Write Who You Know

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
Jump to navigation Jump to search

"Michael [Grant] used the kids for Gone and then ended up horrified when he realized he'd hooked up our "son" and "daughter" romantically."


The easiest character to write is one who comes premade.

For various reasons, an author writes themselves or their friends into the story, as themselves. Maybe it's an in-joke. Maybe it's a message. Maybe they're just seizing the nearest source of inspiration.

Although this is more common in fiction than some authors would dare admit, it really broke out in Web Comics due to their less formal standards. The Ur Example was probably Penny Arcade (although see below). A popular variation is to name the character after the person's online handle instead.

The furthest extent of this is an author writing a story or script about an author having writer's block. The longer a Schedule Slip, the closer the chance of this appearing gets to 1.

See Life Embellished for what occurs when this gets out of hand, (which can unfortunately degenerate into a Mary Sue if handled incorrectly), and Journal Comic for an entire comic that's taken straight from life. Also see Self-Insert Fic. Compare Her Codename Was Mary Sue, Write What You Know. Contrast Tuckerization, where only the name of a real person is used.

Examples of Write Who You Know include:

Anime and Manga

  • Sket Dance: The Sket Dan club found itself in a situation where they had to perform a "Snow White" play for the children, but all their costumes and props have been sabotaged. Only the little puppets which were supposed to represent the seven dwarfs have been spared. What shall they do? Shall they cancel the show? No! They decide to improvise a puppet play based on a true story (which happened to them in an earlier episode), masking it as a typical Japanese demon tale.

Comic Books

  • Tom(my) Taylor in The Unwritten.
  • Archie's Token Black friend Chuck Clayton has used Archie, and occasionally their other friends, as inspiration for comic characters.
  • In Shade the Changing Man, this is how Miles Laimling wrote, taking character descriptions and sometimes full quotes from people he met in person. An unexpected consequence of living near a Weirdness Magnet inside a Weirdness Nexus was that he actually took their personality traits away as he wrote about them, until the original person was left empty and depressed to the point of suicide.


  • In the 2003 film Something's Gotta Give, Erica Barry (Diane Keaton) writes a play based on her ex-boyfriend Harry Sanborn (Jack Nicholson).
  • In Deconstructing Harry the vast majority of Harry Block's characters are very, very thinly veiled versions of his assorted friends, wives, relatives. Every time a new novel hits the market, someone's going to cut all ties with him.

"And of course there's Jane, or, as you pathetically disguised her... Janet."



  • Martin Sargent in Welcome to the Working Week by Paul Vlitos writes a children's book in which a lonely, short-sighted hedgehog falls in love with a hairbrush. His ex-girlfriend is not best pleased. (Nor is his best friend, who appears as a saucer of milk.)
  • In The Tightrope Walker by Dorothy Gilman, the manuscript of an author's last novel, lost at her death and subsequently rediscovered, turns out to contain characters based on her relatives, and so keenly observed that their fates in the novel foreshadow events that occurred after the novel was completed.
  • In Joan Hess's Strangled Prose, a new romance novel contains unflattering expies of several members of the local college English department, providing all of them with potential motives to kill the author. This is done deliberately by the book's ghost-writer, who plans to kill the (nominal) author and wanted to confuse the issue by provoking a bunch of people into being plausible suspects.
  • Adrian Mole's former school bully writes a bestseller - Dork's Diary, starring "Aiden Vole". This is triply galling to Adrian, as he is a struggling writer himself, who pushed the bully into writing.

Live-Action TV

  • Castle: Richard Castle openly based his character Nikki Heat on Detective Beckett. He also wrote in a character based on himself, as well as thinly veiled counterparts of the rest of the cops Beckett works with. He seems to have done it before, too, such as when he based a character on Powell the jewel thief.
  • The characters on Bones often debate who they are in Brennan's novels. Brennan insists that none of them appear and all her characters are original.
    • One episode takes place entirely within the universe of a novel she's working on. While she pictures the characters as her real-life friends, their personalities are often completely different.
  • NCIS: Agent McGee has a series of books with characters based on his co-workers. A few episodes center on the book or mention it, usually with the rest of the main characters pissed at McGee.

Jimmy Palmer: I read your book. And for your information, I've never had sexual relations with a corpse.
McGee: That character was not based on you.
Jimmy Palmer: His name was "Pimmy Jalmer", McGee!
McGee: He's French Polynesian.

  • Gossip Girl: Dan writes a story based around the Upper East Side life he acquired in his last few years of high school. Every character ends up despising him for his Alternative Character Interpretations. Serena because she thought she was going to be the love interest. Blair because she was the love interest. Nate because himself and Eric were turned into a single character in the book. Dan's father is called a washed up has-been turned trophy husband. Only Chuck accepts the portrayal of the book version of his character, even though the character dies by suicide at the end.
  • In the ER episode "Random Acts", Randy finds the author-less manuscript of a very steamy romance novel set in a hospital and with a cast of characters who are all thinly-veiled, overblown, romanticized stand-ins for the various members of the ER staff. The employees spend most of the episode trying to figure out who could have wrote it and mocking the story's medical shortcomings, soap-opera plots, and Purple Prose.
  • In "The One That Could Have Been" episode from Friends, Chandler publishes a story to Archie Comics based on his experiences working as Joey's assistant.
  • Basis of Deadly Games, where the The Game Come to Life that the main character programmed had all the characters being based on people he knew.
  • Seinfeld featured a story arc where Jerry and George create a sitcom whose characters are based on Jerry and his friends. Of course, Seinfeld itself is an example of this trope; see below.
  • This is the plot of an episode of How I Met Your Mother, where Ted is outraged at a movie being about himself, his ex-fiancee Stella, and her ex-husband, from the perspective of the ex-husband, and caricaturing Ted as a sleazy villain.
  • In Barney Miller, Det. Harris starts out writing a nonfiction book, then makes it into a novel with the whole cast and a few of the extras. He calls it Precinct Diary, but the publisher renames it Blood on the Badge. His depiction of sleazebag lawyer Arnold Ripner provokes a civil action, and he loses everything he owns.

