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"Do you know what I think?" she whispered. "When you grow up to be an author and write books, you'll think you're just making the books up, but really, they'll all be real, somewhere."

Sometimes, "this is a true story" is part of the fiction.

Once in a while a really well written story can feel so real that you begin to wonder if it might not be based on a true story. Occasionally this is actually the case, or supposedly so, but there are times when an author (etc) will go right out of their way to create greater immersion in their work by claiming that their very obviously fictional and fantastic world is in some way real. Usually they claim that they didn't come up with the story, rather it was recounted to them by the actual main characters (or some other witness), often physically, but sometimes by phone or magic. Other times they will claim that they found the account in the form of a diary and novelised it, or, if it is a film, that it is comprised of found footage or a mixture of found footage and Dramatisation.

Another common method is to claim that the book was written as a testimony (or confession) to actual events - possibly the most notable example of this is The Guild of Specialists Trilogy, which takes the love that boys annuals have for intricate diagrams and maps to its absolute extreme and fabricates not only a plethora of large diagrams, maps, and sketches, but photos and objects. In this version the author pretends they are simply publishing something that someone else has written - this often takes the form of a novelization of a diary or a set of notebooks. Other methods include accounts by secondary characters and so on. This trope a staple of children's books and fantastic tales, it often features an Author Avatar or even instances of From Beyond the Fourth Wall or other strangeness and may be said to be translated from accounts of what happened or books written by the characters and never actually communicated in person.

In all these cases, however, it is considered canon that the author is repeating a story that is in fact true, if only to a certain degree. One of the people the story is about may even be the author themselves.

Compare And That Little Girl Was Me, and Based on a Great Big Lie.

Absolutely not to be confused with Literary Agent Hypothesis, when fans think that maybe the story is actually real, or like to think it is, but don't have any support from canon or Word of God. Also not to be confused with A True Story in My Universe, for In-Universe examples. Often ties in with Author Avatar and may involve an admitted Unreliable Narrator.

Note: This trope only applies to canon and Word of God examples in fictional works. In-Universe examples go in A True Story in My Universe. Pure Fanon examples go in Literary Agent Hypothesis.

Examples of Direct Line to the Author include:

Anime and Manga

  • An Omake for Cardcaptor Sakura suggested that the entire series had been filmed and edited by Tomoyo, and included her attempt to film and record the opening song.
  • Yu Yu Hakusho also had the subtitle of "Ghost Files" or "Poltergeist Report" depending on the translation. It isn't until the second-to-last episode that we learn why. The narrator is George Saotome, the ogre always assisting Koenma, and with the new situation between the human and demon worlds, Koenma orders all of their video files to be documented. This explains the subtitles and narrations on ki attacks, and is foreshadowed by George and the narrator having the same voice actor. However, this is anime-only, as George doesn't exist in the manga.


  • It's long been tradition at Marvel Comics that they weren't making stories up, just reporting what really happened. (To the point that they once showed a writer and artist very concerned they hadn't heard from their characters they "covered", and were debating what to do for the next issue. They reacted with absolute horror at the suggestion they just "make something up".) However, this was directly averted in a letter column after the Death of Phoenix in X-Men, when the editor wrote about the many touching letters they received about how much the story meant to some of the fans. Some people even sent flowers. And then, they started getting death threats over the story. To which the editor said, "I know we joke we're just reporting what really happened, but it's just a comic book. It is brightly colored ink on cheap paper that will decay to dust in two hundred years. It is not worth threatening anyone's life."
  • This concept was firmly woven into the foundation of the Alternate Universe-laden pre-Crisis on Infinite Earths version of The DCU. At least one hero took his name from a "fictional" predecessor who (as it turned out) lived in a parallel universe, and there was a world known as "Earth-Prime" which was an almost-exact replica of the "real" world (until just before the Crisis, when it got its own version of Superboy).
    • In fact, writer Gardner Fox wrote stories in which the superheroes from other Earths would narrate their adventures to him and editor Julius Schwartz and sometimes ask for their help.
    • Fox fan Grant Morrison paid a somewhat darker homage to these stories when he wrote himself into Animal Man.
    • The role-playing game supplement for the Legion of Super-Heroes explains the Zeerust technology of early Legion stories by explaining that of course the early Legion had Omnicoms and flight-rings, they just couldn't show them in 1960s comics because they were so far beyond the readers' tech-level.
  • Alan Moore claims to have met John Constantine of Swamp Thing and Hellblazer fame in real life, more than once. We must consider three very distinct possibilities. Either he met Sting in a trenchcoat, Alan Moore is out of his fucking mind, or that he believes so much in certain things, that they become real and his sanity forces him to forget lest he obliterate himself.
  • Starlord had the Starlord, who had arrived on Earth to warn humanity about the evil Interstellar Federation. The comic was supposedly a stealth training manual so that humanity would be able to defend itself when they arrived. In the last issue before Starlord merged with 2000 AD, the Starlord said that humans had absorbed enough knowledge to scare off the Federation, and so he was going to depart Earth and leave his readers in the capable hands of Tharg.
  • Tornado was supposedly edited by one of its characters, a superhero named The Big E, who was trained by Tharg as a super-editor.
  • Steve Gerber revealed in the last issue of Man-Thing that he was just retelling stories told to him by Dakimh the Enchanter.

Computer and Video Games

  • Sierra:
    • Peter Spear's hint books for the King's Quest and Space Quest series were written this way. The former around the idea that a journalist named Derek Karlavaegen had discovered ways to "e-mail" stories to Peter Spear, and the latter around the idea that Roger Wilco had written his memoirs and sent them back in time to Sierra, who turned them into the Space Quest games, and the raw memoirs were the novelizations that the book featured.
    • In Space Quest III, Roger delivers in-game versions of the creators of the Space Quest games to Sierra on Earth, with whom they presumably go on to make... the Space Quest games. So, even in the canon, Roger has met (and rescued!) his own literary agents.
    • The copy protection of King's Quest VI is also attributed to Derek Karlaveagen. It is basically a record of his travels in the Land of the Green Isles, including some clues to solve certain puzzles (they were impossible to solve without the booklet).
  • The first four Myst titles, along with the tie-in novels, are supposedly based (Tolkien-style) on translations of the character Catherine's journals. This is taken even further with Uru, the MMORPG, in which the D'ni cavern is portrayed as a real place - in New Mexico, of all places - being rediscovered by a team of expeditionary archaeologists funding their research by selling the rights to certain historical documents it uncovered to the game company Cyan, which used them as the basis for the Myst games.

