Have you ever noticed how often the books we read include characters who (or is it that – someone please tell me the rule!) are writers? Some are novelists, poets, journalists or podcasters. Some are based on real-life writers. Many are struggling with their careers. They’ve either made it big and are losing their touch, or they’ve written one successful book, but haven’t written a second. Still others have made it big but struggle with the fame. These characters aren’t always the main part of the story, but many are.
I wonder if I’m just drawn to this kind of book? Here’s a list of what I’ve read:
The Good Neighbor by A.J. Banner – children’s author
Less by Andrew Sean Greer – struggling novelist
Miss Emily by Nuala O’Connor – Emily Dickinson
A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway – Ernest Hemingway (nonfiction)
My Name Is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout – novelist
A Murder of Magpies by Judith Flanders – novelists/publishing house
The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney – one sibling is a struggling novelist
Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty – romance novelist who may be losing her touch
The Night Swim by Megan Goldin – journalist/podcaster
The Paris Wife by Paula McLain – Ernest Hemingway as he writes The Sun Also Rises
The Perfect Couple by Elin Hilderbrand – popular mystery writer, past her peak
Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn – investigative journalist
Sometimes I Lie by Alice Feeney – struggling novelist
The Swans of Fifth Avenue by Melanie Benjamin – Truman Capote
The Tenant by Katrine Engberg – mystery writer
Today Will Be Different by Maria Semple – struggling graphic memoirist
The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware – travel journalist
Youngblood Hawke by Herman Wouk – new novelist who makes it big
I’m about to start another one that will make this list: The Plot by Jean Hanff Korelitz. It’s a hot book this summer and my hold just came in from the library.
Do you like reading books about writers? Can you add any to this list? I may have to read them next!
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47 thoughts on “Books with writers as characters”
It makes sense to me that many authors include writers as characters. Don’t we write what we know?
The only book on your list that the read so far is The Paris Wife. It was a very moving read.
I agree, Donna – I’m also a Hemingway fan so I liked imagining what his first marriage was like while he was writing The Sun Also Rises. Thanks for the visit!
I have a hard time passing up a book that has a writer as a main character. I’ve read a couple on your list, Barbara. A book that I loved was The House on Olive Street by Robyn Carr. Here is the blurb.
When a group of writers loses a member, a summer spent sorting through her things offers the perfect escape for the friends who loved and miss her.
Sable has everything and her bestselling novels have made her a star. But she has a past she is desperate to hide.
Elly is an intellectual who has hidden herself within the walls of academia, afraid to admit she is tired of being alone.
Barbara Ann is the talent behind twenty-six romance novels, but she’s lost control of her career and her family.
Beth’s popular mysteries have become the only way she can fight against the secret tyranny of an abusive husband.
Gathering in Gabby’s house on Olive Street, away from their troubles, the four women discover something wonderful: themselves. And together they realize a dream. For, in telling the story of a remarkable woman, their own stories begin to change.
Oh this sounds great! Thanks for sharing it, Jill. 🙂
I think you’d enjoy it, Barbara. I didn’t want it to end. 🙂
That’s the best kind of book!
Maybe you are drawn to books like this, or you just read a ton of books so there’s bound to be some common themes. I wonder if you were to pick another theme like books that take place in Australia and see… oh wait, you have! 🙂
And it’s “who” when you’re talking about people, so you did it correctly. That’s a rule I see broken all the time, so I’m grateful to see someone wanting to get it right!
I read somewhere (online probably so who knows how accurate) that you should not use “who” when you are referring to a character in a book. That’s weird, right? That might have to be a future blog post. I’ll have to see if I can find that somewhere. And I do love thinking about what books have in common. Thanks for stopping by, Betsy!
Huh, about the who and characters. That’s not one I’ve heard. I look forward to reaping the benefits of your research! 😉
Haha – isn’t the internet useful?
Indeed. Though sometimes mischievous.
Writers & Lovers a novel by Lily King. It was one of my book club picks. I was okay, not great.
Oh, interesting – I haven’t heard of that one. Thanks for stopping by and commenting, Chris!
I have Writers & Lovers sitting in a pile of books next to me right now. Started it a while back and put it down. Perhaps I’ll give it another go.
I just read the blurb for Writers and Lovers – it sounds good. I didn’t read Euphoria – have you read it? Thank you for reading and commenting, Mary 🙂
I know some of these, but OMG… that Today Will be Different was SO bad. I hated it, totally!
Wasn’t my favorite either – I think I gave it 3 stars
I used to write reviews for a website for librarians and book shop owners. They only published (and paid me) for reviews that I could rate 4 or 5 stars. I couldn’t even give it 2.5. (Better lost income than a loss of my reputation as a reviewer.)
That’s interesting. The way I look at it for my blog, if I take the time to read it, I’m going to review it, positive or negative, most of the time. I’ve rarely given a book 2 stars. I try to see something appealing in the 3-star reads. These days, that’s as low as I go. I’m contradicting myself a bit here, but I’m not afraid to say what didn’t work for me. Thanks for reading and commenting 🙂
I’ll go as far down as 2.5 stars for a review, which, mathematically speaking means average – not bad but not good. But if a book doesn’t deserve that, then I’ll probably not finish reading it anyway, so it won’t get a review!
Who – I’d say. But I haven’t read any of these
Someone taught me that we had to refer to characters in books as “that.” Made no sense to me. Thanks for reading, Derrick.
The first thing that came to mind when I saw the post title was “Misery” by Stephen King. I tried The Tenant, but didn’t like it and ditched it. I still have The Paris Wife on my to-read list. A Movable Feast is a great one!
Hi Tammie – thank you for stopping by and commenting. I remember the movie Misery when it came out, though I didn’t see it. I think you would like The Paris Wife, especially if you like Hemingway. 🙂
I like those kinds of stories. Clicking through your links…
And following. Good blog, Barbara. Following…
Thank you so much, Jacqui!
Anthony Horowitz plays himself in his series. I only read The Sentence is Murder and thought it was so funny.. at the start of the novel he visits a movie set because they’re turning his books into a tv series 😊 I love your list and I look forward to reading more books with writer characters!
Oh thank you so much, Inge! I like that title, The Sentence is Murder – clever 🙂
The Pocket Writer’s Handbook by Manser and Curtis says, “Although ‘who’ is the usual pronoun used for people, it is perfectly acceptable to use ‘that’ in place of it: ‘I’ve been sent a letter by someone that I met on holiday; You are the only person that knows the whole truth.'”
As far as using it to refer to a character is concerned, I don’t see why the same rules couldn’t apply (a character who, or a character that). That’s my humble opinion.🤔
I didn’t know about the acceptable use of ‘that’ or ‘who’. Really good to know.
Yeah … I think, as in so many cases, the rules are becoming lax. Sometimes it’s a good thing, but too much, and our language becomes sloppy.
This is really helpful, thank you. I knew I had seen that somewhere, or been told it. 🙂
You’re welcome. There are quite a few books out there that all profess to have the best answers, but I like to stay with the choice that sounds reasonable as we read it.
I do like books about writers, even when they aren’t the main character. I guess that’s because I can relate to their problems? Jon Katz writes nonfiction, but I do enjoy his books!
Hi Ann – I’ll have to look up Jon Katz’s books. Thanks for stopping by!
Have you read John Irving’s “A Widow for One Year,” Barb? That’s one of my favorite books with a writer as a main character.
No I don’t know that – I’ll check it out – thank you, Mary 🙂
On your list, Hemingway’s Moveable Feast is the only book I’ve read. However, I’ve recently read Recipe for a Perfect Wife by Karma Brown. It’s entertaining, and it shows how writers evolve into authors through fits and starts.
That sounds fun, Marian! Thank you for stopping by 🙂
I’ve read several on your list, Barbara, and right now I can’t think of anything to add. 🙂
We must have similar reading tastes, Lauren. Thank you for stopping by 🙂
Wow, the only one I read on your list was The Woman in Cabin 10. Stephen King’s Misery was another I read with a writer in it, and at present I’m reading Adult Onset by Canadian author Ann-Marie MacDonald, which has a YA writer as the main character. I really enjoy her style, and this is the third novel by her that I’ve read.
Hi Jennifer – thank you for adding to the list! So sorry for the late reply. I’ll have to look for Adult Onset. 🙂
It isn’t for everyone, I should add. Although I love her style, she is very much in her own head in this one, and there’s a lot of minutiae shared of her everyday life raising small children. Still, because it’s semiautobiographical about her own upbringing, I found it quite interesting.
Stephen King also writes about writers quite often, Barbara. The Shining, The Dark Half, Salem’s Lot, and Misery all feature people who are trying to write and are in varying stages of success as writers. My book, A Ghost and His Gold, features a chartered accountant who is a part time writer [just like me]. Accountant’s have a way of popping up in my books and stories. I think its because we like to write what we know.
That’s interesting, Robbie. My father was a CPA, but wrote all the time. 🙂
Ah, he must have needed an escape from the drudgery just like me [smile]. I really do like deal making and the related work, but some of the stuff I do bores me silly. Interestingly enough, it does not bore my hubby [which is probably a good thing].
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