Newspaper Comics

  • Candorville parodies this. Lemont wrote a story about his own Unresolved Sexual Tension with Susan, but when she noticed and asked about it, he told her that "all my stories are completely fictional." Clyde appeared and informed Lemont that he'd read, and found hilarious, Lemont's story about a guy named Clive who's too stupid to realize when other people are talking about him.

Western Animation

  • Rocko's Modern Life, with the son of Mr. and Mrs. Bighead creating a cartoon called "The Fatheads", based on his parents.
  • The Daria episode "Write Where It Hurts" follows Daria's attempts to put people she knows in a fictonal story with moral dimensions.

Web Comics

  • Power Up Comics uses this as a running joke where the (fictional) authors use idealized versions of themselves as characters.
  • The cast of Multiplex are making a zombie film in which they all play themselves.
  • Sabrina Online has Sabrina use expies of her own friends and co-workers in her webcomic modeled after her life. Their reactions range from mildly amused to rather peeved.


Anime and Manga

  • The Excel Saga anime is notorious for having the author of the manga, Koshi Rikudo, appear at the beginning of every episode as himself giving permission for his manga to be turned into something completely different. Furthermore, Nabeshin is an anime only character and is a self-insert of the series director Shinichi Watanabe, who also parodies this trope to the extreme and even has Nabeshin and Rikudo doing battle in a metaphor for the artistic battles that take place when a work is adapted from manga to anime.
    • For that matter, Nabeshin or variations thereof also appear in most of Watanabe's works. Puni Puni Poemi has the same Nabeshin as Excel Saga and Tenchi Muyo! GXP features a Dirty Old Robot Buddy named NB. In Nerima Daikon Brothers, Watanabe voices the character—never referred to by name (or seen clearly), but in the same costume—as the owner of a rental shop that serves as a Deus Ex Machina outlet. Furthermore, the Nabeshin likeness has appeared as a guest-star in several anime that Watanabe is not involved with.
      • In one interview, Watanabe said that he'd like to get rid of the hairdo, but he's become so closely associated with the character, that he's afraid of what the fan reaction would be if he did.
  • Most of the characters in Hayao Miyazaki's movies are based on real people he knows in appearance, mannerism, personality, or all three. Which may explain why they tend to be somewhat similar.
  • A musician guest appearance is seen in Interstella 5555, which is set entirely to Daft Punk's album Discovery. Daft Punk themselves appear at the Gold Record Awards as one of the nominees (apparently for best new artist). They lose to the main characters
  • Harima Kenji from School Rumble is practically based on the mangaka, both in design and story.
  • In an episode of Gash Bell, Victoream gets a magical melon which summons a god to grant him one wish. And who is god? Manga author Makoto Raiku, of course, who denies Victoream's wish for another melon on the grounds that he already ate it himself.
  • Bakuman。 is a story about manga collaborators for Shonen Jump, by manga collaborators for Shonen Jump. The self-insertion becomes especially apparent when they start working on mystery...
  • Naoko Takeuchi has stated, that Usagi's (aka Sailor Moon) family is based on her own.
    • Also Usagi and Minako are based on herself, with the former's hair style based on a good luck ritual of her own. Rei's miko backstory and attitude towards men came from getting hit on during her own employment at a Shinto shrine.
  • Bits of the cast's quirks in Fairy Tail come from friends of Mashima's. Supposedly, Gray's stripping came from Mashima himself.
    • Also Joy Fullbun, Chico=c=Hammit and Wang Chamji appearances are based on his assistants.
  • Many of the '60s and '70s scenes in 20th Century Boys are based on incidents from author Naoki Urasawa's childhood, though he denies that the main protagonist Kenji is actually based on him.
    • He's claimed in an interview that he sees himself as more like Otcho.
  • The personality of Tsukimi from Princess Jellyfish is lifted wholesale from Akiko Higashimura's younger self.
  • Yattaran, Captain Harlock's first mate, is based on Kaoru Shintani, the creator of Area 88 and good friend of Leiji Matsumoto. This includes the character's love of plastic models.

