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Published On 23 May 2024

Generic Conventions

Generic Conventions
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Generic Conventions: The building block of literature

The students and the people alike must have read many literatures in their life. Whether it be a poem, a book or even some story there has to be some similarities in them. These similarities are what we call a ‘Genre’ and the elements that make up these genres are what we call Generic Conventions.

These generic conventions play an important role in the student's Atar English Courses. As you should know the Atar courses focus on developing a student's critical, creative and analytical skills through literature and non-literary texts. Knowing about the generic conventions helps the development of the student's academic skills along with enhancing their imagination.

If you are also confused about the use of these generic conventions and how they are related to genres of literature then you have come to the right place. The New Assignment Help Australia has brought this blog for the student's convenience. By the end of this blog, you will know all you need to know about generic conventions. So let's start with understanding the generic conventions first.

What are Generic Conventions?

Generic conventions are the elements that authors show through their work. These elements then help the readers to categorise the work in a special category called a ‘Genre’. For example, imagine a story that is based on a time when technology wasn't developed much and the people were ruled by kings and emperors. This would put the story into the Medieval genre.

The generic conventions are easy to understand. Most horror stories have a dark background while the kid's animated movies are full of a glittery utopian world. These are generic conventions, things that define a writer's work in a category. Now that you are aware of the generic conventions, let's look at their importance in literature and their types.

Types of Generic Conventions with Examples

Now the different types of generic conventions are easy to understand too. On the contrary, these types could be explained easily which we have done here. So let's look through them too.


The main general convention that would be noticed first by everyone is the setting. Or you can understand it as where the story is ‘Set’. The ambience, atmosphere and the time period of the story make up its setting.

For example: In the horror genre, the author will describe an eerie location with an unnatural level of silence. The location in such a situation would be defined as an abandoned area where the characters won't be able to get help even if they wish to. This creates a setting that the readers imagine and focus on.


Now there is a bit of a contradiction in theme as mostly the theme of literature can be defined in just a single work such as ‘Love’ or ‘Horror’. But there can be more than a single theme for a work of literature too which is where the contradiction comes. But think of the theme as the main focus of the story that depends on the character's actions and words.

For example: The story of “The Hobbit” is one of the most popular Adventure movies. So the theme of the movie that most people would assume would be adventure but actually the theme of the movie was ‘Bravery’. It showed how a timid hobbit went from hiding from every threat to facing every challenge head-on.


Another great element of the generic convention and one of the most memorable parts of any story is the characters. This character can be a human, animal or even some other creature in the story. The literature mostly follows the story of these characters hence making them the most significant part of any literature. The protagonist and the antagonist are the most significant characters in every literature.

For example: In most science fiction the characters would be described as half robotic or have some machine parts. In the horror genre, the characters would either be grotesque beings who would scare others and hence be either monsters or ghosts. But no matter what it is these characters that are the most memorable part of any literature.


Now let us look at one last generic convention, that being the iconography. This is the type of generic convention where the author uses images and icons to showcase some part of the story and then leaves it to the reader's interpretation. These interpretations are a key element to differentiate some genres or some authors' work.

For example: The use of cowboy hats is one such example. It shows the Western medieval genre and has become a pop culture symbol. A different example would be the cinematography of the director Christopher Nolan who uses “Chaos’ as the icon and symbolism for each of his movies.

Understanding Genres

Now as we have mentioned many times, generic conventions help in defining genres a lot too but what are genres? The genres express a category of literature based on some common situations that you would find in them.

For example, in action movies or books, the common aspect would be the constant actions and fights that characters would be in. So in simple terms, genres create a category and style in literature that the writers follow and target a specific audience. Also, it has to be noted that the number of genres is not fixed as it changes along with the social changes.

Major Genres of Literature

5 major types of Genres are found and will be found in the literature which are further divided into some subgenres. which we have mentioned here.


