The three major types of literature are drama, epic and lyric. Plato, Aristotle and Horace originally conceived of the three genres.
In a drama, the characters are independent from the author. Dramas present characters on a stage and they have separate thoughts and actions that show their unique personalities.
Plays are the common form of drama, whether they are tragedies, histories or comedies. An example of a drama is "King Lear" by William Shakespeare.
An epic is a lengthy story, told in episodic form. Epics are about heroes and the trials and tribulations they face to overcome adversity and triumph in their quest. They are written in narrative style and told from the third person perspective.
The modern interpretation of epics is that they are a mixed genre. They can include folk tales and novellas, though only novels and romances continue to be lengthy. An example of a classic epic is "The Odyssey" by Homer.
In the lyric form of literature, the writer usually writes in first person. This style includes ballads, sonnets and other short forms of poetry. Lyrics are emotional and based off the poet's own experiences. An example of a lyric is "Because I Could Not Stop for Death" by Emily Dickinson.