Comic Books

  • Grant Morrison appeared as himself in his final issue on Animal Man. Unusually for this trope, he tells Animal Man that he is writing the character's adventures, and proceeds to bring the character's murdered family Back from the Dead, thinking it might be nice to give a character a happy ending for once. (Of course, in the very next issue of Animal Man, the protagonist forgot all about this encounter.) Shortly afterwards a very similar character known only as The Writer appeared in John Ostrander's Suicide Squad—he was torn to shreds by a wolfman after getting a case of writer's block.
  • John Ostrander has been known for this himself. A number of people have had characters named for them in Starslayer, Grim Jack and Suicide Squad... including one troper's mother.
  • John Ostrander himself appeared as a supporting character in Supergirl three years before he started writing for DC Comics (he was a friend of writer Paul Kupperberg.)
  • Dave Sim appeared in the prose segments of Cerebus both as Viktor Davis and to Cerebus as "Dave," the creator of Cerebus' universe and of Cerebus himself, presenting himself as more powerful than Cerebus himself though not in any way the Real World God, who he did say existed. Unlike with Grant Morrison, Dave Sim wanted his creation to remember their encounter and made sure that would happen in a particularly cruel way. Sim also appeared in person in a later story arc.
  • John Byrne was brought along to witness the Trial of Reed Richards when the Shi'ar put Reed on trial for saving Galactus' life, in a Fantastic Four story.
    • In fact, many Marvel employees appear in the Marvel universe, since Marvel Comics actually exists on Earth-616, only they are mere chroniclers of the "real life" adventures of the 'verse's superheroes.
  • In the Hellboy story "The Hydra and the Lion", Hellboy encounters a young girl pulling the Hydra's teeth with pliers. She claims to be half-lion and roars at him to prove it (waking the Hydra up). In the prologue to the story in the collection The Troll-Witch and Other Stories, Mike Mignola writes that the girl is heavily based on his daughter Kate, down to claiming to be half-lion.
  • Brazilian artist Mauricio de Sousa created most characters from Monica's Gang based on his family (all his sons, two based on his brother) or childhood friends - many times with Tuckerization.
  • Many Underground Comics artists, like Robert Crumb, his wife Aline, Dori Seda, Mary Fleener, Krystine Kryttre, Leslie Sternbergh, and so many others.
  • Peter Milligan, writer of aforementioned Shade the Changing Man, confessed to doing this often, which his editor corroborated in the letters column. The character Miles Laimling is an anagram of his own name, and Shade's initial Fish Out of Water perspectives and critiques of America were based on his own as a UK expatriat.
  • Chris Claremont did this sort of thing a lot. For instance, naming a group in Wolverine after the owners of a London comic shop or modeling an X-Men character after his translator at a 1985 comics convention in Spain. Perhaps his most egregious example was the Star Trek graphic novel Debt of Honor, which features at least a dozen of Claremont's friends as Enterprise crew members and the like, not to mention a Shout-Out to a favorite band that several were associated with.


  • Writer Michael Nankin did this for the script of the original The Gate.
  • Richard Linklater allegedly did this with some former classmates for Dazed and Confused. Three men named Wooderson, Slater, and Floyd sued Linklater for defamation in 2004. Whether Linklater used their personalities or names alone for inspiration will never be known, as the case was dropped shortly afterwards.
  • Adam, Seth Rogen's character in 50/50, was based on Rogen himself. Writer Will Reiser is good friends with Rogen and he was the person who took care of Reiser while he battled cancer. Much of the screenplay is based on their relationship.
  • From (500) Days of Summer: "The following is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely coincidental. Especially you Jenny Beckman. Bitch."


