The three major literary categories are lyrics, epics and dramas, according to the English Department at Brooklyn College. This grouping offers an orderly way to talk about a myriad of literary texts and to consider and compare their structure and subject matter.
Lyric refers to any relatively short form of poetry, including songs, odes, ballads, elegies and sonnets. Many lyrics are characterized by highly organized, intensely imaginative language and may be comprised of words chosen in large part for their sound or suggestive power. Lyrics typically employ such techniques as meter, rhyme and alliteration. They often focus on the personal experiences of the author or the work’s fictional narrator.
Epics, which originally referred to lengthy works written in verse, now include narratives in the form of prose as well. These are sometimes called mixed kind and include short stories, novellas, novels and myths. Epics also encompass legends, folktales and fairy tales. The structure of many epics consists of exposition, conflict, rising action, climax, falling action and resolution. Another common structure known as the Hero’s Journey includes a call to adventure, a point from which there is no going back, severe testing, securing the desired goal and a return to normalcy.
Dramas present stories in the form of dialogue or pantomime and are typically performed by actors on a stage. The opening act, or prologue, introduces the characters and setting. The complication presents the conflict, rising action and climax. Dramas typically end with the denouement or conclusion.