"I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train."

A Diary is a written work chronicling a period of time for an individual or entity. Diaries are similar to Autobiographies in nature, but are written in a daily format and are generally not intended for publication. Nevertheless, many diaries have been published, and give us great insight into the times, people, and places they center around.

The most commonly known kind of diaries are written by private individuals for their own use (also called journals or logs), but institutional diaries, such as business records, also exist. In modern times, the Blog, from the words "web log," has become a medium of choice for personal journals made public.

Diaries have existed since medieval times. The earliest known were written by Japanese princesses and court ladies. Religious devotees, male and female, used them for spiritual introspection and self-improvement. By the Renaissance, diaries held ordinary daily life events alongside personal thoughts and feelings. People also kept "commonplace books" to record quotations and ideas from other people.

Men and women from all walks of life have kept all kinds of diaries and journals, but they've become increasingly gendered over the last century or so. Partly due to the popularity in the Victorian era of fictional works in diary form, diaries became culturally coded as "feminine", in spite of the fact that some of the greatest diaries by men were written in this periodnote . Even now, diaries tend to be seen primarily as a tool of women's empowerment.note . While both men's and women's diaries are covered in Thomas Mallon's A Book Of One's Own, there are no anthologies of men's diaries, while there are several anthologies of women's diaries. This may be a social issue. Men may be teased for having a diary which forces them to be more secretive or use a Less Embarrassing Term such as "a journal". The Art of Manliness has this to say about diaries and why men should keep them. More on diaries and journals from Wolf & Iron.

Diaries are generally Nonfiction, although they can be used as a story-telling device for fictional works as well and may contain works of Fiction within the Diary itself. Fictional diaries are easy to publish in serial formats like the Web Serial Novel.

Diaries actually seen in fiction are odd animals once a little Fridge Logic is applied. They'll often have everything across a person's life in one book, whereas people who actually keep diaries know eventually you fill one book and have to start a new one (depending on how verbose you are being). Also characters may flip through a diary and it will be full to the end, despite the fact that most in-progress diaries could be at any state of completion. When pages are left blank in a diary, the immediate assumption is that something has happened to the diarist; he wouldn't leave his book behind.

See also Secret Diary, Scrapbook Story, Epistolary Novel, Apocalyptic Log, and Captain's Log.


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    Fictional Examples 

Comic Books
  • In Cerebus the Aardvark, the tavern owner Pud Withers keeps one in the Jaka's Story arc. Initially it's very dry and repetitive, with each entry almost a carbon copy of the previous, but about halfway through it starts becoming more sinister.
  • Many in the Disney Ducks Comic Universe stories, mostly used as one of the ways Scrooge finds about some treasure.
    • Paperinik (Donald Duck superhero alter-ego) found his origin when Donald accidentally discovered the journal of Fantomius, the Gentleman Thief that had been active in Duckburg in the twenties. More realistically than in most examples, Fantomius had multiple journals (we know of at least three of them, possibly four).