Fan Fiction


  • Buckaroo Banzai is allegedly a real person, whose adventures were related to author Earl Mac Rauch and then adapted into a movie. The DVD commentary runs with this premise, further claiming that some details have been withheld or altered for security reasons. It also imagines that merchandise related to the movie is in fact inspired by the hero himself, in an example of Recursive Canon.
  • The Blair Witch Project billed itself as a documentary that included found footage. According to the movie poster:

 In October of 1994 three student filmmakers disappeared in the woods near Burkittsville, Maryland while shooting a documentary... A year later their footage was found.

    • Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 has a titlecard that explains that a group really did go on a killing spree after watching the first Blair Witch, and the first Blair Witch is treated as fiction. "Book of Shadows" is a dramatization of these events, and "Shadow of the Blair Witch" is the documentary of these events.
  • In that same vein, the film The Fourth Kind was billed as a dramatization of very real events, and containing alleged footage from the supposed incident. It was quickly discovered that this was merely a marketing ploy, and that the film was as factual as The Blair Witch Project.
  • The Czech movie Year of the Devil (Rok dábla) is purportedly a documentary about a group of well-known Czech musicians, all of whom appear in the movie as themselves. However, as the movie progresses, it starts to get more and more surreal, until it becomes obvious that a lot (if not all) of it is actually made up. So Year of the Devil is essentially a fictional movie disguised as a documentary with real people playing fictional versions of themselves.
  • The Princess Diaries is a rather unusual variation, this film adaptation exists in the world of the book series. Mia claims to have liked the film, but notes that it's a somewhat whitewashed and idealized version of events. With much prettier people. Of course, given that Mia is in the midst of some hardcore teen angst at the time, it's entirely possible that the film is more true to her life than she realizes.
  • This Is Spinal Tap combines this with Defictionalization, with the cast doing interviews, DVD commentaries, and concert tours in character, and then denying it when speaking as themselves.

 "Yes, Derek Smalls is a personal friend of mine. Yes, I've been known to pay his cartage fees. Yes, St. Hubbins has bummed stuff off me. So what?" - Harry Shearer



  • The Guild of Specialists Trilogy is the absolute grandmaster of this trope. The three books are absolute works of art, each designed to look like a diary and filled to the brim with maps, diagrams, sketches, some folding out to as much as four or five pages. There are antique photographs (purportedly) of the characters and settings and museum-style photographs of objects that appear in the books. It is truly something to behold and the level of immersion the books create is fantastic.
  • In Chronicles of Narnia it is a little-known piece of canon that CS Lewis is recounting the tales as told to him by an unknown individual or individuals, likely one or more of the Pevensie children. This is made explicit in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader: "Lucy could only say, "It would break your heart." "Why," said I, "was it so sad: " "Sad!! No," said Lucy.". However, how he could have been told of the events of The Last Battle, since most of the series' human protagonists had, unbeknownst to them, died in a train wreck and gone to Aslan's country, is unkown but could be explained by him being an Undead Author, though, given the Wood Between the Worlds from The Magicians Nephew, just about anything is possible. This trope is the reason why the narrator of the books often confesses ignorance as to things that the children themselves do not know. One reason he does this is that The Lion the Witch and The Wardrobe came about when three children, Margaret, Mary and Katherine, were evacuated from London and sent to live with him during the war (yes, the professor is Lewis). The four children of the book are inspired by them.
  • The first two-thirds of CS Lewis' Space Trilogy, aka the Ransom novels, are based on the premise that Lewis is the ghostwriter for the "real" Doctor Ransom, whose name has been changed but whose bizarre interplanetary adventures are true. (In real Real Life, Ransom was based on Lewis' good friend JRR Tolkien.) Out of the Silent Planet even ends with a chapter explaining how the Lewis came to learn of the story from Ransom, and why they decided to publish the story in the guise of fiction: to avoid reprisals from the Real Life counterparts of the villains, and because the events were simply too outrageous to be believed if they were published as nonfiction. This is then followed by a letter from Ransom pointing out all the details of the adventure that Lewis got wrong or were simply too esoteric to convey in writing. The next novel, Perelandra continues with the Agent Hypothesis in the text, but includes a preface stating that all the human characters are fictitious and non-allegorical. The final novel, That Hideous Strength, drops all pretense, and in fact events in the book flatly contradict actual then-current political history.
  • CS Lewis also claims he stumbled upon The Screwtape Letters in a foreword in the book; given that they are letters from a demon to his apprentice, this one is forgivable. Lewis himself gives it only the briefest (and funniest) of Hand Waves, asking the reader not to delve too deeply into how he acquired them.
  • E. E. "Doc" Smith in the Lensman series refers to himself as "the historian" in later books, and mentions that he was the first person to read the declassified accounts of the characters' adventures.
  • The author of A Series of Unfortunate Events, "Lemony Snicket" (actually Daniel Handler) not only finds it his duty to research these "tales of misery and woe," but is also apparently related to two secondary characters. Handler himself claims to be the agent for Lemony Snicket.
  • Edgar Rice Burroughs:
    • Burroughs presents himself as the great-nephew and literary executor of John Carter of Mars in the Barsoom novels. At the beginning of each book it tells how Carter visited Burroughs and gave him this story (and then disappeared again). In The Master Mind of Mars, we are told that Ulysses Paxton has read the earlier works and so recognizes Barsoom when he reaches it.
    • Burroughs' first Tarzan novel, similarly, begins with an explicit statement that Burroughs was told the story by one who was there, and that the names have been changed to protect the etc. When the Tarzan series took off, this aspect of the story proved impossible to keep up, and was quietly dropped; however, fans still make use of it when discussing what Tarzan's life was "really" like. This was paid homage to in the series based on the Disney animated adaptation, where he writes the book after meeting Tarzan.
    • Burroughs did the same thing for his Amtor novels, where he is visited psychically by the protagonist, Carson Napier of Venus (who oddly enough, rarely uses his psychic powers for anything other than giving Burroughs infodumps).
    • Burroughs did this yet again for his Pellucidar novels. In the first one he meets David Innes, the hero during a safari in the Sahara desert, after Innes has come up from Pellucidar. In the second one he receives a telegraph message from a line Innes laid all the way the the Earth's core. In all the others (and in some of the Barsoom novels) his next door neighbor is an inventor who develops a neutrino radio that can send signals through solid rock to communicate with Pellucidar.
  • Some later publications of Artemis Fowl add a "this man is not my biographer" preword from Artemis... despite the epilogue already presenting the book as an LEP psych report.
  • In the Xanth series, the novels are written down by Clio, the Muse of History; apparently someone's been leaking them to Mundania. One Author's Note actually includes a character doing her service to the Good Magician by going through the pun credits.
  • N.E. Bode claims throughout "the nobodies" and "the somebodies" that Fern Bone, the main character, sat down next to him/her on the subway and told her story (the Anybodies) to the then out of luck writer.
  • L. Frank Baum styled himself the "Royal Historian of Oz", all the stories came from Dorothy telling them to him (eventually through a magic wireless after Dorothy moved to Oz permanently). He also made an attempt to use this trope to end the Oz series at one point, claiming a spell of Glinda's to detach Oz completely from the outside world meant he was no longer in contact with Dorothy. It didn't stick any better than Sherlock Holmes' trip over Reichenbach Falls, of course.
  • The Saga of Darren Shan, it is canon in Darren Shan's books that he assembled his stories from diaries sent to him by his younger alternate self in an aborted timeline where he became a vampire. It makes more sense in context....kinda. Esentially, Darren altered the timeline so the events of the series didn't happen, thus resetting himself to how he was at the beginning of the first book. Somehow his diaries chronicling the series survived and were sent to the new Darren, who is an author... Thus the books actually happened. In another timestream.
  • The 10th-century The Tale of Genji includes a number of references indicating that the narrator is relating a true story and that she is merely describing this story to others. For example, at the end of chapter 4:

