• Inserting Yourself into a Book

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in ABCs of Writing     Comments 31 comments

    Discussion question: If you could become a character from any work of fiction and live his or her life, who would you choose and why? Or, if you prefer, if you could insert yourself, as yourself, into a novel or a short story and live in that world, what novel/story would you choose and why? Let us know in the comments.


    Escapism is one of the main appeals of reading fiction, so-called genre fiction in particular. The chance to step out of our own world for a while and live vicariously through a character who (one would hope) is living an existence more interesting or exciting than our own.

    Some of us have even fantasized about becoming a specific character from literature, or perhaps living as ourselves in the world of a particular novel or short story.

    On this week’s episode of Yak Babies, my pals and I discuss that very idea: inhabiting a fictitious world from literature, or becoming a character from a favorite novel or short story.

    My answer won’t surprise those of you who know me well: if I could become one character, it would be Johnny Tremain. For reasons that date back to childhood, and that I’ve talked about again and again and again.

    If I could inhabit, as myself, the world of a particular novel, I might also choose Johnny Tremain. The intrigue of 1770s Boston grabbed me as a kid and never totally let go.

    But on the episode, I come up with a contender, and we spend a lot of time talking about it: the world of Harry Potter. I would love to inhabit that world, obviously.

    But would I want to be HP himself?


    Here’s part of an exchange from the show:

    Nico: I wouldn’t mind being a side character in Harry Potter. You’re still a wizard. You could still fly around; you could still magic yourself up some dinner.

    Me: Why would you rather be a side character than Harry Potter himself?

    Nico: It feels presumptuous to assume that I would be the main character … I would guess that I’d have to be a side character.

    Me: I think this is a conversation for you and your therapist.

    Aaron: I get it. You don’t have to be the hero–being in that world is magical and exciting enough. It’s so different from your daily existence that it would be satisfying and rewarding on its own.


    What do you think? Would it be more fun to be a side character in the HP series than to deal with all of the pressure and horror Harry goes through? I’m not sure where I land on that. It’s an interesting question.

    Anyway. I want to hear your answers!

    If you could become one character from fiction, who would it be and why?

    If you could inhabit, as yourself, a particular novel or story, what would you choose and why?

    Let us know in the comments!

    And make sure to give Yak Babies a listen.


    WriteByNight co-founder David Duhr is fiction editor at the Texas Observer and co-host of the Yak Babies podcast, and has written about books for the Dallas Morning News, Electric Literature, Publishing Perspectives, and others.

    WriteByNight is a writers’ service dedicated to helping you achieve your creative potential and literary goals. We work with writers of all experience levels working in all genres, nationwide and worldwide. If you have a 2019 writing project that you’d like a little help with, take a look at our book coachingprivate instruction and writer’s block counseling services. Join our mailing list and get a FREE writer’s diagnostic, “Common problems and SOLUTIONS for the struggling writer.”

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    Julie Farin

    Fictional character: Scarlett O’Hara, “Gone with the Wind,” because I admire her strength and survival skills during wartime and its aftermath.

    Inhabit as Myself: I would love to be a character in the “The Great Gatsby.” Visiting New York City and Long Island’s gold coast during the roaring 20s sounds exciting.

    david lemke

    I have a question…What was the worst thing you ever did to a hero/heroine?

    david lemke

    It came to mind after your HP comment. Thanks

    frances hill

    A ruptured appendix while riding in a helicopter.

    david lemke

    I’ve done this backwards with two works; One is my novel,”2084 Outside Interest” and a work which as yet has no name but the hero is me, however he is call Daye Tripper. They both involve aliens abduction. In the Daye Tripper piece, aliens try an experiment which go’s very wrong. Think of Frankenstein where Igor brings back the wrong brain. In this one they insert a computer chip, The God Chip, which is NEVER supposed to be used ever again. In “2084” Our hero, Zane, is a hybrid, half human half alien. His recently revealed father is a prince… Read more »

    david lemke

    I think Zane is going to have more fun than Daye and get to go off world more.


