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.