 I had passed over Genji's trials and tribulations in silence, out of respect for his determined efforts to conceal them, and I have written of them now only because certain lords and ladies criticized my story for resembling fiction, wishing to know why even those who knew Genji best should have thought him perfect, just because he was an Emperor's son. No doubt I must now beg everyone's indulgence for my effrontery in painting so wicked a portrait of him.

    • She also uses that conceit, from time to time, to poke fun at literary clichés of her time, by saying things to the effect of "If this were a common story, I would describe such-and-such" or "If the old stories were to believed, she should've acted in such-and-such a way".
  • Practically all novels at the beginning of the genre (roughly the 18th Century) used this device, claiming to be either memoirs/autobiographies or caches of letters, i.e. epistolary novels. It was not until Henry Fielding that the third-person omniscient narrator was introduced. Examples:
    • Everything by Daniel Defoe,
    • Samuel Richardson's Pamela and Clarissa,
    • Jonathan Swift's Gullivers Travels
    • Lawrence Sterne's Tristram Shandy—which is also the longest sustained attempt at subverting the trope.
  • Isaac Asimov:
    • The mystery novel Murder At The ABA takes the form of Asimov's dramatization of events as related to him by fictional character Darius Just (who bears a noticeable resemblance to real-world author Harlan Ellison). Asimov includes himself as a minor character in the story, and the book includes occasional footnote comments by Just and responses by Asimov.
    • Asimov also uses the device in the short story Pâté de Foie Gras. The titular goose literally lays gold-filled eggs, and a group of government experts is trying to figure out where the gold is coming from (or at least figure out how to breed additional gold-egg-laying geese so that some can be spared for dissection). The story ends with one of the experts convincing the others to get the account published in an SF magazine as fiction, thus putting it before a large number of people who might come up with useful ideas while still maintaining plausible deniability.
  • Steven Brust's Dragaera novels occasionally place Brust as the translator of the stories from Dragaeran into English. He even has an interview with Paarfi, the "original author" of the Khaavren Romances, who is outraged by the changes that Brust admits he had to make. In one of the Vlad Taltos novels, Vlad mentions that he's been paid a sum of money by a "fool" to tell this particular story into a metal cylinder. Presumably, that fool is Brust.
    • Tiassa sheds more light on the origin of Vlad's deal with the author. A man from "very far East" (Brust) met Vlad through Sethra Lavode, who met him through the Necromancer, and offered 500 Imperials of unminted gold for a few hours of conversation. One wonders where Steven Brust came by this large quantity of unminted gold. Maybe he made the money from selling books about Vlad?
  • Don Quixote Cervantes wrote that it was actually a translation of an account originally written in Arabic.
    • This trope is parodied in Don Quixote, because it was used by a lot of (today forgotten) authors of chivalry books (an example is "The Knight Platir", a book burned in the famous scrutiny made in Don Quixote's library) claimed that they are based in an old manuscript found in an ancient pyramid or another ruined building in some faraway country, written in an exotic language by a wise, famed wizard who favoured the hero of the novel. Those claims are made to feign that the chivalry book was Inspired By real events. Cervantes twist this and uses it to a comic effect, explaining that the next part of the novel was found in some pamphlets and papers (only a few years old) found in Alcana de Toledo (a real city in Spain) in a silk mercer store, written in Arabic (a fair known language in Spain) by a (foolish) boy who didn't know what was written and so sold the papers to Cervantes for peanuts. If we include the funny name of the wizard and the fact that the second author, the translator and Cide Hamete Benengeli are always making comments about the book, we can see that Cervantes want us to admit that all this tale is a long sequence of lies and nonsense... just like all the chivalry books.
  • Chaucer combines this trope with Author Avatar in The Canterbury Tales, which is presented as Chaucer's transcription of all the tales the other people on his pilgrimage are telling, and he throws in a couple of his own.
  • In Spider Robinson's Callahans Crosstime Saloon series, Spider claims to be transcribing stories told to him by the narrator, Jake Stonebender. He even goes as far as writing Author's Notes and Prefaces "in character" as a Callahan's regular.
  • The Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes books by Laurie R. King contain numerous prefaces and afterwords detailing the mysterious means by which King received the manuscripts which she's been editing into the books; the narratives themselves also have occasional references to Arthur Conan Doyle as Watson's agent, including Holmes's chagrin when Conan Doyle goes public with a belief in fairies.
  • Alexandre Dumas claimed to have found and elaborated upon records of The Three Musketeers.
  • The earliest writings about Middle Earth, The Book of Lost Tales I and II, reveal for the first time that the entire story of Middle Earth is an uncovered Anglo-Saxon chronicle transcribed by Aelfwine the Anglo-Saxon when he accidentally voyaged to Elvenhome (where Bilbo and Frodo went at the end of the story), discovered the "original writings", and brought them back to Europe. The island of Tol Eressea (Elvenhome), which was ferried back and forth across the sea several times by the Valar in Silmarillion, turns out to be England, and Elvenhome turns out to be Warwick!
  • George MacDonald Fraser's Flashman series blurs a number of lines. The title character is lifted from a Victorian novel (along with at least two supporting characters), and occasional supporting characters are lifted from other works of fiction (notably Colonel Sebastian Jack Moran and Sherlock Holmes himself), but most characters are from actual recorded history (minor characters are often invented by Fraser). Despite Flashman's life story being preposterous, it weaves fairly seamlessly into the myriad real events he becomes involved with, lending credence to Fraser's claim to be the agent for one Paget Morrison, who inherited Flashman's memoirs. Among copious footnotes by the "editor", a few point out that Flashman's memory must be mistaken, as it's known from other sources that (e.g.) X died before Y reached India.... The conceit worked well enough that (according to a 1969 article in Time magazine), at least 10 American reviewers of the first novel thought it was an actual autobiography.
  • The Chronicles Of Gor started this way, with the first books told in the first person of the main character, Tarl Cabot. An afterword explained that the "author", John Norman, had known Cabot, spoken with him, and then one day found the manuscript mysteriously left in his apartment.
  • There is a... let's call it elaborate... prologue to the The Scarlet Letter in which Nathaniel Hawthorne explains that he did not write the story of Hester Prynne; he only found it.
  • Walter Moers uses this for most of his Zamonia novels. The Thirteen and A Half Lives of Captain Bluebear and The City of Dreaming Books are supposedly translations of autobiographies of the narrators. The setup of The Alchemasters Apprentice is a bit more complicated: Walter Moers supposedly translated a book written by Hildegunst von Mythenmetz, which is a retelling of a story by Gofid Letterkerl. Actually it's a retelling of Spiegel, das Kätzchen by Gottfried Keller. (Mythenmetz and Letterkerl are fictional authors, Moers and Keller are/were real people; Letterkerl's name is, in fact, an anagram of Keller's.)