  • Author Clive Cussler makes cameo appearances in many of his Dirk Pitt novels, in scenes in which he provides Pitt with a critical clue to whatever's going on in the current book or lends him some cool vehicle with which to save the day.
  • The character Angela in The Inheritance Cycle is named after, and loosely based on, Christopher Paolini's sister.
  • John Le Carré's A Perfect Spy is a fictionalized autobiography, except that Le Carré became a novelist, while his character Magnus Pym betrayed his country and shot himself. Le Carré explained that he wanted to write about his childhood, but in order to keep it from being a sob story, he made the son even worse than the father.
  • Frederick Forsyth's The Dogs of War has an unnamed journalist who is supposed to be Forsythe himself providing information to the protagonist. The whole book is based on Forsythe's experiences reporting on the Nigerian Civil War, and most of the name-checked mercenaries and secondary characters are real people.
  • Possibly happens a lot in The Bible, although in many cases the true author of a section of text is unknown. Most notable is the Gospel of John's references to "the disciple whom Jesus loved" who is usually interpreted to be John himself.
  • Ruth Ann and the Green Blowster is said to be written by "Ruth Ann's Mother and Ruth Ann's Daughter." Little backstory there: Ruth Ann was a real person. Not a real person who went on an Alice in Wonderland-esque trip through a fantasy world, but a real person nonetheless. Her mother wrote a book about her when she was really little, but died when Ruth Ann was 5. Ruth Ann's daughter discovered the unfinished manuscript when she was little, and rediscovered it after Ruth Ann died, and decided to continue the story. Hence, the story is a collaborative effort beyond the grave between Ruth Ann's mother and Ruth Ann's daughter, about the many adventures of a 5-year-old Ruth Ann.
  • Author John Ringo, and to a lesser extent fellow Baen Books author David Weber, has done this for many of his books, using friends, relatives and even people on who post on his publisher's boards as secondary characters (who are collectively called The Redshirts for obvious reasons). In one book, The Emerald Sea, he even used the entire crew of a Caribbean tour cruise company as mer-people, keeping their names and personalities.
  • Stephen King loves this trope in general.
    • He at one point appeared as himself in one of the Dark Tower books...
    • The Shining and The Dark Half both have main characters who are writers with substance abuse problems.
    • IT, 'Salem's Lot, 1408, Misery, The Body (later adapted into the movie Stand by Me), and many other works by King also have writer protagonists.
  • Geoffrey Chaucer was doing this before the printing press. He did it most famously in The Canterbury Tales, in which a character called Chaucer tells the story of a pilgrimage and accompanying storytelling contest in which he participated. Ironically, since IRL Chaucer was a talented storyteller who authored or adapted all of the titular tales, this character's initial attempt at telling a story is so bad that the host does not let him finish it, saying, "Thy drasty rymyng is nat worth a toord!" (just say it out loud). Then again, Chaucer was not averse to Self-Deprecation.
  • The protagonist of The Space Trilogy, philologist Elwin Ransom, is loosely based on C. S. Lewis' good friend, the philologist JRR Tolkien. The Narrator of the first two novels is implied to be Lewis himself, which ties in with those novels' Literary Agent Hypothesis.
  • Many of the characters in To Kill a Mockingbird were based on Harper Lee's childhood friends and family. Scout herself is based on Harper Lee, and Dill Harris is based on Truman Capote. Harper Lee, in turn, was the inspiration for the character of Idabel Tompkins in Capote's first novel, Other Voices, Other Rooms.
  • Jonathan Safran Foer is a character in his novel Everything Is Illuminated.
  • Brian Jacques, author of the Redwall series, has stated that Gonff the Mousethief's personality was based on himself as a child.
  • Henry Wadsworth Longfellow did this to all the main characters of Tales of a Wayside Inn. As it used the Framing Device of several intellectual characters gathering at an inn to tell stories, he simply borrowed from associates of his. The Inn, which from a perspective was the main "character", is based on a real inn in Sudberry, Massachusetts which is still in operation and making the most of its literary associations.
  • Many of Anne McCaffrey's works feature a character named Johnny Green, in memory of her real life close friend of the same name, who was tragically murdered.
  • Twilight is notorious for this, especially considering that the description of Bella from Stephenie Meyer's own website sounds like a description of... yep, Stephenie Meyer. Even actor Robert Pattinson, who played Edward Cullen, said he felt like he was reading Self Insertion Fanfiction.
    • Many of the werewolves are named for her siblings. Including Jacob. Squick.
      • Not to mention Heidi (a vampire who dresses as a prostitute to attract humans for the Volturi to eat) was named after one of Meyer's sisters. Um, yeah...
  • Jules Verne was friends with Gaspard-Felix Tounachon, a pioneering balloonist and photographer who used the professional name "Nadar." So when Verne needed an adventurous hero for his novel From Earth to the Moon he put in a character named Michael Ardan (A-R-D-A-N = N-A-D-A-R).
  • Gilderoy Lockhart from Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets is directly based on a real person. J. K. Rowling claims the real guy is too self-deluded for the connection to ever occur to him, saying "He's probably out there now telling everybody that he inspired the character of Albus Dumbledore. Or that he wrote the books and lets me take the credit out of kindness."
    • Rowling has also stated that the character of Severus Snape, Potions Master of Hogwarts, was based (at least partially) on her old chemistry teacher, John Nettleship. Understandably, Nettleship wasn't too happy when he found out. But at least he can take comfort in the knowledge that just about any of Snape's copious supply of fangirls would gladly throw themselves at him if they ever got the chance. Probably quite literally.
    • Pansy Parkinson is based on girls who used to bully Rowling when she was a schoolgirl. Hermione is based on Rowling herself when she was a schoolgirl.
    • The Ford Anglia that the Weasleys drove in the second book is based off of a car that Rowling's friend used to take her for rides in.
    • The owner of said Ford Anglia was Sean Harris, to whom the second book is dedicated and who is more-or-less the inspiration for Ron. Rowling says that "I never set out to describe Sean in Ron, but Ron has a Sean-ish turn of phrase." She has, however, denied all claims (and there have been plenty) of Harry himself being based off a real person.
  • Tom Clancy has already admitted Jack Ryan is a literary version of himself in official interviews, even going as far as admitting to him be an Author Stand In.
  • Ivana Trump, a former Czech Olympic skier and the ex-wife of ultra rich real estate entrepreneur Donald Trump, wrote a romance novel called For Love Alone. The plot centers around the exploits of Katrinka Graham, a Czech skier who is married to an ultra rich entrepreneur, and her close circle of ultra rich friends. Her husband has an affair and divorces her and, according to summaries of the sequel, is very bitter after the fact. Hmm...
  • The Phillip Roth novels Ghost Writer, Zuckerman Unbound,The Anatomy Lesson and more feature Nathan Zuckerman- Roth's literary alter ego.
  • Paul Auster himself appears as a character in some of his novels.