  • Diaries of Adrian Mole
  • The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot
  • The Bridget Jones Diaries
  • Charlotte Powers is presented as the journal of a fifteen year-old superhero.
  • The Dear America book series, and its spinoffs, My America, My Name Is America, and Royal Diaries. The Royal Diaries are fictional diaries "written" by real royalty, including Cleopatra VII, Elizabeth I, Mary Queen of Scots, Catherine the Great, Marie Antoinette, Grand Duchess Anastasia, and others that aren't as easy to name drop.
    • Becomes downright unrealistic in the case of My Heart Is On The Ground, where a Lakotah child in the Carlisle Residential Indian School is given a diary to improve her English.
  • The Costa Rican novel Pantalones Cortos and its sequels Verano de Colores and Pantalones Largos. It's worth noticing that these are actually "pormediarios" as they are written "de día por medio" (every other day)
  • The Diary of Adam and Eve by Mark Twain
  • Stephen King's short story Survivor Type (collected in the anthology Skeleton Crew). The story is a diary of a man trapped on a Deserted Island.
  • Very possibly the entirety of The Dresden Files; it has been mentioned in the novels that wizards of the White Council are expected to keep journals, which they pass down to their apprentices—as well as the journals of their teachers, and their teacher's teachers, etc, ad nauseum. What Harry may well eventually receive will include the journals of Merlin. The original Merlin.
  • Catherine Called Birdy by Karen Cushman is written in the form of a diary by a fictional girl living in the Middle Ages.
  • The Provost's Dog books by Tamora Pierce is written in the form of journal entries by the titular character.
  • Dear Mr. Henshaw, by Beverly Cleary, begins as a letter written by Leigh Botts to his favourite author, Boyd Henshaw, who encourages him to keep a diary. After the first few letters, the book shifts to the format of a diary (which is addressed "Dear Mr. Pretend Henshaw" because Leigh thought it would make it easier to write).
  • Podkayne of Mars by Robert A. Heinlein is presented as the diary of the heroine.
  • Jeff Kinney's Diary of a Wimpy Kid, a satire of middle school life, has become insanely popular, with many sequels, several movies and a TV series in the works. Marketing premiums include blank diaries with "wimpy kid" themes.
  • Colas Breugnon
  • The Sacred Diary of Adrian Plass, a fictional, funny account of Christian life in England.
  • Shabti by Alain Gomez.
  • The Star Diaries by Stanisław Lem.
  • Diary by Chuck Palahniuk
  • The almost forgotten James Leo Herlihy novel The Season Of The Witch is entirely Gloria's journal, with a note from her friend John added to an early entry.
  • The personal diaries and journals of assorted characters make up many of the chapters of Dracula.
  • Ice Age: Chills, Thrills And Spills: Pages of Sid and Manny's diaries are shared.
  • The Further Adventures of Batman
    • "Bats" is written in the form of a diary by Alfred Pennyworth, who is trying to deal with the possibility of Bruce Wayne having gone insane.
    • "Subway Jack" has case file A-4567-C which is written in Batmanís First-Person Perspective.


Web Original

Web Video

    Diaries Appearing in Fictional Works 

Anime and Manga
  • Midori of Midori Days writes in her journal when Seiji is asleep. Plays very important to the plot later on.
  • In Change 123, Kannami suggests that Motoko use a shared diary as a means of communication with her alters. While Fujiko doesn't write in it much, Mikiri and Hibiki certainly do. . . To Motoko's horror.

Comic Books
  • Watchmen: Rorschach's Journal, October 12th.
    Dog carcass in alley this morning. Tire tread on burst stomach. The city is afraid of me. I have seen its true face. The streets are extended gutters and the gutters are full of blood and when the drains finally scab over all the vermin will drown. The accumulated filth of all their sex and murder will foam up about their waists and all the whores and politicians will look up and shout "save us!" And I'll whisper "no".
  • ''Captain Marvel Junior in his early career was a kind of Dickens character. As Freddy Freeman, he was a poor lame boy who lived in a chilly garret and sold newspapers. Most superheroes had sidekicks so they'd have someone to talk to; Freddy had his diary. It was his one really valuable possession, with gold-leaf decoration on the covers. Mary Marvel's adventures were also told in diary form.
  • Circles: Paulie keeps a personal one to chronicle the events that happen throughout the years. He kept it away from everyone and including Douglas who wanted to read them. Of course, Paulie knew that eventually he would stop and then he would leave the journals for Douglas and the others to read. Douglas was inspired and began to write entries to Jason to pass onto him.

  • Enda's video diaries, found after his death in Red Roses and Petrol, including a dedicated poem to his wife.
  • Henry & June is based on Anais Nin's actual diaries from the early 1930s.
  • The German silent film Diary of a Lost Girl features the titular diary, the one possession Themain manages to keep through everything.
  • Sam's video diaries in Ways to Live Forever, as well as the book he's writing.
  • Veronica keeps a diary in Heathers, complete with voice-over narration whenever she's seen writing in it.
  • In Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Henry Jones, Sr. keeps track of all his research on the Holy Grail in a book that both he and his son refer to as "the Grail Diary."
  • In Batman Forever, Bruce Wayne talks about the red leather diary in which his father had written every day since Bruce was born, and how on the day of his parents' funerals he had become distraught because his father would never write in it again. He had the diary in his hands as he ran out into the rain, and fell into what would eventually become the Batcave.
  • The framing device of The Bridges of Madison County is that Francesca's son and daughter are reading her diary after she has died.

