Form and Genre.

Form and Genre

It is important to have your form and genre clearly defined in your mind before beginning your writing project. People often use these terms interchangeably, however form should not be confused with genre.

Form is what gives your piece of writing structure and an identifiable shape. It is the container that holds all your ideas, but isn’t the writing itself. For example if a particular piece of writing is said to be a novel, we only know something about the length or size of it. Think of it like a human skeleton. The skeleton gives you an indication of the height and build of a person, but doesn’t really tell us much about what makes this person them. This is the form of your writing.

Genre, on the other hand, is the essence of your writing. It is what defines your writing. Genre is all the details that let us know what the person is really like, giving substance to the skeleton. For instance, if we are handed a mystery novel to read, then we should know what that particular novel would entail. A mystery, of course! This is the genre of your writing.

Writing can take a great number of forms and each one has its own set of guidelines and importance in the world of the written word. The following is a list of common literary forms, but is by no means the only forms used.

  • Essay.
  • Novel.
  • Novella.
  • Poetry.
  • Short story.
  • Play.
  • Screenplay.

The list of genres is even more extensive, and can be defined into broad categories: Fiction, Non-fiction, Creative Non-fiction, Plays and Poetry.

Fiction: is any form that describes imaginary events and people. It can be broken down into even more descriptive terms.

  • Adventure: a story full of action and daring.
  • Children’s story or novel: aimed at children.
  • Detective: story of a detective who solves crime.
  • Installment fiction: A novel published one episode at a time.
  • Fable: A story that teaches a lesson.
  • Fairy tale: a story about magical creatures, or a false story designed to trick people.
  • Folk tale: is a story typically passed on by word of mouth with origins in popular culture.
  • Tall tale, yarn: A piece of writing with unbelievable elements related as if it were true, usually an exaggeration of true events.
  • Fantasy: A story that has supernatural elements.
  • Historical fiction: A story based on known historical events but freely makes up dialogue and additional events.
  • Horror: A story to thrill and frighten readers.
  • Humor: A story to make readers laugh.
  • Mystery: A story based around a puzzle or crime.
  • Myth and legend: Typically a story based on superhuman beings or events of ancient times.
  • Romance: A story based on love, usually with a happy ending.
  • Parody: A comic imitation of a piece of writing or person.
  • Satire: A story that employs humor in the form of irony, innuendo, or derision to expose the folly and wickedness of human nature.
  • Science fiction: A story based around a world that is currently unknown and unachievable.
  • Spy story: A story about international espionage.
  • Thriller: A story that produces an atmosphere of extreme suspense or excitement.
  • Young adult: Stories aimed at 12-17 years old.

Non-Fiction: writing that is informative or factual rather then fictional. Includes the following:

  • Biography/Autobiography: A true narrative of a real person’s life.
  • Essay: A short literary composition on a subject that typically presents the personal view of the author.
  • Speech: public address or discourse.
  • Textbook: instructive book for use in studying a particular subject.
  • Self-help book: designed to instruct readers on personal problems and how to overcome them.

Creative non-fiction: True stories written using the techniques typically utilized in fiction; like scene setting, dialogue and detailed description, to make them more interesting and personal.

  • Biography/autobiography: A true narrative of a real person’s life.
  • Memoir: An autobiography dealing with specific events or people.
  • Diary/journal: personal record of events and musings.
  • Travel Writing: A record of the people, events, sights and feelings from the writers’ point of view whilst touring a foreign place.
  • Food Writing: works of writing around the topic of food.
  • Blog: A personal web log or journal that can contain anything from do it yourself blogs to political viewpoints.
  • Literary journalism: factual reporting combines with narrative techniques and styles that are traditionally associated with works of fiction.
  • Comedy: Designed to make the audience laugh
  • Serious drama: A play that deals with serious issues, but doesn’t delve into the realm of tragedy.
  • Musical: A play with songs and dancing.
  • Screenplay: A play written specifically for a movie.
  • Tragedy: A play showing a character’s heroic and moral struggle that ends in defeat.
  • Epic poem: a long narrative poem centered on a hero and his adventures.
  • Haiku: A Japanese form of poetry 17 syllables in length. It can be written in 3 lines arranged in a pattern of 5, 7, 5, or in one long line.
  • Limerick: A poem with rhyming pattern aabba
  • Lyric poem: A short poem conveying powerful emotion
  • Free verse or open form poetry: poetry without structure, this form relies on content, sound, image, and format.
  • Sonnet: a structured rhyme of 14 lines with rhymes in a pattern of abab cdcd efef gg
  • Nursery rhyme: rhyming poems for children

