The hard thing about creating a character’s job is making it relatable. I think this is why a lot of characters have very simple professions, while today’s professional titles are often complicated. In my day job I’ve had all kinds of vague titles: Engagement Leader, eServices Implementation Specialist, Site Technical Manager and so on. As an author, I don’t want to spend all kinds of time explaining what an eServices Implementation Specialist does. And honestly, it would be super boring to explain that that job was to help insurance agents sell insurance on the Internet. Yawn, right?

Making a character be a professional author makes it interesting right? Authors live in our own heads, frantically trying to get the story out. Our author characters are seen writing in and killing off people they don’t like in their real life. Our author characters are seen crumpling pieces of paper into a trash bin and dramatically declaring they will never write again. See? Way more interesting than figuring out how to help insurance agents sell more insurance.

Here are some of my favorite movies that feature an author as a main character. I draw on some of them for inspiration, like Stranger than Fiction. I draw on some when I just need a laugh, like Throw Momma From the Train. And Misery? That one just scares the crap out of me.

1. Stranger than Fiction. This one stars Will Ferrell as an IRS auditor. He wakes up one day and hears a British woman’s voice narrating his life as he’s living it. Not only does he have to figure out if that’s really happening (or is he going crazy?) and why is it happening. Who is the narrator? And what will she narrate next? Will he fall in love? Will he be killed off?

2. The Help. In this one Emma Stone plays a young woman living in Mississippi in the 1960s and deals with the issues of extreme racism, as the maids who work in her home and her friends’ homes are all black women who are treated terribly by their employers. She, with the help of the maids, composes a book of short stories told from the perspective of the maids. It is a story about courage and going against the society she was born into.

3. Almost Famous I watched this one many many times while I was writing Beside the Music. It’s not necessarily about an author, but it’s about a teenage boy who aspires to be a rock journalist and tours with a band called Stillwater who is about to make it big. I watched it to immerse myself in the world of a touring rock band. But I love the story about how this boy is trying to get the band to cooperate with him for an interview, and navigating the crazy life of rockers on the road.

4. Throw Momma from the Train. In this one Billy Crystal gets unwittingly involved in a murder plot with one of his students from his learning annex creative writing course, Danny Devito. Crystal offhandedly says he wishes his ex-wife were killed, and Devito takes that to mean that if he kills Crystal’s ex, then Crystal will kill Devito’s crotchety mother. A classic right down to Crystal’s opening line of the novel he is struggling to write… The night was humid.

5. Misery. Creepy as hell. But what do you expect from Stephen King? James Caan is an author held hostage by a mentally unbalanced Kathy Bates. Bates is furious that Caan killed off her favorite character in his serial novels, and demands the character be resurrected in exchange for his life.

6. True Memoirs of an International Assassin. Kevin James plays a novelist whose latest work is confused for a memoir of an infamous assassin. He is then kidnapped and taken to Venezuela where he is expected to perform the services provided by his main character.

BJ Knapp is the author of Beside the Music, available for purchase here. Please sign up for the Backstage with BJ Knapp mailing list to get updates on events, signings, dog pictures and so much more.

BJ Knapp is the author of Beside the Music, available for purchase here. Please sign up for the Backstage with BJ Knapp mailing list to get updates on events, signings, dog pictures and so much more.