  • Tom Riddle's diary in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Riddle's diary is based on how J. K. Rowling views diaries as "really frightening," due to their power to make little girls confide in them only to become paranoid that someone will read them and discover their secrets.
  • Eustace's diary in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.
  • In First Riders Call, several entries from the journal of Hadriax el Fex, The Dragon to an ancient Evil Overlord, break up the chapters and serve to provide backstory for the conflict that is happening now. It is also revealed to have special significance to the protagonist, who turns out to be his descendant.
  • An old diary found by Leo Colston in The Go-Between revives memories of a traumatic summer holiday fifty years earlier.
  • Lori finds one volume of Lucasta DeClerke's diary late in Aunt Dimity: Snowbound. Through it, Lori learns more of her side of the story behind the theft of the family jewels.
  • Discussed in Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey. Henry Tilney gently mocks Catherine that he doesn't believe her not keeping a diary. How else could she tell her friends about her glorious time in Bath? He also thinks that ladies gain their writing style from practising with diaries. This is an early (1817!) instance of the use of the word "journal" as a verb; Henry speaks several times of "journaling", making the whole discussion sound oddly modern.
  • A.S. Byatt's novel Possession has several diaries. The first clue to the mystery is found in the diary of Henry Crabb Robinson (a real person, who often invited famous creators to his home for salons). There's more in the journal of Ellen Ash, who is said to use her book to "baffle" future readers with complex hints. Blanche Glover's diary tells another part of the story. Sabine de Kercoz, Christabel's cousin, intended her journal to improve her writing so she could be an author herself, but ended up telling the story of what happened after Christabel's romance with Randolph Ash.
  • In Lawrence Block's suspense novel Ariel, Ariel keeps her diary in an ordinary school notebook so her mother won't snoop. She says she got the idea of hiding secret things in plain sight from Edgar Allan Poe's The Purloined Letter.
  • The Cabin Faced West by Jean Fritz, kind of a Pennsylvania Little House on the Prairie, includes a subplot about a diary and its mysterious disappearance and rediscovery.
  • Zoë's diary is part of the story of Alyson Noël's Saving ZoŽ.
  • Asta Westerby's diary is the subject and the core of Asta's Book (first published in the U.S. as Anna's Book) a ripping good mystery yarn by Barbara Vine. Asta is a strong-minded young Danish woman living in a London suburb in 1906. She keeps the diary faithfully through the decades, completing about sixty volumes before she puts it aside in her nineties. Her daughter Swanhild discovers it years later and arranges to have it published, finding that it creates as many mysteries as it solves.