  • The introduction to Frankenstein frames it as a letter from a sea captain to his sister after he briefly picked up the title character (and no, that's not the monster) in the Arctic and copied his story down. Making this even more complicated is the fact that Frankenstein quotes the monster for several chapters, and the monster also tells a story within a story within a story about the family he first sheltered with.
  • Stephen King:
    • Late in The Dark Tower series, the heroes arrive in 1977 Maine, meet with Stephen King, and instruct him to write and publish an account of their exploits. In this case, the trope is also used to explain why Eddie Dean grew up in Queens when his home, in Co-Op City, is located in the Bronx; on his Earth, Co-Op City is located in Queens, but it's located in the Bronx in "the real world" and so King was accurately describing the lay of the land in the quasi-fictional New York from which Dean hails. (Eddie initially loses his temper; he believes he grew up in the wrong borough because King made a mistake.)
    • More than that, King attempts to use the Dark Tower series to tie together all his books under the "existing Multiverse channeled by Author's imagination" theory, giving a whole new meaning to Author Existence Failure. We also know this as Canon Welding.
    • Stephen King also does this with some of the more recent books written under his pseudonym, Richard Bachman. In the forewords to those, Stephen King claims that the books were unfinished manuscripts by the late Bachman that he had been asked to polish and update for release after Bachman died of "cancer of the pseudonym". (Making him a Literary Agent for himself, oddly enough.)
  • Author Michael Crichton has done this with several of his books:
    • In the original book version of Jurassic Park, one of the many differences from the film adaptation was the death of Ian Malcolm. In the sequel novel, Malcolm explains that his death was just a rumour, leading the reader to believe that the original novel was merely an imperfect retelling of the actual events. (The original novel was also prefaced by "The InGen Incident", a historical-nonfiction-style bit about the problems the events' books caused.)
    • The Andromeda Strain is presented as a docudrama-style recounting of actual events, complete with a bibliography listing relevant scientific papers (most of the citations are real, but some are fakes supposedly authored by characters from the book).
    • Crichton also did it with Eaters of the Dead (later adapted in film as The 13th Warrior). Aside from the footnotes scattered through the book (again a mix of real and fake information), the beginning is an actual historical document, written by the real Ahmad ibn Fadlan, up to the point where he heads off with the Vikings to battle the Wendol. The novel is portrayed as a translation of ibn Fadlan's writing that extended past the point where the real ibn Fadlan stopped (even having the end of the novel terminate just as another adventure seemed to start, indicating there was more yet to happen but the manuscript had been lost). Crichton commented at one point, a few years after writing it, that he had forgotten where the fictional part of the novel actually started.
    • Rising Sun is apparently the narrator, a detective, telling a story in an LAPD interview room.
  • Denise Mina's novel Sanctuary (released as Deception in the US) is a crime novel told in diary format. The book features an introduction from Mina in which she claims she found the diary on a second-hand PC and subsequently won a court ruling that allowed her to publish the diary—much to the original author's objections—under her own name. An afterword further muddies the water by suggesting that some of the events described in the book did not happen in "real life", being exaggerations on the part of the original author.
  • The Princess Bride is introduced as a story edited down from a "famous" piece of literature written by S. Morgenstern, a fictional resident of the fictional country of Florin. The real author, William Goldman, claims that this is the Good Parts Version his father (an immigrant from Florin) read to him as a child. There are frequent "editor's notes" which summarize the excised text (these summaries can run for pages being nothing but lists of how many pages were spent on the various mundanities of, say, Buttercup packing so she could move (three whole pages on her blouses, was the guy nuts?), or the things Buttercup was taught so she could be a royal, in order to impress upon us how very grateful we are to Mr. Goldman for editing the book). At one point Goldman claims he wrote an additional scene which the publisher refused to include and gives an address one may write to in order to obtain it. Letters sent to that address are responded to with an explanation that someone acting on the original author's behalf is still blocking publication of the additional scene. Later editions blurred the line further, with an afterword of Goldman recounting a meeting he had with Stephen King while he was writing the (real) screenplay for Misery. He portrays King as a big fan of the original book who was outraged at some of the changes Goldman made. King is also alleged to be doing the abridgment of the long lost sequel Buttercup's Baby.
  • Umberto Eco engages in Lampshade Hanging in The Name of the Rose, initially claiming that the work is an adaptation of a translation of an account by the novel's protagonist, ostensibly written well after the events occurred, but then proceeding to criticize the accuracy of the account, both directly in the foreword and implicitly in the epilogue. He does the same in The Prague Cemetery.
  • Mark Z. Danielewski's House of Leaves is entirely based around the idea that the reader is reading a manuscript found by the editor—who tells his own story in footnotes, including events that reference the effect of the book on the real world and an encounter with the author's sister's band, Poe, who released an album "Haunted" from the point of view of one of the characters of the story. There are further layers to this metaphysical tale, and it includes and subverts any number of science fiction, horror and fiction tropes. There's also the author of the manuscript's claim that not only is The Navidson Record real, despite the editor's insistence that no such documentary exists, but also that the characters are real people and that Karen was the one who arranged for the tapes to be compiled. And then, in the last appendix of the book, there are pictures that imply that Zampano might be right and The Navidson Record might actually be real.
  • James Howe's Bunnicula series claims in the prologues that Howe is simply the literary agent for a dog, the Dr. Watson to a cat who fancies himself a paranormal investigator par excellence.
  • I, Claudius by Robert Graves. The entire premise of the story is that the Roman Emperor Claudius wrote a memoir giving all the inside dirt on the Imperial Family and that Mr. Graves actually did discover these secret papers, "Nineteen hundred years or near" later.
  • Elizabeth Peters' Amelia Peabody Emerson novels are framed as being excerpts from the rather extensive and detailed journals Mrs. Emerson kept over many decades, starting approximately with her initial trip to Egypt in the 1880s, during which she met the man who would become her husband. Later volumes also include excerpts from "Manuscript H", written by Amelia's son Ramses. Elizabeth Peters takes on the role of the editor of these journals in the author's notes, which allows some extensive Lampshade Hanging : she often expresses exasperation at the inconsistencies and inaccuracies in the text, such as the signs that the journals were rewritten many years later with an eye towards publication ("Little did I know..."), and Amelia's tendency to put her own opinions in the mouths of her famous contemporaries.