    Wow! I had wondered if anyone else had ever read Johnny Tremain outside of my class at school! That brings back memories, we always snickered whenever someone read the name Dorcas aloud :D My guilty pleasure and the character I would like to become is Drizzt Do’Urden from R. A. Salvatore’s Dark Elf trilogy(s). Though he came from evil, he fights against it every day, coming to understand a new world along the way. To be in the world of the Forgotten Realms, where his story is set, would be a long and exciting adventure for the rest of my… Read more »


    My answer, Dave, is also from the same book for both questions: Lost Horizon (James Hilton). I would be the protagonist, Hugh Conway. I very much relate to his disdain of success measured in material gain, and to his appreciation for beauty and learning. As for just inhabiting a fictional world, I could be happy in Shangra-la, a place of beauty with a culture based on kindness, hoping to be overlooked by the wider world. I could write there. A runner-up might be Middle Earth (Lord of the Rings). While it’s a world of monsters and evil, so is the… Read more »

    david lemke

    Living in some of these worlds seems like it would be problematic, you know… no flush toilets or Chinese carry out… Being the hero seems great when he/she wins but a lot of heroes suffer a lot. For the most part, you don’t want to be one my heroes. Often my writer’s mindset is, “OK, this is pretty bad, how can I make this worse for him/her? Living in some universes can be nice, if you not being eaten by goblins with bad breath and no table manners. Imagine all the small town gossip and everybody being in your business… Read more »


    I don’t mean to obsess. You know how a story can resonate with your soul-strings. Actually, I haven’t read LH in a while, but I’m thinking about making another deep-dive into it. I would love to write a sequel series. I believe I could say a lot about the human condition and the modern world contrasted with the idea of Shangra-la. I could write from my hobbit-hole…

    Barbara Mealer

    Fictional character: Jo March of Little Women. She was a fun one of the group. As to where I’d like to go, Middle Earth with the Hobbits or be anywhere where there are dragons which means I could handle being with Eargon and his dragon. Then again, ancient Scotland even though it was a hard life. Maybe the future…Okay. Enough! That’s one of the reasons I read, I can go anywhere the story takes me and be whoever I want. So there….just give me a book with a decent character and fun setting with something happening and I’m gone…now to… Read more »


    Jo is an excellent choice. I wish I had thought of that one. I like the way those sisters were all so close and entertained themselves and found everything so very interesting.

    Barbara Mealer

    No favorite book. What research I’ve done has solidified my love of the hardy, fierce clans who struggled to survive in an inhospitable land that is beautiful no matter what time of your you are there. Maybe part of my love is in remembering my great-grandfather’s brogue as he told stories of his homeland. Or it could be the kilts and bagpipes, but when I find a book on Scotland which is set in the 12-1500s, I’ll slog through it be it one on the wars or a fantasy like Outlander or the formulaic romances.

    Barbara Mealer

    Not until I go there and actually see it for myself. Google maps doesn’t do it justice. I do have Scotland in two books, but I can’t publish them until I see the area of the highlands where they are placed. My plan is to go there in the summer of 2020 for at least a month. Not only do I want to see Scotland, but both my father and mother’s sides of the family can from Scotland. (Mother Stewart clan and father from Lithgow area but we don’t know the last name since it was changed at Ellis Island… Read more »


    I think I would like to be Sherlock Holmes. I like the idea of working from home and having my own hours. I also like the idea of being able to be eccentric and everyone puts up with it because you are also a genius. And I always wanted to play the violin. I thought I might insert myself into a Holmes story but I’d have to be the one criminal that keeps eluding him and just as smart. When he finally caught me he would look the other way because actually he admired me because my crimes would be… Read more »

    david lemke

    Luna is one of my favorite characters, I love how she “gets” stuff. Everybody else , by comparison is a little clueless. As a kid I think I resembled Neville Longbottom. Being Holmes, with his confidence in himself, his Sheldon cooper attitude toward others, especially the police along with his ability to focus, would be great.

    adrien leslie

    Admittedly, I’m a mani-pedi loving, frilly blouse wearing girly girl. Making my choice of character, a surprise even to me. The King of Mazey May’s Walt Masters was my hero. I see myself as his buddy.. probaby after he saved the claim. There are dangers in my big city and rules that keep me safe. That was Walt. A boy in tune with his environment and the moral strength to protect what is just. It would be an honor to know Walt.

    frances hill

    I do put myself in stories, who do I know best? If I could be a superhero it would be Wonder Woman, she was born the same year I was.

    david lemke

    I’m not a nice person. Sure if you’re a real life person, I’ll be nice to you, but if your a character in one of my stories or books, run.
    The hero’s wife, Meadhbh in “Intrusion” is murdered for her own good. The hero, Laurel is raped in jail. He also gets possessed and blasted to atoms in a the spirit realm. I had a friend who wrote a sf novel, but he couldn’t bring himself to have his hero harmed. It showed.
    How did I post this in the wrong place?

    Would love your thoughts, please comment.x