Live-Action TV
  • The Doctor keeps the 500 Year Diary in the series Doctor Who
    • The Twelfth Doctor upgraded recently to a 2000 Year Diary.
    • River Song also keeps a diary. Because they keep meeting out of order, they have to compare recent diary entries to confirm when and where they are in their respective timelines, to avoid "spoilers".
  • Doogie Howser, M.D. ended each episode with Doogie writing on his computer diary.
  • Secret Diary of a Call Girl, which is based on the above Belle de Jour blog
  • Bobby's diary in Prayers for Bobby.
  • Sue Sylvester from Glee is sometimes seen writing quips about important events or characters in a diary, most noticeably Mr. Schue.
  • On The X-Files, Scully writes a diary to Mulder, presumably as a means to help them both cope with her impending death from an inoperable tumor. Shown in "Memento Mori".
    • Mulder also finds the diary of his sister in "Closure".
  • Brazilian show Casseta & Planeta had a frequent sketch called Diary of a Macho, revolving around a violence-loving Dumb Muscle (a stereotype known there as "pitboy") writing one of those. The opening line is always "Dear diary - not dear, because 'dear' is a queer thing! [more manly term] diary...".
  • In Buffy Dawn Summers is shown writing in a diary complete with voice over narrating of what is being written. It's presumed that she has done this for most of her life but could also be an allusion to Michelle Trachtenberg's role as Harriet in Harriet the Spy. Rupert Giles also keeps his own diary, which briefly gets touched upon in an episode when we learn what he thought of Buffy upon their first day meeting.
  • In the ITV adaptation of Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey (2007), Catherine and Henry Tilney discuss ladies' writing diaries as in the book, and moreover, Catherine is shown as an avid diary keeper.
  • Murdoch Mysteries, "Shades of Grey":
    • Lily, the victim of the week, kept a diary, but she wrote nothing important there, only boring stuff. George is probably close to the truth when he says she did it to confuse her potentially nosy mother.
    • Constable George Crabtree says that he keeps a diary himself, which surprises Detective Murdoch. Later in the series, George is revealed to be an aspiring mystery novel writer.
  • Another aspiring novelist is Beaver of Leave It to Beaver. Hearing that Beaver is contemplating a writing career. Ward gives him a diary. He emphasizes its private, personal nature and the fact that some great writers used ideas from their own childhood diaries. Beaver openly despairs of simply recording his "boring" real life. When he is late home from school, Ward and June of course break into the diary, where they discover lurid accounts of reckless, criminal activity. Completely snowed by the Secret Diary stereotype, they fail to realize he is using the book to practice fictional narrative.
  • A worn, stained diary figures in the Magnum, P.I. adventure "Forever in Time". It's kept by the elderly traditional Pali-Uli Keahikapu, once a lady-in-waiting to a Hawaiian princess, who is now concerned about the safety of the princess's granddaughter.note  The last entry, twenty or so pages before the end, is "MUST STOP VICTORIA'S DEATH."
  • There's also a diary in the Hawaii Five-O episode "Up Tight". This one belongs to young Edie Hastings, who threw herself off a cliff while on "speed" (though clearly LSD is meant). The trail leads to Prof. Stone, a Timothy Leary Expy, whom Edie's father confronts with her book. He demands Stone read Edie's words, revealing that the two were lovers, before forcing him to take some of his own drugs (he ends up on the same cliff). Stone reads from the front of the book, which looks very new; Edie had only made a couple of entries before her death.
  • Joel, Crow and Tom Servo are shown to keep diaries (the latter two not readily admitting to it at first) in the Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode The Hellcats. Tom uses an automatic typewriter, Crow records an audio diary, and Joel just writes his down as normal. Gypsy tries to dictate to a typewriter, but it obviously doesn't work.
  • One episode of The Golden Girls has Blanche discovering Rose's diary, and she and Dorothy are horrified to read entries in which she talks about "living with these two pigs." As it turns out, the diary they've been reading is Rose's old 4-H diary, kept one summer when she raised two pigs for the county fair.
    • In another episode, Blanche pulls out her own diary to try to resolve a plot point. Dorothy is baffled to see the word BED on the cover, at which Blanche laughs and explains that it's not the word BED - it's her monogram, which just happens to spell that word.

  • Two great quotes from Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest:
    "I keep a diary in order to enter the wonderful secrets of my life. If I didn't write them down, I should probably forget all about them."
    "I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train."

Newspaper Comics
  • Calvin and Hobbes had one strip:
    Calvin: History will thank me for keeping this journal at such a young age. As one of those individuals destined for true greatness, this record of my thoughts and convictions will provide valuable insight into my budding genius. Think of it - a priceless historical document in the making! Wow!
    Calvin: So who else should I add to my list of total jerks?
    Hobbes: Who else do you even know?