  • Several of the characters in Jaroslav Hašek's novel The Good Soldier Švejk are based on people whom the author met during his war service - in some cases, he didn't even change their names. There's also a character who tells a story about how he was fired from a natural history magazine after writing articles about imaginary animals, which has happened to Hašek.
  • James Joyce based many characters in Ulysses on actual Dubliners he had known. In particular, the character of Buck Mulligan is a scathing parody of Oliver St. John Gogarty.
  • C. S. Lewis based the character of Lucy Pevensie on June Flewett, a girl who (like the Pevensies) was evacuated during World War II and came to live in his home. Lucy is named for Lewis' goddaughter, to whom several of the books were dedicated.
  • Mark Twain based most of the characters in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn on his own friends and family. Jim was based on a slave that his uncle owned, Judge Thatcher and Colonel Grangerford were based on his father (and Grangerford gets killed in a feud... hmmm...), Sid Sawyer was based on his brother Henry, Becky Thatcher was based on his first love, Laura Wright, Huckleberry Finn was based on Tom Blankenship, the son of Hannibal, Missouri's town drunk, and Tom Sawyer was based on Twain himself.
  • Isaac Asimov inserted versions of himself, with his name, in Murder at the ABA (where he annoyed the protagonist, Darius Just, to no end) and (mostly implied or with other names) in his various short-story series. Depending on the circumstances, his self-insert is either an amiable chucklehead or a complete jerk ('Murder at the ABA'). It actually works.
  • Alice, of Alice in Wonderland, was actually a friend of the author, Lewis Carroll. Each of the birds she meets early on in the book are based on her sisters and their nicknames and other things, while Mr. Dodo is Carroll himself.
    • Alice's two other, lesser known sisters make appearances in the second book, as the rose and the violet in the talking flower garden. The mouse who gives the "dry lecture" and the Red Queen were seemingly based off of Alice's governess. The Queen of Hearts and the Duchess were seemingly caricatures of Queen Victoria and her mother respectively.
  • The Little House books may be an extreme example. Not only did Laura Ingalls Wilder base her stories on the lives of herself and her family, her daughter also wrote two books based on the same stories for adults. The protagonists of Let The Hurricane Roar are even named Charles and Caroline, after Laura's parents. And then, books were written about that selfsame daughter, by her lawyer and adopted grandson.
    • What did you expect? The Little House-series is basically autobiographical, with only a few changes.
  • Ian Fleming once described one of his James Bond novels as 'the latest chapter in my autobiography'. (Which one?)
    • He also claimed to have based Bond's exploits off of World War Two operative William Stephenson ("The Man Called 'Intrepid'"), going so far as to state that Bond was the romanticized version of the spy, whereas Stephenson was the real thing.
      • A number of people have been credited with being the real James Bond, basically practically any spy of the period with an interesting career.
  • Sherlock Holmes was partly based (in both physical appearance and deductive ability}} on Doyle's old boss Dr Joseph Bell.
    • Also, Watson was based off of Arthur Conan Doyle himself (example: both have a military background).
  • Carrie Fisher's novel Postcards from the Edge, which later became a film also written by her, is directly based on her own struggle with drugs and fame. Suzanne Vale (played by Meryl Streep in the movie) is Fisher and her actress mother Doris Mann (Shirley MacLaine) is Debbie Reynolds.
  • The Time It Never Rained by Elmer Kelton, every character is a real person with a false name that was in or near San Angelo at the time.
  • The Buddenbrooks in Thomas Mann's homonymous novel are basically all expies for Mann's own relatives.
  • Dante Alighieri's famous poem The Divine Comedy features himself as the main character. A few people he knew turn up in Hell.
  • Steven Brust's Dragaera books contain several shout outs to his friends. A hippy drummer is his former drum teacher, who really is that obsessed with the spirituality of drumming. A grizzled old Dragaeran soldier is a late poker buddy of Brust's. A heroic artist character in the Phoenix Guards series is an editor friend of his.
  • Jo March of Little Women is based very much on the author Louisa May Alcott; her parents, sisters, and (in later books) nieces and nephews were also based on Alcott's own family. Unlike Jo, however, Alcott never married.
  • Kinky Friedman is a character in all of Kinky Friedman's novels.
  • Christopher Robin was A.A. Milne's son.
  • Douglas Coupland makes a minor appearance as himself in JPod.
  • In My Family and Other Animals, Gerald Durrell mentioned that he made a story book when he was a child which consisted of adventures of him and his family dealing with animals.
  • Robert A. Heinlein was said (and admitted) to basing many of his strong female protagonists on his wife Virginia, to whom he was married for forty years until his death. His archprotagonist Lazarus Long also shares many autobiographical traits, from growing up in early twentieth century Kansas City, Missouri to espousing many of his quasi-Libertarian ideals.
  • In the Alasdair Gray novel Lanark, the title character is invited through a door in the fourth wall, finds himself in the author's studio, and has a discussion with the author about the novel and its plot. Gray admits that he hasn't yet written the narrative surrounding the scene they are in, so Lanark will know more about it than he does - but nevertheless, he is surprised to hear that there is a character, Lanark's son, which he has not planned to create and does not think would fit into the book.
  • In A Beautiful Friendship, the Harringtons have a meeting at a restaurant called "The Red Letter", owned by a person by the name of Eric Flint. The fictional Flint is said to hail from the world of New Chicago, described as "a dumping ground for radical anarchists, socialists, and - especially - every member of the Levelers’ Association the government could round up after Old Earth’s Final War". The Real Life Flint, an occasional co-author with Weber in the Honor Harrington and 1632 series, is a self-admitted socialist, and currently lives near Chicago.
  • Larry Niven does this a lot.
    • He and Jerry Pournelle put their friend Frank Gasperik into several novels under various names. He's the big biker dude in Lucifer's Hammer, Fallen Angels, and Footfall.
    • Niven and Pournelle also put themselves, Robert Heinlein, and several other SF writers on the fictional "Threat Team" assembled to advise the government about an alien invasion in Footfall. Niven is Nat Reynolds, Pournelle is Wade Curtis.
    • In one of his Magic Goes Away stories, "The Lion in His Attic," Niven put his favorite restaurant owner, Andre Lion, into the distant past as innkeeper "Rordray" (rumored to be a were-lion).
  • The Butterfly Kid is built on this combined with Tuckerization: In addition to Author Avatar Chester Anderson, there is Michael Kurland (who wrote the first sequel) and Tom Waters (who wrote the second sequel).
    • There is an uncertain instance in the character of Andrew Blake, an unashamed pornographer with artistic pretensions. Some fifteen or so years after the book was published, porn director/producer Paul Nevitt began working under the name "Andrew Blake" and began releasing almost incomprehensibly-artistic adult films; it is unknown if Nevitt was known to Anderson and had been using the name already, or if he just took the pseudonym in tribute, or if it was all just a coincidence.
    • At least two Amazon.com reviewers claim to have been neighbors of Anderson, Kurland and Waters in the 1960s and indicate that everyone in the book, even walk-on characters, is based on a real person.

