What Good Writers Read Voraciously

Poetry books

What do good writers read? Well, it depends on the writer. They don’t read the same things.

They read books and poetry and screenplays, and other material they may be interested in writing about. They read fiction and nonfiction. Here are some genres good writers read, followed by a couple of examples…

Romantic comedy: In this genre, two people meet, fall in love, and separate due to some crisis. But through a character arc, which is the growth of one or more of the characters, they reunite. And usually, the story ends on a happy note for the couple. 

  • The Friend Zone by Abby Jimenez
  • Random Acts of Crazy by Julia Kent

Action/Adventure: This genre usually starts with an exciting adventure. 


The excitement is often unrelenting. Expect chase scenes, violence, and bustling movement. Just when you think you have a moment to breathe, the action starts again.

  • Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton
  • The Bourne Identity by Robert Ludlum

Thriller: While the thriller contains action, its main focus is on suspense. This suspense can result in a life-or-death situation. The character not only faces grave danger, but she faces betrayal as well.

  • Camino Winds by John Grisham
  • The Wife Who Knew Too Much by Michele Campbell

Horror: This genre is scary. It has thriller elements, but here the danger comes from some kind of monster. It can be humanoid, but a creature nonetheless. Horror is heavy-handed with the use of shock and surprise.

  • The Shining by Stephen King
  • Dracula by Bram Stoker

Science fiction: This genre usually deals with imaginative and futuristic concepts. It portrays another world and/or another time and portrays advanced science and technology, space exploration, time travel, parallel universes, and extraterrestrial life.

  • The Time Machine by H.G. Wells
  • The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

Detective/Mystery: There is a murder, and a detective must solve it.

Red herring

There are clues scattered about. But some are red herrings. This is a literary device you "may have seen . . . in a recent book or movie, but you probably only realized it after the fact. These misleading clues are designed to trick you into drawing an incorrect conclusion, and they're a popular ploy among storytellers of all stripes" (Petsko).

  • The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
  • Charcoal Joe by Walter Mosley

"Read, read, read. Read everything -- trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You'll absorb it. Then write. If it's good, you'll find out. If it's not, throw it out of the window." --William Faulkner

Traveling angel: Here we have a character that solves other people's problems. This is a perfect angel who does not have a character arc. After solving the problem of another, the angel’s work is finished; she leaves the story.

  • The Bishop’s Wife by Robert Nathan
  • Mary Poppins series by Pamela Lyndon Travers

Fish-out-of-water: The character in this genre is taken out of her familiar surroundings and placed in another one where she feels ill-equipped. She must adjust to her new environment quickly and solve her dilemma.

  • Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
  • Sit. Stay. Love. by Karis Walsh

What good writers read often translates into what good writers write about. It goes to their comfort level. Sometimes a story is more than just one genre. It can consist of three genres but is categorized by one. The Harry Potter series is not only an action/adventure story, but it is also a fantasy. The Bourne Identity is an action/adventure story that have thriller and spy elements. 

Some write poetry. Their desks are covered with poetry books. The poet may have scraps of paper lying about with verses on it that lift his spirit high into the poetic galactic atmosphere. 

These poets might read the likes of:

  • I, Too, Sing America by Langston Hughes
  • Phenomenal Woman by Maya Angelou
  • Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein
  • If You Forget Me by Pablo Neruda
  • I Carry Your Heart With Me by E. E. Cummings
  • The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost
  • A Dream Within A Dream by Edgar Allan Poe

 Sometimes Good Writers Read Screenplays


Screenplay categories are the same as those listed for books. Writers who are interested in screenplays study them in order to learn the writing style and guidelines. Many books are turned into screenplays to be made into movies.

A popular series on Hulu is The Handmaid’s Tale, based on the book by Atwood. Many popular book titles have been made into movies—Dracula, The Bourne Identity, and The Shining. The list goes upward of the moon. 

It’s not impossible, if you’re interested, to write your story in your favorite genre, and see it turned into a screenplay slated for the big screen. In other words, what good writers read are screenplays, fiction, and nonfiction books, including poetry, and anything else they can get their hands on.

Petsko, Emily. “Where Did the Phrase ‘red Herring’ Come From?” Mental Floss, 31 May 2023, www.mentalfloss.com/article/562812/where-did-phrase-red-herring-originate.

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