Literature is a broad term that refers to almost any widely available written work that centers on a common theme. All literature can be sorted into one of two categories: nonfiction, which describes writing based on facts, and fiction, which is fabricated to some degree. Literary works are broken down further into several other types of literature depending on the degree to which they mimic reality, as well as their structural and thematic characteristics.
Nonfiction literature refers to a variety of texts that strive to depict information that is 100 percent factually accurate. Like fictitious works, a work of nonfiction may tell a story; however, the facts are of utmost importance and may be presented using storytelling elements. Good nonfiction literature is void of stereotypes or biases and organized in a manner that is easy to follow and understand. Some examples of nonfiction literature include biographies and autobiographies, scientific journals and most textbooks.
Realistic fiction depicts stories that never occurred in real life, but nonetheless, could exist within the bounds of the world in which we live. The made-up characters in realistic fiction confront obstacles, engage in pleasures, have interests and partake in relationships similar to those that you -- or people you know -- experience in life. These characters exist in a setting that readers can realistically envision in the world as they know it. Good realistic fiction features a conflict that could exist in the real world, a theme that readers can relate to their own lives, settings that could be found in the real world, believable dialogue and convincing characters. The Nicholas Sparks novel "The Notebook" is an example of realistic fiction because the story is made up, yet still deals with believable characters and obstacles such as Alzheimer's disease, which occur in the real world.
Literary fantasy, unlike realistic fiction, is a type of fiction containing elements that cannot possibly exist in the real world. Works of fantasy do not abide by the scientific and natural laws of Earth. They may possess characters with supernatural abilities and/or settings that readers cannot relate to because the environments can never exist in the real world. Thus, readers must be able to suspend their disbelief in order to enjoy a work of literary fantasy. Good fantasy stories are able to captivate readers' interest, have a well-developed plot and characters and possess some sort of identifiable theme. J.K. Rowling's "Harry Potter" series is a well-known example of literary fantasy. Its characters possess supernatural abilities and inhabit magical settings that could never exist in the world as we know it.
Poetry is usually a fictitious -- though sometimes nonfictitious -- type of literature that seeks to use the written word in a more condensed and artistic manner than everyday prose. It is known for its often metaphoric and figurative use of language to appeal to the senses, oftentimes while employing rhythmic patterns and rhymed words. No single, comprehensive definition of poetry is possible because there are so many types, each with their own set of structural rules. Limericks, for example, are humorous, nonsensical poems made up of five lines in which the first, second and fifth lines rhyme with one another and have three beats each, while the third and fourth lines rhyme separately and have two beats each. Conversely, free verse poetry is void of intentional rhyming and similar to everyday speech in rhythm. Other common types of poems include ballads, Japanese haikus and sonnets.