Live Action TV

  • Most of the cast of 30 Rock is directly based on real people in Tina Fey's life with Liz being her Author Avatar. In some cases, the real person actually plays the character they inspired, including Liz (obviously), Tracy Morgan as Tracy Jordan, and Jack McBrayer as Kenneth Parcell. Some people, including Alec Baldwin himself, see Jack Donaghy as a Lorne Michaels equivalent. It's also commonly assumed that Josh is based on Jimmy Fallon. To finish with the main cast, we must assume Jenna is a Composite Character of Rachel Dratch (who was originally slated to play the character) and Amy Poehler.
    • According to Tina Fey, Liz is "a Sliding Doors version of me, if I had never met my husband."
  • A few of the characters on The League of Gentlemen are a bit of this: Pauline is based on a restart officer that Reece Shearsmith once had, while Papa Lazarou is based on an eccentric Greek landlord he and Steve Pemberton once shared (there's a good chance that Pemberton's character Pop is based on him as well). Ollie Plimsoles is based on someone Mark Gatiss met in community theatre, with Phil as an Author Avatar of Gatiss himself.
  • Catherine Tate admits to doing this for her self-titled comedy show: Margaret is based on her mother, the "tactless woman" on Tate herself, and Paul and Sam on a couple she knows. She has also claimed that the Aga Saga Woman is based on a woman she met on the King's Road in London, and Geordie Georgie on someone who wrote to her asking for charity donations.
  • Glee's Kurt Hummel is reportedly largely based on creator Ryan Murphy as a youth, particularly his interactions with his father
  • A majority of Freaks and Geeks was based off of creator Paul Feig's life in Michigan - especially the character of Sam Weir.
  • Seinfeld: The main characters are based on the real Jerry Seinfeld and his friends Larry David and Elaine Boosler, plus Larry David's former neighbor Kenny Kramer. (Larry David provided the model for George Costanza, which may explain why David was going to play George in the Seinfeld Reunion Show on Curb Your Enthusiasm.)
  • Speaking of which: every main character in Curb Your Enthusiasm who isn't already supposed to be the real thing.
  • How I Met Your Mother is partially based on creators Carter Bays and Craig Thomas's younger days: Ted is based on Bays, Marshall on Thomas, and Lily on Thomas's wife.
  • Charlie Harper, the (former) star of Two and A Half Men, is basically the exact same character as his actor, Charlie Sheen, having the same personality traits, the same hedonistic habits, and the same characteristics.
  • This may be hard to believe for some, but Bill Hader's Stefon character on Saturday Night Live is actually based on two people that Hader and SNL writer John Mulaney have met: one was a barista who looked, dressed, and talked like Stefon, the other was a club promoter that John Mulaney (an SNL writer) met who also talked like Stefon and had a vast knowledge of every weird party going on in New York City.
    • Another recurring character based on a real person is Jay Pharoah's Principal Frye, who is actually based on Jay Pharoah's high school principal from Chesapeake, Virginia. The only difference is in the name: on the show, the principal's name is Daniel; in real life, the principal is named James.


  • Dos Gringos has written several songs based on the personal experiences of their fellow fighter pilots.

Newspaper Comics

  • Stephan Pastis, the author of Pearls Before Swine has, on occasion, inserted a cartoon version of himself, IN THE ROLE OF HIMSELF, into the comic. I think he got killed in in one story arc. The characters openly mock him.
    • Strangely, the comic version of Pastis smokes, while the real one does not.
    • One Sunday comic was featured from the (comically exaggerated) viewpoint of a neighbor. Pastis also frequently uses names of relatives, friends, coworkers, and sometimes real-life businesses.
    • This lead to a rather humorous story arc in which Pastis accidentally delivers his week's worth of Pearls Before Swine comics to Darby Conley, artist of Get Fuzzy, who appeared as a cartoon version of himself. Pastis asks Conley to not look at the comics, but he proceeds to steal them and replace the main characters with the Get Fuzzy cast. The story concludes with Pastis calling to confront Darby on this and Darby blocking his number.
  • Most of the Peanuts characters were named after acquaintances of Charles M. Schulz: Shermy and Schroeder were childhood friends; Charlie Brown, Linus and Frieda were former co-workers; Van Pelt was the surname of a former neighbor. Spike was his childhood dog (whose personality served as the basis for Snoopy). Despite the widespread belief that Charlie Brown was Schulz's Author Avatar, most of the characters seem to have inherited various real life Schulz traits. One of the more frustrating things about David Michaelis' Schulz bio was that he seemed to think that Lucy was exclusively a stand-in for Schulz's first wife, when there was plenty of evidence within his own book that Lucy inherited Schulz's more irascible side.
    • And the Little Red-Haired Girl was famously inspired by a red-haired woman who broke Schulz's heart.
  • The Patterson clan from For Better or For Worse is essentially a straight out copy of Lynn Jonston's family: a son, a daughter, a husband who was a dentist, a writer mother, grandfather who fought in WWII... April was the first real deviation.
  • One memorable Doonesbury Sunday strip begins with Zonker chatting with a man who we've never seen before, who is drawn more realistically than the strip's usual style. In the final panel Zonker introduces the man to Mike, saying "Mike! Meet the guy I'm modeled after!"
  • On a similar note, Steve Dallas was based heavily, in both appearance and personality, a guy Berkeley Breathed knew in college. He notes in the commentary for the first Complete Library volume that he "suspect[s] he was shot by an annoyed girlfriend, which saved [Breathed] many legal fees."
  • Horse of Footrot Flats is based on a cat that hung around the writers house. It is noteworthy because Horse is Badass, mean andborderline indestructible.
  • Scott Adams based many of the characters in Dilbert on his real-life coworkers.
    • A vegetarian that appears in one strip who insists that he may be weedy but is 'deceptively healthy' bears a striking resemblance to Adams himself (who is a vegetarian in real life).
  • Rocky is based on creator Martin Kellerman's own life and friends.
  • Garfield is loosely based on Jim Davis' grandfather, James Garfield Davis. Also, Odie is loosely based on a guy he knew back home in Indiana.

