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19 September 2014
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Writing genres


The novel brought to book

"Writing a novel is like making love, but it's also like having a tooth pulled. Pleasure and pain. Sometimes it's like making love while having a tooth pulled." (Dean Koontz). From Robinson Crusoe to Bridget Jones's Diary, high brow or low brow, the novel is the major literary genre of the last 200 years.

Derived from the ancient Greek word for "I create", poetry as an art form predates literacy and TS Eliot believed "genuine poetry can communicate before it is understood". From Sappho to the Surrealists, with the verses in popular greeting cards in between, "it is the job of poetry to clean up our word-clogged reality by creating silences around things". (Stephen Mallarme).


Image of Derek Jacobi playing Hamlet

Hamlet marvelled that the play's the thing and whether it's tragedy, comedy, domestic drama, tragicomedy or melodrama, its playful possibilities are there to be shared. Above all an art form suited for performance rather than reading drama is, according to Alfred Hitchcock, simply life with the dull bits cut out.


Short story
If brevity is the soul of wit, then the short story is very droll indeed. A swiftly-sketched situation that rapidly comes to the point, it takes in the fantastical tales of Hoffman and Edgar Allan Poe, and the nuances of Chekhov and Joyce. Dating back to oral story-telling traditions, it now flourishes online on blogs.


Peter Ustinov

Believe Peter Ustinov and you'd imagine comedy is simply a funny way of being serious - and there are many ways to be serious. From stand-up comedy, through sketch comedy to situation comedy it throws satire, parody, and slapstick into the mix and according to Steve Martin "is the art of making people laugh without making them puke".

Chiseled into stone or clay tablets, biography predates the Bible, itself an anthology of some of the earliest biographies in existence. As virile as ever on a variety of multi-media 21st century platforms, satellite TV's Biography Channel is just one example of the continued success of the genre.


BBC journalist Orla Guerin

"Hold the front page" might seem a far cry from the sort of journalism required in the world of a million blogs. But as recent current events have shown the need for swift, accurate and impartial journalism has never been greater. Shaping news stories in an ever changing world has never been more demanding or rewarding as the platforms for dissemination multiply.

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