Common New Writer Choice: Protagonists Who Are Writers/Book Nerds

On Twitter the other day, I wrote a quick thread on a trend I’m seeing a lot in debut author’s manuscripts as well as in my client’s manuscripts, and that is: protagonists who are writers or love to read books. Or both.

Here are a few examples of writerly vocations:

  • Creative writer
  • Investigative journalist
  • Author

For those of you who aren’t into Twitter or missed my rant, I thought I’d do a follow-up blog post on the topic.

As many of you know, there’s the long-standing advice of “write what you know.” This usually pertains to utilizing your experiences in life in order to make your writing feel more authentic. While this is solid advice for many things, I do want to caution writers who are fleshing our there characters’ backstories, preferences, and passions.

All books are composed by writers. Most writers are voracious readers. Therefore, it would make sense that writers have a leniency toward creating characters who share the author’s passions: WORDS.

But don’t forget: Not all readers are writers.

Whether you outline your novels in advance or write to discover the story (also called architects and gardeners), consider the following:

  • How does your character’s backstory impact the plot?
  • What desires are a result of this backstory?
  • How do those desires shape your character’s actions?
  • Has this scenario been done MANY times before? If so, is there another backstory that would be more unique AND relevant to the plot and thereby propel the story forward in the most gripping way possible?

I’m not here to tell you that you should or shouldn’t have your protagonist be a writer or reader. You’re the writer and this is your story and vision. However, consider carefully how you’d like to proceed in order to make your story the strongest it can be as well as how you can make it stand out the most.


In case you missed this week’s iWriterly video, be sure to check that out: