The first “rule” of writing is “write what you know,” which is why so many TV writers create TV characters who are also writers. The layer on top of that is TV criticism, which is writers writing about writers writing TV shows about writers. It’s navel-gazing at its absolute inception point and I’m here today to engage in it — because every few months our TV Team finds ourselves in the middle of a tirade about a fictional writer that leads us down a rabbit hole of all the fictional writers we have loved and hated in our lives. We have a lot of opinions about this topic, which makes us think y’all might also have a lot of opinions about it. Below are 33 of TV’s most popular fictional writers, ranked from worthless to wondrous.
The feelings in this post are my own; they do not reflect the opinions of the entire TV Team.
33. Ezra Fitz, Pretty Little Liars
Claim to fame: Ostinato, a true crime novel he wrote about a murdered teenager he had stalked, which he researched by stalking her grieving friends, who were also his students, one of whom he seduced. Also: Then and Now, a true crime novel about his murdered fiancée (who came back to life after he had a different fiancée, who happened to be that former student he stalked and seduced, and who also basically wrote this entire book).
32. Dan Humphrey, Gossip Girl
Claim to fame: He wrote Inside, a roman à clef about going to private high school on the Upper East Side. Main character: Dylan Hunter. Also: Between one million and ten trillion texts from Gossip Girl and a poem called “Sluts” about his girlfriend that he published in The New Yorker.
31. Dawson Leery, Dawson’s Creek
Claim to fame: No less than 100 terrible screenplays, ultimately the showrunner of a TV show called The Creek.
30. Rory Gilmore, Gilmore Girls
Claim to fame: Went on Obama’s presidential campaign trail, came home and promptly began falling asleep when talking to sources, sleeping with sources, calling editors on the phone to pitch bad stories, going into interviews with zero story ideas, trying to turn the Stars Hollow Gazette into the paper of record for the entire northeastern United States.
29. Jane Sloane, The Bold Type
Claim to fame: Rarely conceives a good story pitch, yet too good to write every story ever assigned to her. Wrote three entire semi-popular articles at Scarlet magazine, invited to sit on a prestigious panel of successful writers, immediately felt so stifled that she left her childhood dream job to work at a startup from which she was promptly fired, lived in her failure for a time, per Jacquline’s righteous instructions.
28. Zoe Barnes, House of Cards
Claim to fame: An upstart reporter on The Herald‘s metro beat who became Frank Underwood’s media mouthpiece which led her to the job of White Hose Correspondent which ultimately led to her being hurled in front of a train by Frank.
27. Spike, Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Claim to fame: William the Bloody got his name from his bloody awful poetry, and then he murdered about ten billion people, and then he got a soul. His poetry was still terrible, though. To wit: “My soul is wrapped in harsh repose, midnight descends in raven-colored clothes. But soft, behold! A sunlight beam butting a swath of glimmering gleam. My heart expands, ’tis grown a bulge in it, Inspired by your beauty. Effulgent.”
26. Nick Miller, New Girl
Claim to fame: Z is for Zombie, a novel that misspelled the word “rhythm” three dozen times and a follow-up novel called The Pepperwood Chronicles about a New Orleans detective fighting “the alligator within.”
25. Kara Danvers, Supergirl
Claim to fame: Got fired from her newspaper reporting job for going rogue and publishing an article using herself as a source, which is called “writing an essay,” despite being told directly that she needed sources (which she already should have known), and despite the fact that multiple sources were available to her.
24. Chidi, The Good Place
Claim to fame: An ethics manuscript that took Michael — who can read all of human literature in one hour — two weeks to finish.
23. Stacy Merkin, The L Word
Claim to fame: Wrote a New Yorker article Jenny Schecter loved, then wrote a “piece of shit article” about Jenny Schecter in a “little magazine called Curve,” replete with “sloppy syntax and grammar.” (For a more favorable review just type in Publisher’s Weekly dot com Jennifer Schecter.)
22. Jenny Schecter, The L Word
Claim to fame: Masterpieces Lez Girls the novel and Lez Girls the movie.
21. Hannah Horvath, Girls
Claim to fame: Freelance article on trying cocaine for the first time, e-book of essays that never came to fruition, advertorials writer at GQ, Iowa Writers’ Workshop (where she received critiques such as “too Fifty Shades of Grey“), published in New York Times Modern Love column, finalist in Moth’s Story SLAM, teacher of “the internet” to students at a small liberal arts college, aspiring voice of her generation.
20. Tina Belcher, Bob’s Burgers
Claim to fame: Erotic fan fiction writer (definitely in her journal, also presumably on Tumblr).
19. Devon, I Love Dick
Claim to fame: An aspiring playwright who explores “the self-abjection that a woman goes through in order to unleash her desire” and “swaggers around in some kind of shadow polarity of Kevin Bacon.” Also Riese’s favorite TV character of 2017.
