with epic stakes and adventure to mundane, everyday stories where advanced technology plays a role.

Like fantasy, science fiction also has a myriad of different subdivisions to help further categorize the genre. A popular one is a distinction between hard and soft science fiction.

  • Hard Science Fiction: These are pieces of literature that can stand against scientific scrutiny and are rooted in fact and logic. These stories lack fantastical elements as they are not seen as scientifically plausible and are more concerned with possible outcomes or situations that may not have occurred but could potentially occur one day.
  • Soft Science Fiction: Soft science fiction tends to be much more lenient on the factual plausibility of events. These pieces are rooted in science fiction because they are overtly characterized by technology but may contain fantastical elements. These works don’t necessarily have to be possible if they are plausible.


The romance genre is a work that emphasizes two people’s romantic relationships. The characters in this novel tend to find a happy ending, with the work’s overall tone being optimistic. However, that does not mean these works cannot contain their fair share of angst. Having an obstacle to overcome is a common trope in a lot of romance pieces, as it makes the resolution more satisfying.

Romance novels date back to Ancient Greece and have maintained their position as one of the most popular types of narrative genres. It is such a broad genre that it overlaps many different genres. Romance can be woven into almost any other genre and can be used to add stakes and intensity to the plot. For example, many works fall into historical romance, fantasy romance, and science fiction romance. So, while romance can stand on its own as a genre, it is also flexible enough to be interwoven throughout different genres.

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