Video Games
  • In Umineko: When They Cry, Maria's diary is used by Ange 12 years after the mass murder on Rokkenjima in order to communicate with Maria herself.
  • Each chapter of Wild ARMs 5 is ended with Rebecca reading from her diary entry on it. She also tries to use her diary to explain her real feelings to Dean, but he refuses to read it out of chivalry.
  • Valdo, the protagonist of the PC mystery game Secrets of da Vinci: The Forbidden Manuscript, maintains a diary throughout the game which provides the player with additional hints and clues.
  • Similarly to the above example, the player character in the PC adventure game Siege of Avalon keeps a diary which the player can read. It's of particular interest as the means of displaying each Non-Standard Game Over which can occur.
  • "Write in diary" is one of the action choices when the player clicks on a bookcase in The Sims.
  • You save your game in Harvest Moon by writing in a diary.
  • There are several diaries in Calling which are needed to help the story move along since you're trying to learn about the mysteries of the game.
  • April keeps a diary throughout the original The Longest Journey, which is an important source of her characterization. How she manages to update it even after being pulled into a parallel universe in just her underwear is never explained.
  • Luke's diary in Tales of the Abyss functions as both Now, Where Was I Going Again? for the player and showing Character Development for Luke outside party interactions.
  • In role-playing games, diaries seem to be kept by an inordinate number of people - even those one wouldn't expect to be particularly literate or to have much interest in chronicling their thoughts or day-to-day lives. The real purpose of these diaries, of course, is to conveniently tell the protagonist exactly how to break the curse, find the hidden treasure, or what have you, without too much strain on the player's (or the game designer's) part.
  • Alexander Morris can keep a diary in Dracula Unleashed at the player's discretion. Writing in it after a trip to the local newsstand will include some newspaper clippings to browse.
  • The Master Detective of the Mystery Case Files games maintains a diary in each game. The plot of Ravenhearst, the first game in the "Ravenhearst" sub-series, hinges around collecting the scattered pages of a young woman's lost diary in order to find out what happened in the titular manor several years earlier.
    • In Fate's Carnival, the Master Detective ends up reassembling Alister Dalimar's lost diary which turns out to be the key to destroying him.
  • It's never seen, but the player character of Dragon Age: Origins can mention staying up to write in his/her diary in a certain sequence of dialogue with Leliana, if she is romanced.
  • While walking about the castle in Paper Mario 64 Princess Peach comes across Bowser's diary and upon reading it learns the location of an important Plot Coupon. Bowser also mentions that he hopes Princess Peach likes him. Luigi also has one that Mario can find.
  • Kingdom Hearts: 358/2 Days: On Saïx's suggestion, Roxas keeps a journal of his time during the Organization. It serves the same purpose as Jiminy's Journal from previous games by giving small recaps of each day's events (assuming the day is story-relevant), on top of giving some insight as to Roxas' feelings.
  • Persona 5: As part of his probation, the protagonist is forced to keep a log of his activities in a little black book he keeps in his back pocket. However, the game also uses it as a meta-narrative stand in for your Save Point.
  • Frederica's diary is of use to the detectives in Dark Tales: Metzengerstein as they try to solve her disappearance.

