“Write what you know.” This piece of clichéd, but sage, advice is the basis for some of the most acclaimed novels in history. Some simply explore their native milieu and insert a fictional plot, while others write a roman à clef, skirting the border of fiction and reality. Roman à clef—French for novel with a key—is a fancy term for a fictional story based on real life. It’s a pervasive form, and secrets itself among our beach books (The Devil Wears Prada) and heavy literature (The Bell Jar) alike. It’s not surprising that most writers explore their own lives, often with the aid of a parallel self (much like the famous artists who also employ alter egos). Authors may choose to veil their alter egos with differing qualities, or let their true selves shine through. Which of your favorite characters is secretly the author? Find out in our list of famous writers’ alter egos after the jump.
Nick Adams – Ernest Hemingway
Ernest Hemingway wrote about his life through the eyes of his alter ego, Nick Adams, in twenty-four pieces of fiction. They were collected into a book, The Nick Adams Stories, in 1972, and cover a large chunk of Hemingway’s life from his childhood in Michigan through his adult wartime experiences. One of the stories, “The Killers,” inspired two Hollywood feature films, and Andrei Tarkovsky’s first short film.