by Hassan Abdulbaqi


The three major works of arts in Literature are prose, drama and poetry. In fact, your Literature WAEC/NECO essay examinations will be composed of novels, plays and dramas. It is important that you know the differences and what comes under each in the bid to be able to tackle questions that come from them and also help in your examinations. In this lesson, we’ll be studying the differences between these three genres of Literature in English with comprehensive examples. A single example will be deployed in explaining all these genres for adequate comprehension.


This is a work of art (also called novel) that is continuous, free, direct and written in paragraphs like every day writing. It is unlike drama which is staged or poem which is in stanzas. One who writes novels is called a novelist. The prose is usually in chapters. See this example, for instance:

“What is the meaning of this? I want you to tell me the number of men you have seen on top of me!”, my secondary school mother said -her countenance in a fiery anger as her eye blew hot like a live coal. I don’t understand this show of anger and pouring out of questions until I knew the implication of what I did. (Read full story here). You can also read another story in the prose form here.

You can see that the story is written just like the normal passages we read in Comprehensions. It is straight, free and continuous.



This is usually staged with characters who act out the events. Dialogue, a situation where characters engage in conversation with themselves or each other, distinguishes this genre from others. The actions of the characters are usually enclosed in brackets. A person who write a play is called a playwright. They are divided into Acts and Scenes. The introduction to characters and the role they play in the drama is usually written before the first Act.  Read this example, for instance:

Characters                    Roles

Rukayat                       school mother

Baaqi                            school son



(During the long break, Rukayat summons her school son to her class.)

Rukayat: (shouts angrily while holding a piece of paper) What Is the meaning of this? I want you to tell me the number of men you have seen on top of me!

Baaqi: (surprised) I….I don’t under….

Rukayat: (cuts in) You don’t understand what? Aren’t you the one who wrote this letter?

You can see here that each character is not only distinguished but the conversation is also showing the story. This is quite different from what we have in prose, right?



This is usually in lines and stanzas. The use of words is usually not as direct as what we see in plays and proses. Rhymes, imagery, mood etc are often seen in poems. See this, for example:


A changed face

Eyes like red coal

In fiery anger

Holding a piece of paper

Of the mis-written letter

Asking for the explanation

Of the promiscuity claim…..

(Also read Fatimah Olayinka’s White Handkerchief)


You can see this is different from what we already discussed under prose and drama. Isn’t it? In subsequent classes, we’ll learn the features of each genre and start a detailed analysis of the prescribed Literature texts, God bless!