  • The Dinotopia books are prefaced with James Gurney's claim that they are merely reproductions of real journals that he's found, rather than being fiction. However, the ending of the second book breaks the illusion by describing events that occur after Arthur Denison no longer has access to his journal, which is then lost at sea.
  • Animorphs: The opening chapter of every book invokes this trope, and every now and then it also comes into the body of the story as well. There are a number of issues with the implementation, such as characters narrating right up to their deaths, and the fact that even though they refuse to give their real name or hometown in case their enemies read the books, they still give away plenty of other information their enemies would find useful—which this is not the place to discuss in detail. The use of the second person in opening narration is primarily just a way to put the reader in the fearful background.
  • The Books of Pellinor are supposedly translations of a saga from the land of Edil-Amarandh.
  • The Time Ships, a sequel to The Time Machine by Stephen Baxter, is supposedly based on a journal that mysteriously turned up in an old bookstore. The book also implies that the Time Traveller told his story to H. G. Wells who then created a fictionalised version.
  • In the James Bond novel You Only Live Twice, when Bond is believed dead, his obituary mentions that there is a book series being written about his adventures. It also mentions that if the books were any closer to the truth, they'd prosecute the author, an old friend of Bond's, under the Official Secrets Act. And in the book version of The Spy Who Loved Me, the author says the main female gave her account of the events to him. John Pearson's "authorised biography" of Bond runs with the idea, explaining that the Bond novels were a disinformation campaign intended to keep the opposition guessing about whether Bond really existed (In a bit of ironic Canon Dis Continuity, it asserts that The Spy Who Loved Me is the one novel that's completely made up). Of course, Comander Fleming really was up to his neck in skullduggery of all sorts and it is possible that he did include one or two interesting snippits from his own adventures....
  • John DeChancie's Castle Perilous books are purported to be true adventures (except Castle Dreams) written down by Osmirik, Court Scribe and Royal Librarian to Lord Incarnadine, and are so 'introduced' by him at the beginning of each entry into the series (after they've been smuggled through the portal, or Aspect, to our world). Later it is revealed that Lord Incarnadine himself takes on the identity of a writer here on Earth, passing off Osmirik's accounts as his own fantasy works (presumably under the pseudonym of DeChancie himself!). This self-mockery reaches its height in Castle Dreams when 'Osmirik' claims never to have seen the earlier novels, let alone written them or their prefaces, and engages in a long and lively debate about alternate realities, how the magic of the castle could have spontaneously produced such works, and the literary merit (or lack thereof) of such "cheap trash" with "terrible cover art." It even enters Mind Screw territory when he not only denounces the footnotes which appear throughout the book, but claims in a second preface that the first one appeared in the book before he had even written it.
  • The novels in Michael Moorcock's Nomad Of The Time Streams sequence are presented in this fashion; all three are presented as being accounts / letters written by the protagonist, Oswald Bastable, to Moorcock's grandfather (also named Michael Moorcock); the first two were delivered personally to Moorcock's grandfather, but the last was delivered to Moorcock himself, as his grandfather had passed away by the time the time-and-reality-swapping messenger managed to deliver it to him.
  • Thursday Next takes this to its logical extreme: every single book ever written is based on events in the alternate universe Bookworld, with the ideas telepathically sent to the minds of the author.
  • The Spiderwick Chronicles and the companion Field Guide are claimed by Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi to be actual events, with the Graces having written to them and told their story. The Field Guide itself was apparently sent to them as well, with DiTerlizzi taking on the task of restoring Arthur Spiderwick's creature paintings within. The sequel trilogy, Beyond The Spiderwick Chronicles goes further with the protagonists having actually read the books and Field Guide, meeting up with the authors at a book signing for help in dealing with a problem with Giants as well as actually meeting Jared, who explains that their last names were changed in the books for privacy's sake.
  • As of The Tales of Beedle the Bard the Harry Potter series has this. It's kind of weird to see Rowling write footnotes to Dumbledore's commentary of Beedle's tales, which were translated by Hermione. The foreword by Rowling references The Deathly Hallows from the "seventh book of the biography of Harry Potter".
    • The "School Books" had a twist on this. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and Quidditch Through the Ages assert that the wizarding world is real, and these books are magically copied (with a foreword added by Dumbledore) from real books from Hogwarts. Complete with graffiti written in the margins by Harry and his friends, no less.
  • The Pushcart War did this, except that at the time of publication the dates given in the book were in the future. At least one reader read the book as a kid and didn't realize it was fiction because by that time the dates in her copy were fifteen or twenty years in the past.
  • The Discworld is repeatedly stated by Terry Pratchett to be a real place existing in at least one separate quantum reality, and this is the attitude he holds while writing; continuity errors are thus handwaved as referring to different Discworld continuities, all of which are not only correct but also real. Well, that and the glass clock.
  • The classic but criminally under appreciated Sword & Planet novel Transit To Scorpio was written by Kenneth Bulmer, but published under the name Alan Burt Akers. Within the books, "Akers" presents himself as the literary agent of English naval officer Dray Prescott, who is lost on the distant world of Antarres. Aker receives manuscripts regularly from Prescott, who gets booted back to Earth by the "Star Lords" whenever they get bored with jerking him around. The series expanded to 45 books (54 if you count the titles only published in German) making up 11 "cycles", and by the third or forth book the by-line on the covers actually read "As Told To Alan Burt Akers By Dray Prescott." Kenneth Bulmer's name never appears on any of the books.
  • Life of Pi by Yann Martel is supposedly a novelization of true events; the prologue features Martel himself in India, meeting the character Mamaji who, in turn, tells him about the main character, Pi. The first section of the novel is the story of Pi's childhood, interlaced with scenes of Martel supposedly meeting and interviewing Pi as an adult. (The rest is about a shipwreck, a tiger and some Japanese guys.)
  • The Virgil Tibbs series by John Ball (which began with In the Heat of the Night) has a protagonist with a Direct Line to the Author. In The Great Detectives, edited by Otto Penzler, various creators of detective series contributed short articles on their creations (e.g. Chester Gould on Dick Tracy, Walter Gibson on the Shadow, etc.); John Ball used this trope for his article on Virgil Tibbs. He writes:

 Ms. Diane Stone, secretary to Chief Robert McGowan of the Pasadena Police Department, was on the phone. "The chief has approved the release to you of the details concerning the Morales murder," she told me. He has authorized you to go ahead with it at any time, if you want to." Of course I wanted to: the unraveling of the case via the patient, intelligent investigation work of the department in general, and Virgil Tibbs in particular, would need no embellishment in the telling. As I always do in such instances, I called Virgil and suggested a meeting. Two nights later we sat down to dine together in one of Pasadena's very fine restaurants.... By the time that the main course had been put down in front of us we had gone over the Morales case in detail and Virgil had filled me in on several points which had not previously been made public. As always, I agreed to publish nothing until the department had read the manuscript and had given it an official approval. This procedure helped to eliminate possible errors and also made sure that I had not unintentionally included information which was still confidential.

  • Robert Littell used this trope for The Amateur, published in 1980. He notes in a prologue that Charlie Heller (the main protagonist of the novel) met with him to have the novel published. Littell notes that Heller had learned of Littell's "fictionalization" of the events depicted in The Defection of A.J. Lewinter and The Debriefing. Internal details suggest that the events of The Amateur took place in 1972 (i.e. a terrorist victim's gravestone reads 1972).
  • Some of the Nick Carter stories of the late 19th century and early 20th century used this idea. In the story Nick Carter and the Professor, the narrator states "and it may be explained that the operations of the four, as described in the first chapter of this account, were learned from the confession of one of them, who turned State's evidence". In the story Nick Carter's mysterious case a footnote appears, after an asterisk in the main body of the page, reading "The detective [Nick Carter] has told me that he [a man Carter offered a reward] never came. What his was, is a mystery. AUTHOR". Another story has a note "The following story was told to the writer by Nick Carter" and "I tell the story in my own way and in the third person, but the facts, scenes and incidents are reproduced as nearly as possible in the great detective's own words. THE AUTHOR".
  • Willard Wright wrote the Philo Vance novels under the pen name S.S. Van Dine. S.S. Van Dine appears as the narrator (characters will refer to his presence in their dialogue, but Van Dine has no dialogue). Oddly enough, some of the Philo Vance novels depicted him murdering the murderer. However, Van Dine established that Philo Vance had retired to Italy, whose fascist government probably would not have extradited him.
  • The Ellery Queen books, aping as they did the Philo Vance series early on, present several convoluted uses of this trope. Early novels, starting with the first, The Roman Hat Mystery in 1929, have framing sequences which establish that the stories actually took place in the previous decade, i.e., the 1910s, and that all of the names have been changed. In other words, "Ellery Queen" was a pseudonym not only in real life, but in the novels as well.
  • Brandon Sanderson's Alcatraz Series is written in first person, with the narrator stating that Brandon Sanderson is a seperate person that has agreed to use his name as a cover, meant to hide the book from the titular Ancient Conspiracy of Librarians who rule the world. The author biography states that "Alcatraz has met Brandon Sanderson, and he was not impressed."
  • In Last and First Men (1930) by Olaf Stapledon, the foreword claims that, while the author believed himself to be writing fiction, in reality, he was writing under the influence of the distant-future Last Men, who used a sort of time-traveling telepathy to influence past minds.
  • Cheap Complex Devices (2002) by John Compton Sundman claims in the foreword that, amongst other things, it was written by a computer, as was his previous book, Acts of the Apostles, and that the purported author of Acts of the Apostles, John F. X. Sundman, stole credit for the book. Sundman is only ever referred to as the "editor" of Cheap Complex Devices.
  • Janet Tashjian's The Gospel According to Larry (2003), and its sequels, are written as if Josh Swensen, the protagonist, was entrusting her with the story to get it out, while not revealing Where in the World is Larry now.
  • According to Huck in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884), Mark Twain was pretty accurate with The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876), though "There was things which he stretched".
  • Kurt Vonnegut presents Mother Night as the actual memoirs of Howard J. Campbell Jr, going so far as to describe how he edited one chapter for obscenity.
  • All the books in the Geronimo Stilton series are "written" by Geronimo himself, which is reflected on the About The Author page.
  • All the Cathy's _____ books are like that. Particularly in the third book when Emma decides that they will publish Cathy's journal and the evidence collected as a fantasy novel.
  • Robert E. Howard set his Conan the Barbarian stories in a "vanished age" known as the Hyborian Age that occurred before any human civilization known to modern anthropologists. The Hyborian Age itself follows the Thurian Age of King Kull.