Video Games

  • Ultima contains a great many characters that are basically Expies of Richard Garriot and his friends, most notably Lord British and The Companions of The Avatar. As a matter of fact, much of the series was a winking fictionalization of the Society For Creative Anachronism's activities.
  • Banjo-Kazooie Nuts & Bolts features a character called Trophy Thomas, an overly-competitive, cheetah-like braggart with blue hair, designed after James Thomas, an employee at the developing company Rare. "Trophy Thomas" is a nickname which he earned around the offices, explained by a post on his personal blog. His hair is also actually dyed blue.

Web Animation

  • TV Tome Adventures is based on a forum-based RP game, and thus most of the characters are based on actual people, using their real usernames (Alpha was based on a person called "Ultimate Creature II", though he later gains that as a title).

Web Comics

  • Word of God says that Homestuck's Dave Strider is basically Andrew Hussie. They even have the same typing quirks.
  • David Willis appears frequently in Shortpacked! as a parody of his own obsessions; he is arguably the most entertaining character in the whole strip. At one point he actually got in a fight with Ethan after an edit war on the Transformers wiki.
  • Howard Tayler occasionally turns up in Schlock Mercenary, in strips which make it clear that he and the "narrator", Dr. Awoh, are completely separate entities. Tayler won the only ever Web Cartoonist Choice Award for Best Guest Appearance.
  • Dave Anez of Bob and George not only shows up for commentary, but actively directs the plot as the Author (a recolor of a helmetless Mega Man sprite). Authors from the other comics featured on the site frequently make guest appearances as well (Rick O' Shay being the most prominent). On two separate occasions, the characters have tried to end the comic by killing him.
  • the director and narrator of Books Don't Work Here is also the author. Since the comic has no Fourth Wall he goes beyond being a simple narrator and is arguably the character with the most screen time if you don't disqualify him for being a disembodied voice.
    • Many of the fans of the comic who donated to the kickstarter campaign also have avatars.
  • This has happened several times in General Protection Fault, most notably in early December 1999, when lead character Nick spends several strips arguing with cartoonist Jeffrey Darlington about having a Y2K storyline (Nick was strongly opposed to the whole idea, but lost the argument).
    • Nick is also heavily based on Darlington, and Ki is based on his wife.
  • Scott Kurtz rarely interacts directly with the characters in his comic PvP, but frequently does offtopic strips featuring (real life) arguments he has had with his father over technology, pop culture, and the direction the comic is going. These are frequent enough that "Scott's Dad" is listed on the character page.
  • In Penny Arcade, the characters of Tycho and Gabe look nothing like their real-life counterparts, either in looks or (broadly speaking) personality. This is because they hadn't originally been intended to represent the authors, though they've since joyfully dived into Life Embellished. (Parodied with "WHY I AM SO BALD", a redrawn - and intentionally Macekre'd with MS Paint - Penny Arcade strip featuring versions of Tycho and Gabe that look like their real-life counterparts, only more unflattering.)
  • David Morgan-Mar of Irregular Webcomic appears both as himself in the "Me" theme, and as the Dungeon Master in the Fantasy and Space themes. Also, in those later two themes, the characters are based directly on characters in his real life role-playing games. They're the same group, which is why Alvissa and Kyros are nearly identical in personality to Paris and Serron.
  • When Chris Onstad of Achewood speaks with his characters, all you can see are his legs (and once, hands).
    • Onstad's infant daughter even showed up in a couple of strips, albeit from behind.
  • A significant portion of the cast of The Wotch is based on friends of the authors.
  • About 80% of the cast in Jack consists of friends, relatives and most of the time, online acquaintances (which sometimes explains the AOL-inspired names some of the characters have). Even the author himself has a role in the comic as the Devil, who literally controls Hell via comics he draws..
    • You'd be hard pressed to find a Furry Comic that doesn't do this, thanks to the nature of the fandom. A possible aversion would be Last Res0rt, as while the artist certainly considers Jigsaw her "fursona", she claims up and down that Jigsaw was not intended as one.
  • Davan, the central character of Something*Positive is based on his creator R. K. Milholland as he was several years before starting the strip, and most of the rest of the cast are Milholland's friends and family. To start with, "80-90%" of the story was based on reality, but it has diverged significantly since.
    • In universe, Davan based the villain of a play that he re-wrote off of his father, Fred, justifying it as needing the villain to be the most interesting person in the play.
  • Most of the main characters of Least I Could Do are either based on the author himself (or Mary Sue versions of himself), or his friends.
  • Mac Hall started out when Ian McConville drew some intended Penny Arcade guest strips, based on himself and his dormmates. He posted them on his door, and people liked them, so he started doing more. Matt Boyd (whom Ian knew from the popular fansite Bungie.Org) joined the cast and took over writing duties. Notable is the fact that the two didn't meet in person until a year or so into the strip's run.
  • Jayden and Crusader involves the titular character Crusader, who is a starving artist, part time gamer and comic enthusiast. This is a clear self-insert of the artist. It has been speculated that all other characters are really just different facets of the artist's psyche
  • Casey and Andy are, unsurprisingly, Andy Weir and his long-time friend Casey. Down to the crazy inventions and the dangerous pastimes. Although I pretty much doubt Andy really dates Satan.
  • The main cast of Real Life Comics consists of the author and his friends.
  • Geist-Panik's main character Riley is said to be the author, just in female form.
  • The two male well, most of the time characters in El Goonish Shive are based on aspects of the author's personality. His avatar also drops in for the Q&A sessions.
  • Exterminatus Now has four main characters, based on four authors (and occasional non-canon cameos of other people). There's a bit of Self-Deprecation involved; the admittedly self-loathing Eastwood is a Small Name, Big Ego Jerkass in the comic, ill-tempered Lothar is Ax Crazy, easygoing Virus is Too Dumb to Live, and Silversword... is actually a subversion, his character Rogue (not Rouge) isn't really based on him at all, which the strip points out.
  • Riff from Sluggy Freelance is based on an old friend of Pete Abrams's.
  • This is practically every character in Sonichu, due to Chris-chan writing himself into the story as some kind of hero beating up his real life enemies.
  • A few characters from School Bites are based off people the author knows, heck the main character is pretty much the author herself.
  • Enjuhneer's artist bases almost all of her characters on people she actually knows.
  • Piro and Largo of Megatokyo are both based off of the original authors, Fred Gallagher and Rodney Castor. Ed, Dom, and Tsubasa are based from their friends, and Seraphim is Sarah, Fred's wife (then girlfriend.)
  • On Springiette, all characters are based on real people. But there's a reason for that.
  • Ret-Conned Most characters are based off people the artist and writer know.
  • Living With Insanity. David and Paul are based off the creative team, and David created Alice using his ex-girlfriend as a basis.
  • Terra in 1/0 is told that she is based on a friend of the author.
  • Nearly everyone in Growing Up Grunge: Komo is the crater herself, Alicia is her sister, Tilly and Jack are her dogs, Izzy was her (now deceased) hamster, Alice and Eddie are based on her and her sister as well, and her dad makes an appearance. The only one not based on anyone is Zaff.
  • The main characters of Hijinks Ensue are openly based on the author (Joel) and his two best friends (Josh and Eli). It sometimes devolves into photo comics, which often include other cartoonists at conventions with silly speech bubbles and, in one memorable instance, photos of the real people from Eli's bachelor party
  • The entire main cast of Voodoo Walrus follows this. Along with some secondary characters too.
  • DAR notes the problem with this.
  • Most of the characters in Wasted Talent by Angela Melick are her friends or family members, usually with a nickname in place of their real name (mostly in early strips though, Red and Lucky still have their nicknames, but other characters have real names). Of note are her colleagues, identified by workplace, who were invented as fake people so Angela could avoid accidentally writing a comic about someone who wouldn't appreciate it.