18. Alice Pieszecki, The L Word
Claim to fame: The Chart and at least one freelance article on vaginal rejuvenation.
17. Jughead, Riverdale
Claim to fame: Writer for various school newspapers who is also working on a true crime novel about Riverdale that features literary gems such as “Guilt, innocence. Good, evil. Life, death. As the shadows around Riverdale deepened, the lines that separated these polar opposites blurred and distorted. ‘I’m guilty,’ Cheryl said in biology class. But of what?”
16. Diane Nguyen, BoJack Horseman
Claim to fame: Ghost writer of BoJack Horseman’s tell-all biography, One Trick Pony, and the writer of the biography Secretariat: a Life. Also a ghostwriter of celebrity tweets.
15. Richard Castle, Castle
Claim to fame: Author of 41 best-selling crime novels.
14. Sabrina, Sabrina the Teenage Witch
Claim to fame: Her magical typewriter liked her creative writing assignments so much it brought them to life! She also wrote a variety of exposés for the school newspaper.
13. Dr. Watson, Sherlock
Claim to fame: Sherlock didn’t write his own stories; Watson did.
12. Carrie Bradshaw, Sex and the City
Claim to fame: A magazine column about sex and dating that she turned into several successful memoirs.
11. Suzanne Warren, Orange Is the New Black
Claim to fame: The Time Hump Chronicles, an erotic novel that took Litchfield by storm and spawned its own fandom and fan fiction. It’s not just sex, it’s love. It’s two people connecting, with four other people, and aliens.
10. Gabrielle, Xena: Warrior Princess
Claim to fame: A self-trained bard, she wrote her and Xena’s adventures down on scrolls, which her decedents used to make a TV show. Notable gay scribbles: “I sing of the wrath of Callisto, the pain of Gabrielle and the courage of Xena, and the inevitable mystery of a friendship as immortal as the gods.”
9. Jessica Huang, Fresh Off the Boat
Claim to fame: Her debut novel, A Case of a Knife to the Brain, didn’t sell as well as expected (owing to being released the same day as Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, of course), but Plaintiff Stephen King says, “Jessica Huang is scarier than any character I could ever write myself.”
8. Lois Lane, Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman
Claim to fame: She’s the award-winning ace reporter of Metropolis’ leading newspaper, The Daily Planet.
7. Liz Lemon, 30 Rock
Claim to fame: Writing and showrunning multiple seasons of The Girlie Show and TGS with Tracy Jordan, which earned her at least one Emmy.
6. Peggy Olson, Mad Men
Claim to fame: The real-life Peggy Olson was the first woman to rule Madison Avenue. And so was fictional Peggy Olson, who went from secretary to copywriter to copy chief at some of the most successful ad agencies in the world, through raw talent and a relentless work ethic and sheer force of will.
5. River Song, Doctor Who
Claim to fame: Melody Malone: Private Detective in Old New York Town, a noir novel that was actually a memoir which she published from the future to help her mom, her dad, and her husband not destabilize their nearly catastrophic time paradox even further. Also, centuries worth of spoiler-filled journals.
4. Jane Gloriana Villanueva, Jane the Virgin
Claim to fame: Snow Falling, a best-selling debut romance novel that received such praise as “BRILLIANT. MOVING. MASTERFUL. I laughed, I sobbed, I even danced. The best novel of the century,” from Rogelio De La Vega.
3. Khadijah James, Living Single
Claim to fame: The always-hustling editor-in-chief of her own indie magazine, Flavor. She wrote, she managed, she accounted, she did it all and paid other women to do it alongside her.
2. Jessica Fletcher, Murder She Wrote
Claim to fame: 43 mystery novels, total. Among them: The Corpse Danced at Midnight, A Faded Rose Beside Her, Dirge for a Dead Dachshund, and Ashes, Ashes, Fall Down Dead. And she didn’t even start writing until after she was retired!
1. HG Wells, Warehouse 13
Claim to fame: Just some of the greatest works of literature in all of human history: The Time Machine, The War of the Worlds, The Island of Doctor Moreau, The Love Song of Myka Ophelia Bering.
If Jane Sloan was ranked over 9000 it still would not be low enough. It seems like some episodes she goes on a long, searching personal journey just to not hand in any work at all?! My wife and I spend literally 85% of the show ranting about how she should not be in a job (the other 15% is spent lamenting that Kat has sexual chemistry with every single woman except Adena).
This is fine work here, and if you ever felt like following it up with a list of TV Characters That Are Terrible At Their Jobs as an excuse to pan Jane Sloan even more, I would thoroughly support that.
TV’s biggest non death injustice is that Jacqueline’s job is somehow less safe than Jane.
