In a number of novels by Clive Cussler, the characters are sometimes offered help by a person whose surname is Cussler, same as the author. I believe this also happens in Sahara and Dragon, and Stephen King has done it in his Dark Tower books as well.

What is the name for this self-referential technique?

  • Kurt Vonnegut used this technique a few times as well. Commented May 12, 2012 at 5:43
  • For the record, Charles Baxter does it in The Feast of Love. Commented Jan 3, 2017 at 20:02

1 Answer 1


The technique that I believe you are referring to is self-insertion:

a literary device in which an author character who is the real author of a work of fiction appears as a character within that fiction, either overtly or in disguise

But if the character is actively seeking help from the author as the work is being written, another possible word or phrase you might want to use is breaking the fourth wall or meta-reference.

Meta-reference, a meta-fiction technique, is a situation in a work of fiction whereby fictional characters display an awareness that they are in such a work, such as a film, television show or book. ... It is also sometimes known as "Breaking the Fourth Wall", in reference to the theatrical tradition of playing as if there were no audience, as if a wall existed between them and the actors.

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