The literary arts is a very broad field which this post will attempt to navigate. This is designed to encourage you to experiment with different forms and submit work to our magazine that does not fall into the more common categories of the short story and the poem, although we love receiving these too!
It is difficult to enforce categories onto verse which is why we no longer have a distinction between free and formal verse within our magazine. This is because poets are always trying to experiment with the boundary between form and freedom, and usually engage with tradition whilst at the same time rupturing it. Consequently, I will not discuss this type of art in terms of categories but in terms of starting points which you may want to branch out from. Whilst rhymed verse typically makes use of rhyme and metre, blank verse will only feature iambic pentameter. Here are some base forms you may want to experiment with:
- Ballad (narrative)
• Alternating iambic tetrameter/ trimeter
• ABAB/ ABCB quatrains
- Heroic couplet (narrative)
• Iambic pentametre
• AA couplets
• Courageous people/ mythological figures from antiquity
- Sonnet (lyrical)
• Iambic pentametre
• Petrarchan: ABBA ABBA CDE CDE; octet sestet
• Shakespearean: ABAB CDCD EFEF GG; stanza couplet
• Volta = movement of argument; shift from the universal to the particular
- Villanelle (lyrical)
• 5 tercets, 1 quatrain
• ABA ABA ABA ABA ABA ABAA
• 1st line recurs as lines 6, 12, 18
• 3rd line recurs as lines 9, 15, 19
• Iambic pentametre
- Ode (lyrical)
• Strophic lines – antistrophic lines – epode (in different metre)
• Often ABABCDECDE
• Glorifying an event/ individual
• Describing nature emotionally and intellectually
- Pastoral (lyrical)
• Celebrates rural life/ coexistence between humanity and natural world
• Self conscious
• Garden of Eden and the fall
• Often coupled with elegy
- Elegy (lyrical)
• Literary version of mourning
• Idealise deceased
• Questioning deities, cathartic anger
• Often written for other poets
• Possibility of renewal and resurrection
• Self consciousness
• Elaborate ornate language
• As much about speaker as subject
• Often coupled with pastoral
- Dramatic monologue (dramatic)
• Imagined speaker addresses silent listener
• Line 1 – 5 syllables
• Line 2 – 7 syllables
• Line 3 – 5 syllables
This is the shortest of the fiction forms and usually comes in at under 1,500 words. With this brevity, it is important to capture the essence of something rather than to develop it at a great length. These are quick reads which are becoming increasingly popular in our fast-paced and technology-driven modern age.
This fiction form is usually comprised of 1,500-7,500 words. This requires more sustained development than flash fiction but is still briefer than the novella or novel. It often utilizes symbolism as a powerful technique. Writers may start out by producing a collection of their short stories before they go on to write their debut novel.
These are works written to be performed in the theatre. Drama is not an independent genre as it depends upon performance artists, primarily actors, to bring them to life. This awareness that the work will need to be practical for a stage set is essential to great stage script writing. There can be ten-minute plays, one-act plays and full-length plays. Of course, our magazine is unable to publish whole plays but we do accept short scenes and monologues. Scripts of this nature should include stage and scene instructions, as well as provide character names and descriptions. You may want to consider the different genres of tragedy, comedy, tragicomedy, musical and opera.
These are works written to be performed, recorded and shown as a film at the cinema or as a television episode at home. As I wrote above, drama is not an independent genre as it is reliant upon actors. For this reason it is essential that a playwright thinks about things such as lighting, props, set positioning and potential soundtracks even if they leave these decisions to the discretion of a director in the end. The director, production crew and even the actors often have a huge influence upon the refinement of a script. This medium is also a recorded one so think carefully about what a camera may be able to capture from a particular scene.
Now we’re onto the blurry line between nonfiction and fiction, which is where creative nonfiction comes in. Like academic writing, this form is based upon fact, on things that really happened, but unlike essays, it is a form written to entertain. A diary is a good basis for this form because creative nonfiction includes travel writing, (auto)biographies, and memoirs. The entertainment element comes from the development of a narrative around the facts. Take care to do this while you are writing.
Now we have the traditional academic nonfiction form which develops a sustained argument and requires an in-depth research process. Bibliographies will typically be appended to these works in order for readers to ascertain where facts have been obtained from. This is a form more common in university settings than in literary magazines but we would still love to offer a home for your academic pieces within Spellbinder too.
Finally, I will briefly mention some longer literary forms that we are unable to accept, but greatly appreciate, such as the novel. This form is usually at least 50,000 words and can fall under many different genre categories including fantasy, detective, horror, adventure, comedy and romance.
Comics are a form of story-telling which combine text with graphic art. These are particularly fun for children, and are typically quite short.
This form is devoted to the dissemination of news. This can be broadcast on the radio or television but is also published in its written form within newspapers and magazines.
Blogging is similar to journalism but much freer, more informal and less objective. Blog posts are typically concerned with interesting ideas and guides about subjects the writer is interested in, rather than on delivering current and relevant news.
Letters are a type of communication like notes, cards and postcards, but they are traditionally more creative. Rather than merely trying to convey a quick message, they aim to entertain. This is a rather old-fashioned form but one still very much alive within calligraphy circles and amongst those who enjoy reading the enlightening letters of famous writers such as D.H. Lawrence.
To conclude, I hope that this has given you some new ideas about written forms you can try. We would love it if you can comment with any others you can think of so that we can update this resource in the future.
See also: Artistic Avenues
Amber Kennedy, Editor-in-Chief