  • H. Rider Haggard used this idea in the Allan Quatermain novels (King Solomons Mines and sequels) extensively. In She and Allan (which takes place before She and before Allan Quatermain, for important reasons), Allan Quatermain writes an introduction to his memoirs of meeting Ayesha. He mentions that he will have the author publish his memoirs (the other Allan Quatermain novels follows a similar format, with some novels referring to other novels by their book titles). Quatermain mentions that he actually read Haggard's book She, and notes that the claim by one of the residents of Kor in that book that no male caucasian had visited Kor in decades stood as false, since Quatermain had visited Kor within the last fifteen years. (Curiously, Allan Quatermain died in the 1887 novel Allan Quatermain—published the same year as She. Quatermain must have read She not long before his death.)
  • James and the Giant Peach doesn't seem like it follows this trope at first, until it invokes it in the very last line in the book. We are told that James lived a happy life and grew up to become an author, and his most famous book was the true account of his adventures on the giant peach. "And that," the story concludes, "is the book you have just finished reading.". Another Roald Dahl book, The BFG, also doesn't seem like it follows this trope at first, until the end, where it's revealed that the BFG himself wrote the book about his and Sophie's adventures and published it under a pseudonym. The story concludes: "But where, you might ask, is this book that the BFG wrote? It's right here. You've just finished reading it."
  • The epistolary novel Les Liaisons Dangereuses (a.k.a. Dangerous Liaisons) includes both an "Editor's Preface" claiming that these letters are real and all the author did was prune them a bit, and a "Publisher's Note" (also written by the author) expressing extreme doubt that this is really a true story, mainly because people in this day and age would never be so wicked as the characters in the book are.
  • The first Gothic novel, The Castle of Otranto, is a subversion: Walpole never pretended that the events in it had actually happened, only that an Italian clergyman had believed in and recorded them.
  • Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe mysteries are all narrated by Wolfe's assistant, Archie Goodwin, who occasionally mentions the publication of the books.
  • Gaston Leroux's Phantom of the Opera did this, claiming that Leroux put together the story from firsthand accounts from people who lived and worked at the Opera House. Later, the introduction to Frederick Forsyth's Phantom of Manhattan continues in the same vein, pointing out Leroux's mistakes as if the entire story were true and Leroux just got some of the facts wrong.
  • Virtually all of Jack Higgins' World War II era novels begin in the present day with a first person-perspective framing story in which the Author Avatar (usually, but not always, named Jack Higgins) meets one of the novel's characters, from whom he learns the main story. Lampshaded in the prologue/preface to The Eagle Has Landed, which claims that "At least fifty per cent" of the novel is "documented historical fact."
  • The Athenian Murders by Jose Carlos Somoza is supposed to be the translation of an ancient Greek prose work, much annotated by a translator who we suppose is from the end of the twentieth century. As it turns out, the translator himself is a fictional character, invented by an ancient Greek writer...who has written the whole book, notes included...and appeared as a very minor character in the initial novel itself.
  • Star Trek:
    • Gene Roddenberry's novelisation of Star Trek the Motion Picture is written as though it is a record of actual events, and in fact begins with Kirk explaining to the reader that previous tales of his adventures were somewhat exaggerated.
    • The foreword of the Star Trek Online media tie-in book, The Needs of the Many by Michael A. Martin and Jake Sisko explains that Martin's editor passed on a collection of interviews conducted by Sisko along with other pertinent historical documents to be compiled into the resulting book ("...and the accompanying derivative holoprograms.")
  • Tall Tale America insists throughout that it is a true account of real people from American history, even in the bibliography where it cites works of fiction as sources (the 1987 reprint breaks this with the author's afterword, though).
  • In Les Misérables, Victor Hugo frequently refers to the actual events of the story and the research he did into the characters and events.
  • Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov is set up as though it is a recounting of actual historical events (with even an introduction from its fictitious author presenting it as a biography), and the narrator himself expresses himself in such a way that he cannot help but become a character in the novel, even though he does not directly affect any of the action.
  • Exegesis is not only an e-mail Epistolary Novel, but it's implied that it's really supposed to be actual e-mails released in book form by Alice Lu (one of the main characters).
  • The Railway Series has, for a long time, acknowledged the existence of the books in its own universe. The Rev. W. Awdry even wrote himself into the books as an enthusiast called "The Thin Clergyman," who variously gets Bert splashed with mud in Small Railway Engines, and takes part in the team that searches for and excavates the old sheds in Duke the Lost Engine. His son Christopher didn't reference this as frequently in his volumes, but the central plot of 2011's Thomas and His Friends was the railway's centennial celebration of the original author's birthday.
  • True Confessions of Adrian Albert Mole, Margaret Hilda Roberts and Susan Lilian Townsend has author biographies for all three "authors". According to Sue Townsend's she was sued by Adrian for trying to pass his diaries off as fiction.
  • The Author's Foreword in The Pale King. David Foster Wallace claims that all of it is true, yet he points out the disclaimer on the copyright page states that the characters and events are fictitious. He spends a good portion of the chapter noting the inherent paradox.

