Writing about Writers

Not open for further replies.

Paul Whybrow

Full Member
Jun 20, 2015
Cornwall, UK
Do any of you have characters in your stories who are authors or journalists? I had the thought (clunk) that it could be a revealing way to show the creative process, provided the description didn't become too pretentious or self-pitying! :rolleyes:

It would be a sneaky route into the private thoughts of an unreliable narrator—or to show the naivety of an innocent soul—who's being set up as a victim.

I have a recurring character in my Cornish Detective series, a small town newspaper journalist who has formidable powers of recall about old news stories, as well as access to 100 years of archived newspapers. He's assisted my protagonist detective by unearthing buried motives for mysterious crimes. In rounding out his profile, I gave him a secret identity as an author of torrid romances under the pen name of Rosemary Flowerdew, which he publishes online. His own love life is moribund, so he's sublimating his frustration. This may become a feature of a future investigation.

There have been many famous fictional writers, including diarists such as Adrian Mole, Bridget Jones and Charles Pooter, of George & Weedon Grossmith's The Diary of a Nobody.

Novels featuring authors as characters include the Murder, She Wrote series, John Irving's The World According to Garp and A Widow for One Year, and Anne Tyler's The Accidental Tourist. For the nutty side of being an author, there's always Stephen King's The Shining.

Sometimes authors turn themselves into characters who are writers. Kurt Vonnegut created a sci-fi author called Kilgore Trout in Breakfast of Champions. Screenwriter Charlie Kaufman disappeared into himself when he got stuck writing the script for a film based on a non-fiction book about orchid thieves, including these frustrations to actually show himself struggling. This got turned into the movie Adaptation. Even more bizarrely, he created a twin brother for himself who is also a writer, who mystifyingly achieves success with his hackneyed screenplay.

Some authors have based characters on their author friends (and enemies), such as C.S. Lewis who portrayed J.R.R. Tolkien as a professor in Out of the Silent Planet. Less benignly, Gustav Flaubert dumped his lover, the poet Louise Colet, then infused Madame Bovary with salacious details taken from her love life. Seeking revenge, she penned a bestselling semi-autobiographical novel which depicted Flaubert as a womanising idiot.

Have you created literary characters in any of your stories. Do they mirror your angst? Or, are they wish-fulfilment in some way?

Do you have any favourite fictional authors?

My first self published book was via a journal/diary formula. At the time I did wonder if it was cheating a little. But I loved the structure and for somebody who perhaps struggles with the technical aspects of more conventional novel writing then it does offer a relatively easy entry method into the world of fiction writing, at least in my opinion.

My own favourite fictional author, and I am sure this will come as no surprise to many of you given how many times I have mentioned him before on here, is good old Sir Harry Flashman. A joy to read, a font of information and a refreshingly honest take on many of the real life characters and incidents that have shaped our modern world. I genuinely envy anybody who has never had the pleasure of reading of his romps and (mis)adventures through the glories of the Victorian era although in this sensitive new, safe space, world we find ourselves in, I would urge a degree of caution for anybody under the age of 30 who is tempted to read his memoirs. You might require therapy, at least to start with.
He's an utter cad, old Flashman; a down and out dirty dog, but he does have a heart, and that is his salvation :)
Not open for further replies.