Web Original

  • Survival of the Fittest has a ridiculous number of self insert characters or characters that are fictional versions of people the handler knows in real life.
  • Many Protectors of the Plot Continuum characters are based, with varying degrees of looseness, on their writers. Rather ironic considering the premise, but an Author Avatar is not necessarily a badly-written character, and most of them tend to become less and less like their authors over time.
  • Broken Saints: When series writer/director Brooke Burgess lived on a Fijian island for six months prior to the creation of the series, the local chief was named Tui and his son was named Tui Jr. Sure enough, in the series, the chief of the Lomalagi islanders is named Tui, and his son is Tui Jr. How much they are based on the real people is uncertain, but considering Burgess' experiences were the inspiration for the islanders being in the series at all, it wouldn't be surprising if there were some resemblance.

Western Animation

  • A puppet version of C. H. Greenblatt appeared in the Chowder episode "Shnitzel Quits" to convince Shnitzel that his friends truly were appreciative of him.
  • The human supervillains Angry Archer and Slo-Mo in Transformers Animated are based on Aaron Archer and Samantha Lomow, both of whom work for Hasbro.
  • Creator of The Simpsons Matt Groening has admitted that Bart was based, at least in part, on his own brother Mark. He also said that he based Lisa on himself - although his sister, after whom the character is named, used to think it was based on her.
  • All the characters in Ed, Edd 'n' Eddy are based on Danny Antonucci himself, his family, and people he knew growing up...meaning that he knows abusive bastards like Eddie's older brother and lovesick trailer trash like the Kanker sisters.
  • An animated version of Elton John was superimposed in the music video "Someday Out of the Blue" from The Road to El Dorado.
  • Many of the characters from South Park are supposedly based on people that Parker and Stone met in their hometown of Fairplay, Colorado or at school in Boulder. Trying to figure out who they might be is a favorite pastime of CU undergrads. The most commonly accepted one is that Chef's visual appearance is modeled on Chef Willie from Sewall Hall.
    • Stan and Kyle's respective parents are named after Parker and Stone's, and Stan's father Randy and sister Shelley are both heavily based on their real-life inspirations—particularly Shelley, who actually was abusive to Trey when they were kids (while the violence was nowhere near as bad as it was on the show, the real-life Shelley did punch Trey, push him down the stairs, and lock him out of the house on occasion).
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender has done this a few times. One of the random waterbenders Katara trains with is based on a relative of one of the artists and the swordmaster Piandao is based on the show's martial arts coordinator/consultant, and the instructor of one of the creators, Sifu Kisu.
  • Brendon Small, the main character of Home Movies, created by Brendon Small, should really need no further explaination.
  • Mordecai from Regular Show is just J.G. Quintel as a bluejay. He even uses his normal voice for Mordecai's.
  • Joe Murray wrote the recurring character of Ralph Bighead on Rocko's Modern Life as a less stable version of himself. The show's staff caught on, and convinced him to do the voice himself - because they wanted an excuse to hear the normally monotone Murray yell.
  • Mike Judge wrote and voiced Tom Anderson and later Hank Hill as caricatures of the adult male authority figures he knew growing up in New Mexico.
  • Lola from Charlie and Lola is based off an inquisitive young girl that author Lauren Child met on a train.