 In other words, this Foreword is is defined by the disclaimer as itself fictional, meaning that it lies within the area of special legal protection established by that disclaimer. I need this legal protection in order to inform you that what follows is, in reality, not fiction at all, but substantially true and accurate. That The Pale King is, in point of fact, more like a memoir than any kind of made-up story.

    • He also notes that he was not legally allowed to mention his publisher in the text - no one wants to mess with the IRS, after all - despite the fact that the publisher's name is featured on the book's spine.
  • Terry Goodkind starts Wizard's First Rule with thanking Richard and Kahlan for telling him their story.
  • In one of first the "Bernie Rhodenbarr" novels (by Lawrence Block) to come out after Burglar (the rather loose 1987 film adaptation of the earlier novels starring Whoopi Goldberg as Bernie), there is a prologue in which the author recounts a discussion he allegedly had with the "real" Rhodenbarr about the rather drastic difference between his older male Jewish self and Goldberg. Rhodenbarr claimed that he in fact actually had a distant name-alike cousin who was younger, female and black, and allowed as how the movie was probably about her instead of him.
  • In Grinny by Nicholas Fisk, it's said that Fisk is a friend of the family to whom the children told their story after it was all over. In the sequel, You Remember Me, he has a cameo in the story as one of the children tries to ask his advice about the new events as they're still happening.
  • Alfonso Bonzo by Andrew Davies is presented as having been told to the author by the protagonist, Billy Webb. It ends with a letter supposedly written to the publisher by the title character, complaining of having been misrepresented.
  • In "Tlon Uqbar Orbis Tertius", the narrator describes his discovery of the ancient story of Uqbar and Tlön in great detail.
  • Edgar Allan Poe's genre-creating detective stories featured a subtle version of this, with the end of one being withheld until the completion of the criminal's trial.
    • The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket started off as this (Poe said it was based on a true story).
  • Likewise, the Sherlock Holmes stories (who were partially inspired by Poe's works) are allegedly true, recounted by Dr. Watson when enough time has passed that they can't damage anyone's reputation.
  • Carole Nelson Douglas has her Irene Adler novels include explanatory pieces by a Fiona Witherspoon, an academic historian and member of the "F.I.A." (the Friends of Irene Adler). Witherspoon claims to have spent much of her time preparing the diaries of Irene's companion Nell Huxleigh for publication. The multi-year hiatus between the first four books and the next four is "explained" by the fact that Witherspoon had to review and research not only Nell's journals, but other material "found" with them, which is presented in the text as journal entries written by other characters.
  • The shorter works of Swedish author Fritjof Nilsson Piraten slide into and out of this. Some are short stories where no direct claim is made to their authenticity. Some are short self-biographical pieces that clearly are made to be taken at face value as things that happened to the author - but then the things that happened are outrageous or absurd. Like the time he conned a British Lord into thinking he was rich nobleman himself who basically owned his hometown Tranås. Often, he tells a perfectly believable (or supposed to be) episode in his life, until he meets an eccentric character who tells a fantastic story from their lives. Sometimes, Piraten openly tells us he thinks that person is lying, but that he won't say so to their faces or that he isn't sure. A lot of what he tells is mixed with actual places and people, so sometimes you will be surprised that this is just life embellished, and not a tall tale. These pieces are treated the same and published together.

Live Action TV

  • In some episodes of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, an immortal Hercules is shown adopting the identity of an actor named Kevin Sorbo and playing himself in the show. In a rare counter-example, Ares attempted to get the show cancelled.
    • In the same universe, Xena: Warrior Princess is based on "The Xena Scrolls", as written by Gabrielle, and later found by an archaeological team in the 1930s who all happened to be Identical Grandchildren of the main cast. Joxer's counterpart left them to his equally Identical Grandson Ted Raimi, and the rest is history (well, it's as much history as anything in Xena is).


  • Peter Schickele is a professor at the University of Southern North Dakota at Hoople, and is most famous for his work rediscovering and popularizing the music of P.D.Q. Bach, the least competent of Johan Sebastian Bach's many children. So he would claim, anyway.
  • Les Luthiers periodically "discover" and perform music by the fictitious composer Johann Sebastian Mastropiero.
  • According to the official biography Rise of the Ogre, Gorillaz's creators Jamie Hewlett (cartoonist) and Damon Albarn (voice actor) are, in-universe, the band's director and producer, respectively.
  • An important part of the Major Lazer "mythology" is the fact that the two DJs who comprise it, Diplo and Switch, are only allies of the eponymous character, releasing his music under their own names to protect his identity.


  • Older Than Dirt: Nearly all myth and legend appears to be set up as a true story; The Epic of Gilgamesh, The Iliad, The Aeneid, the King Arthur stories...
  • Averted in True History which, while written to sound like other works of its day, was intended by its writer Lucian of Samosata as a satire about them; he declared it was about "things I have neither seen nor experienced nor heard tell of from anybody else; things, what is more, that do not in fact exist and could not ever exist at all. So my readers must not believe a word I say."

Tabletop Games

  • Dungeons and Dragons:
    • The 1983 World of Greyhawk supplement was sketchily presented as a D&D adaptation of a scholastic game written by a "Pluffet Smedger" inspired by another work ancient to him; the trope wasn't rigidly adhered to, though.
    • Material for the Forgotten Realms setting is often presented as having been personally rendered to writer Ed Greenwood by the wizard Elminster. The Volo's Guide series are written as in-universe travel guides later annotated (often grumpily) by Elminster.
    • Greenwood also penned the "The Wizards Three" articles for Dragon magazine, which presented new spells for the Dungeons and Dragons game as notes written from meetings between Elminster, Mordenkainen (from the Greyhawk setting), and Dalamar (from the Dragonlance setting)... in Greenwood's own home. With occasional comments on fan letters and newsgroups, from Elminster himself (and once even from Mordenkainen's apprentice).
    • Dragon used to do this all the time. Fun Personified Marvel Comics character Slapstick supposedly wrote his own Marvel Super Heroes RPG write-up, with the actual author claiming all he did was add "some semblance of grammar".
  • The Castle Falkenstein books are allegedly written by Tom Olam, an acquaintance of game publisher Mike Pondsmith who mysterously vanished during a vacation in Europe; Olam sends documents to Pondsmith claiming to have been abducted to a Steampunk-plus-magic alternate world, in which he wrote the rules to the game using cards because the local nobility were scandalized at the thought of gaming with dice.