These lists of genres could go on and on. There are so many more out there, including the intriguing possibilities of writing cross-genres. The important thing is to remember there is a difference between form and genre, and both need to be clearly formulated in your mind before you begin.

Useful Links:

I found these pages helpful to clarify and further enhance my knowledge and understanding of form and genre:

Form and Genre – Tameri Guide For Writers

What is Genre vs Form in Literature – KMW

Understanding Literary Form – Exploring the Arts Foundation.

Random Word Link Example

Random Word Link Example

I pulled out these three words from my word jar for a random word link example:

  • Porridge

  • Shark

  • Thunder

I was in a gloomy mood the day I wrote this blog and example so the paragraph I came up with reflects this. However, it did serve to help overcome a writers block I was having in regards to a scene in my current novel.

Thunder boomed from the heavy ominous clouds as I ate my porridge looking out the kitchen window. My thoughts strayed to the teen boy who had been attacked by a shark the day before. I had been the scrub nurse on duty during his long operation to repair the damage to his legs. The surgeon was not confident that he would ever recover the full use of his legs.

Random Word Link

Random Word Link

Random word link is an exercise to help you warm up or to overcome writers block. It is also a way of getting you to think outside the box and to form unique stories and ideas from everyday words. This is a great exercise to practice regularly as connecting random words helps to come up with creative solutions and problem solving.

Once again, delve into your random word jar! Pick out 3 – 5 words and write a short story or paragraph using these words. It doesn’t have to be logical or perfect; the idea is to stretch your creative muscle and thought processes. It is not necessary to set a time limit with this particular exercise, like when free writing. However if you are using it as a warm up it can be a good idea, otherwise you may find that you use it as an excuse to procrastinate and never get to work on your current project! It is also fun to see what your mind comes up with when under time pressure!


Word Jar


Word Jar

The word jar is a handy tool to have in your writing space. It is exactly what it sounds like, a jar full of words! Simply write out as many random words as you wish on scraps of paper, fold them up and put them into the jar. It works best if you keep the words as varied and un-related as possible. You will find there are many writing warm ups and activities that this random word jar will come in handy for.

In particular you can use your random word jar for a directed free writing warm up. All you have to do is pull out a word from your random word jar and free-write about that word for a set length of time. This direct approach works well if you find the idea of undirected free writing, or trying to pick your own topic from thin air intimidating.IMG_8598

Your jar can be as plain or as prettied up as you would like. Keep it close to where you do most of your writing, so whenever you need a little writing warm up, some inspiration, or an excuse to procrastinate you can grab your jar, pull out a word and stretch those creative muscles.

Directed Free Writing Example

Directed Free Writing Example

I pulled a word out of my word jar for this directed free writing example – Octopus. You don’t have to use your word jar if you don’t want to. Look around you for inspiration! Once again, I set my timer to 5 minutes. I would usually go for 10, but as this is just an example 5 minutes will be sufficient.

Octupus, regretting this is the word i pulled out as it is hard to write down fast and keep my hands moving. once again the point of this eercise is to get the thoughts and words flowing, but in a more directed appriach. The first thing that comes to mind whn i think of octups is my old nightmare i use to have swimming at the beach of an giant ocutpus pulling me under. i have no idea why i was so frightedn of this i dont remember seeing any horror movies or antyhing tlike that where there was a giant killer orctups, but ther you have it. I y=used to trick mysefl that i could feel a giant thick slimiy tentacle wrap around my lef and i woul dstart swimming like mad for the jetty to get out of the water before i would be pulled under. Ofc ourse nothing like taht ever did e=happen. it is giving my goosebymps now just thinking about it, so oibsiouly the fear is still there. dunny how childhood fears can still effect you long into adulthood. i have a freind who was once trapped in an outdoor toilet for a few hours overnight, and no one could here her obsviously coz it was night time thery were all inside lseeping. she has a fear of dark enclosed spaces still. in her case atleast she has a basis for the fear, i hav enever been attacked by a giant octups. i think it comes from not being able to see what is underneath you when seimming at the beach. there is a whole unseen world going on under neath your feet, unles you scubu dive or snorkely of course! but those practicalities just ruin the imagination! so my octupus is giant and red (why red??) with big big tentacles with giant sucker things on them. It apparenly likes to grab little cigls and drwon them for its own amusement. This is