A great American poet Howard Nemerov once defined the genre of poetry as;” Poetry, Literature that invokes concentrated imaginative awareness of experience or a specific emotional response language chosen and arranged for meaning, sound and rhythm.” In simple terms, poetry is the genre of literature that shows the beauty of the writing by using words that are both logically correct and form a certain rhythm in the text.

For example

“Hold fast to dreams

For if dreams die

Life is a broken-winged bird

That cannot fly"

- Langston Hughes

The subgenres of poetry -  Now as mentioned the genre of poetry itself has some subgenres which we have mentioned here

  • Lyrics: The short-form poems come under this category.
  • Epics: Lengthy poems that describe some extraordinary beings.
  • Dramatic: It combines drama with others such as comedy or tragedy to create a funny or tragic poem.


Now the next major genre in literature is ‘Fiction’. This is the genre that makes the writing as imaginative and amazing as it is. As the name suggests this is the genre where the author writes about some things that don't exactly exist in the real world. But just like other genre this also take some inspiration from the real world.

For example

the aforementioned Book, “The Hobbit” was a type of fictional literature.

It also doesn't change the fact some of the most popular genres of literature are part of Fiction. Let us look at some of them.

  • Fantasy: the most diverse and similarly the most popular genre of fiction. Dragons, robots, magic you name it, fantasy has it.
  • Science-fiction: One of the most popular subgenres of the fiction category is science fiction. As the name suggests it combines the fictional category with scientific terms to create a futuristic world.
  • Cross-world fantasy: another vastly popular type of fiction where the main focus is on a character going from one world to another.


As the name would suggest here it is simply the opposite of the fictional category. It is the creative genre where the focus is on real-world theories and academic writing. Confused? Well, just think of any academic writing you have done whether it be essays, assignments or research papers. Yes, all of them were non-fiction literature.

  • Autobiography: This is the life story that one writes about oneself, mostly on their own or sometimes with others' help.
  • Biography: This is the literature of writing about someone else’s life.
  • Persuasive writing:  These are the texts that are written to persuade people.
  • Descriptive writing: Texts written with the main goal of describing something in-depth.


Another amazing literature genre would be Drama. It's a genre of taking the real-life stuff with a touch of dramatic portions. This is mostly used in shows and plays.

For example

Romeo and Juliet written by William Shakespeare is a tragic drama. Some subgenres of drama.

  • Comedy: The dramatic genre that makes you laugh.
  • Tragedy: The dramatic genre that makes you cry and mostly ends in sadness.
  • Tragicomedy: The dramatic genre that combines comedy and tragedy.


Folklore is a genre that includes stories, sayings, and legends that have been transmitted orally by the older generations. This is one of the most popular genres and likewise plays an important role in most fictional works. Some common subgenres of folklore are as follows.

  • Myth: It encompasses the story that includes gods and goddesses.
  • Legend: A story based on real life or places.
  • Tall Tales: A story with many unbelievable elements.
  • Fairy tales: A story that has magic, enchantments, mystical creatures and ofcourse fairies
  • Fables: Stories that have animals behaving or speaking like humans.

Five Major Types of literary Genres

Why are Generic Conventions Important?

The generic convention are an important part of English literature but why are they important? If you have also thought that and wonder if you should actually pay attention to them then you are in the right place. Here we have defined the importance of generic convention in a few points which are mentioned here.

  • Makes up a Genre: The most important point of the generic convention has already been mentioned. It is these generic convention that create foundations for the genres. We will look through how they make the genres in the further parts of the blog.
  • Target a suitable audience: Not everyone likes one genre. Some people might like romance, some might like action or even the dystopian genre. The use of suitable generic convention helps the authors create a world that the targeted audience will like.
  • Helps with the imagination: If you ask any reader why they love literature their answers at the base would be that they all love imagining another world through the books. And what helps with these imaginations is the generic convention.
  • Create variations: Although rare some authors use generic convention to escape the limits of the traditional genres and try to create their own versions of it. An example of this would be Magical Realism which combines the Non-fictional realism element with the fictional magical elements.
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