Does anyone remember Press Gang? No? I had such a crush on Lynda Day (Julia Sawalha) of Junior Gazette. Wikipedia says she is “strong and opinionated, and is feared by many of her team”
Also, Andrea Zuckerman in 90210.
If only Helena could have written the end of her own story better.
a little magazine called curve
Wow thanks for this list because I was just lamenting about how stupid female journalist characters often are. Jane Sloane deserves to be at the bottom lol! But thanks for including Khadijah and putting her do high on the list. I always looked up to that character as a kid.
The Timp Hump Chronicles is the best story we will never get to read.
I clicked on this hoping that Ezra Fitz would be at the absolute worst writer on the list and I was not disappointed. Thank you Autostraddle. Sometimes it’s the little things that make your day.
1. I love that Ezra Fitz was at the bottom, WHERE HE SHOULD BE.
2. I think Gabrielle should be higher, since her scrolls lasted thousands of years, and after they were recovered they got turned into a TV show in universe. Now that’s lasting power.
Ezra fuckin Fitz, man. In my wildest fantasies, Troian Bellisario comes back to remaster PLLs (there must be enough on tape to do this without reshooting anything) into a tight 5 seasons with no dollhouse and Ezra dies and decends to the pits of hell where he belongs and is then exposed as the biggest creep to ever creep. Also the soundtrack would include all the stuff they wanted to use (all of depeche mode and the police) but couldn’t afford. I would 100% give all my money to that kickstarter. Also, where is Aria on this list?
There was a single episode of PLL around season 5 I think (I may be wrong on the season) that did a recap of the entire storyline to date and the friend and I who had been watching every episode together were both like “we could have saved so much time if we just watched this episode. Which is why I won’t start watching Riverdale.
Also, agreed on the awfulness of Ezra the sexual predator.
These are solid choices, but I think some manatees and Abraxas, the demon of lies and deceit, would have wanted to see Jenny Schecter ranked a little higher.
Thank you for not forgetting that Gabrielle was a writer
carrie bradshaw is WAY too high! a “sex columnist” who doesn’t believe in bisexuality, has weird regressive thoughts on oral sex, and slutshames even her own friends? excuse me while i retrieve my eyes from where they rolled in the back of my head
(my ire is directed at sex and the city not at the writers of this article, i love yall)
“The Love Song of Myka Ophelia Bering”. You can’t just say that and not expect me to pine for desire of hearing it.
Wait a minute. Where’s Cat Grant?
Needs more Iris West(-Allen).
We don’t really know if Spike’s poetry got better post-re-ensouling, since he wrote the quoted poem back when he was human. He was still proud of it, though.
You mean Iris BEST(-Allen)
Oh my gosh, did Dan Humphrey getting famous for writing a poem called Sluts actually make it on the TV show? I only saw in the books that I’m currently reading for no reason and he is SO MUCH WORSE as a writer in the books.
i will never not be angry when i think about ezra fitz or dan humphrey. thank you for putting them at the bottom, where they belong.
VERY PLEASED BY: Ezra Fitz, Jane Sloan, Dan Humphrey being the worst writers, Jane the Virgin
Suzanne Warren being a better sex writer than Carrie Bradshaw
SIMPLY OUTRAGED BY: hannah horvath being kinda high
lack of Becks from “YOU” (who should be just after Ezra Fitz)
devin not being higher b/c i think her play was pretty good but maybe i’m biased
Soon we’ll see Piper Chapman on this list!
Until that, the Bard is number one for me.
A bit disappointed Tina isn’t higher on the list. She read some of her erotic zombie friend fiction to a portion of the school during lunch. That take guts, and there was butt grabbing!
Hey Autostraddle (not just Heather, because this is a collective issue)
If we’re going to continue to recognize that the Gilmore Girls Revival actually happened, instead of relegating it to the dustbin of history where Skins Fire resides, I’m really gonna have to insist that we separate “Season 1-7 Rory Gilmore” and “Pod-Person Revival Rory Gilmore” into two separate categories. Because the 16 year old kid who wrote an article about the repaving of the school parking lot and made it into an ode to how everyone and everything eventually becomes obsolete WOULD NEVER FALL ASLEEP TALKING TO A SOURCE.
Thank you for listening to my Ted Talk.
A Gilmore Girls Superfan Who Was Scarred For Life And Experienced An Existential Crisis Due To the Gilmore Girls Revival
Okay but other than that small quibble I LOVE THIS IT”S SO BRILLIANT THANK YOU!
Ezra last and HG first. Perfect perfect bookends.
If they don’t reboot Murder She Wrote why does television even exist?
also another thing is that the list of all of these writers’ accomplishments are more brilliantly written than anything most of them wrote
Dope list. Small thing: it’s *Flava* magazine. T’was the 90s.
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