I let my hands and thoughts keep moving for the full 5 minutes. You don’t have to type on your computer, you can hand write if that is what you would prefer. The whole point is to just keep your hands moving and the words flowing.


Free Writing Example

Free Writing Example

I set my timer to 5 minutes for this example and just let my thoughts and words loose!


5 minutes is on the clock to free write what ever thoughts flow through my head. No editing, correcting, formating or deleting as you go! Make sure you keep yout hands moving, moving, moving. Always moving. If you can’t think of anything to write, then write that over and over again until uanother thougt pops into your head. The point is to get your brain firing, to get the words flowing so ehwn you sit down to write or plan your current project your brain is firing all synapses. The words will flow and the creative process will be that much easier. I can smell spring in the air, fresh cut grass and flowers. THeres a warm breeze and the sun is shining. Its hard to believe just yesterday the city was bombarded with artic breezes and heavy rains. I remember when my hubby and I went away for a 6 week camping trip last year we went up to the blue mountaings I was so excited to hike them and see all the different rock formations. Its stormed the whole time we were there! The wind was so strong our tent kept bowing inwards. I had to get up and go to the toiket at about 3am, bedraggled people were cralwing out of collapsed tents and sheltering in their cars. IT was insane! We hope to go back at some point and visit when it isn’t such bad weather. IT did make for a very interesting camping trupthough! The mountains, from what we could see peaking under the heavy cloud vover were beautiful. Camping is not

The timer went off before I could finish that last sentence. I didn’t come up with any best-selling ideas, however it has definitely loosened my creative muscles so I am ready to tackle my next blog! I highly recommend using this warm-up exercise before sitting down to write your project. It is also useful if you are ever suffering from the dreaded writers block. Sit back, take a breath, and do some free writing! It really does help to get the words flowing again and to clear your mind so you can return to your project fresh and inspired.

Free Writing

Free Writing

Free writing is an essential tool to any writer. It is an important practice that helps to improve your ability to write, encourages you to listen to your thoughts and to write with more confidence. It is also a fantastic way to warm up before knuckling down to tackle your current project!

Joel Friedlander explains the concept of free writing in his article “Unleash Your Creativity Now: How to Freewrite” quite well. Free writing is a simple and effective tool to help warm up and stretch your creative muscle! It releases all those pent up ideas and stray thoughts in your head so you can approach your writing project with a clear mind and an easy flow of words.

How to “free-write”:

Like any pre-writing warm up it is important to set a time limit. 10 minutes is a good length of time; however if that seems too daunting to begin with then try 5 minutes.

Set your timer and start writing. Write non-stop until you run out of time. Do not stop to edit, plan or correct. Just keep your hand moving the whole time. Write whatever thoughts pass through your head. If you cannot think of anything to write, then just write that over and over again until something else pops into your head. Write poorly, it doesn’t matter. You don’t need to worry about punctuation, spelling, grammar, margins, paragraphs, word choice or messiness. Just keep your hand moving. There is no right or wrong, no good or bad. It is just a way to get the words flowing, to help you move pass any barriers in your mind and get your thoughts out.



Directed Free-writing:

Another way of free writing is a more directed approach of picking a topic. You can utilize a word or topic from your word jar, or pick a topic such as a recent trip, a pet, a holiday, work, a photograph etc. Once you have picked your topic, set your timer and off you go! Once again, don’t let your hand stop; keep the words and thoughts flowing and let your inhibitions go.