Web Comics

Web Original

Western Animation

    Nonfiction Examples 

  • The Diary of a Young Girl, the diary of Holocaust victim Anne Frank, probably the most famous diary ever published.
  • The Diary of Samuel Pepys: 1660-1669 life in London — historically intriguing and hysterically funny. Also dirty.
  • The second most famous childhood diary is probably that of Marjory Fleming (1803-1811). Begun to improve her handwriting, her diary became an attempt at internalizing proper feminine moral character, supervised by her beloved cousin Isabella. But Marjory was a Little Miss Badass whose feisty spirit came through on page after page. After her sudden death at age eight, she was mythologized and edited heavily by Moral Guardians. The most factual account of her life and writing is in Alexandra Johnson's The Hidden Writer.
    Marjory Fleming was discovering that every writer has a critic shadowing her shoulder. The drama of her journals is watching who won.
  • Mary Chesnut's diary of Southern life during The American Civil War, published under various titles
  • Diary of George Templeton Strong 1835-1875. New York lawyer and musician, also writing during the Civil War, detailed descriptions of culture, politics, current events. Both Chesnut's and Strong's diaries were heavily used in Ken Burns' documentary The Civil War.
  • Naturalist Emily Shore kept a prolific diary from 1830, when she was eleven, until her death eight years later. She had been so frank and honest that her sisters cut out a good four-fifths of her writing (a common practice in Victorian days) to make it decent for publication. "They placed a self-representation on a Procrustean bed and tailored a narrative to suit their own taste and times." Fortunately two volumes survived intact and were later incorporated into the published work.
  • Journal des Goncourt (Goncourt Journal), 1851-1896 by brothers Jules and Edmond de Goncourt, about the French Second Empire
  • Diary of Marie Bashkirtseff 1873-1884 by artist/early feminist Marie Bashkirtseff, published by family members after her early death.
  • Edith Holden, Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady. Its original title was Nature notes for 1906. Artist Holden wrote and drew this lovely diary for herself alone, and it lay forgotten until its discovery in 1977. Her illustrations have appeared on hundreds of tie-in items and premiums.
  • Diary of Anais Nin 1914-1974 by author Anais Nin, her personal life and detailed portraits of her friends and family.
  • Naturalist Opal Whiteley wrote diary notes from the age of five (about 1902) which she edited into a bestselling and controversial book, The Story of Opal, first published in 1920.
  • Bruce Frederick Cummings' The Journal of a Disappointed Man, written from 1902 to 1919 (as W.N.P. Barbellion), vividly chronicles the life of an energetic spirit doomed to die from MS. Another diarist who wrote about what it was like to live with chronic pain was the poet William Soutar.
  • For a long time, historian-journalist Edward Robb Ellis was considered to have written the world's longest diary, from 1927 to 1997. It boasts an impressive 21 million words, give or take, but Ellis' record was soon beaten by Rev. Robert Shields (see below).
  • Mein Widerstand (My Opposition) 1939-1943 by Friedrich Kellner, life in Nazi Germany
  • Owenita Sanderlin's Johnny (1968) is comprised partly of diary entries by young Mr. Sanderlin, who died of leukemia at fifteen, outliving his doct alors' predictions by five years.
  • Prayers for Bobby (1996) has sections of the book that are diary entries of Bobby Griffith, an actual young man who committed suicide after being subjected to Cure Your Gays.
  • The Reagan Diaries, published in 2007 and an unexpurgated version in 2009.
  • Accused of murdering his wife Virginia, Alvin Ridley's life and reputation were saved by his dead wife's hypergraphic diary in 1999. Turns out they really were just an eccentric but happily married couple who kept to themselves. She had passed in her sleep because of an epileptic seizure but her family were firmly against their marriage and wanted to blame Alvin for it, thus the murder charge.
  • The longest diary in the world is that of the Reverend Robert Shields, who spent a quarter of a century in his retirement years starting in 1972 documenting all the minutia of his life, right down to the timestamps - the temperatures of certain points in his office where he wrote, the weight and contents of the day's newspapers, the price of certain products at the grocery store, his bowel movements, his medications, the weather, what he ate, the conversations he had, musings on God and life, his dreams,note  what he was reading at the time, and of course that he was writing the diary itself. Entries in the latter category all read about the same - "I was at the keyboard of the IBM Wheelwriter making entries for the diary" - and exist solely to account for all the time he did exactly that. While he might have had a neurological condition known as hypergraphia, in which affected individuals have an insatiable urge to write, Shields defended his writing and resulting reclusiveness by arguing that perhaps his extremely detailed work would matter one day: "Maybe by looking into someone's life at that depth, every minute of every day, they will find out something about all people." He suffered a stroke that stopped him from writing any further ten years before he died - though he had said much earlier that if he stopped writing it, he would feel as if he'd "turned off [his] life" - and while his longsuffering wife did try to continue his work via dictation, she of course didn't have the drive that he did and quickly stopped. Shields' diary was donated to Washington State University, where it remains stored in 94 cartons. Doorstopper? This thing could stop every single door in his hometown of Daytona all at once. It's estimated that the journal has 37.5 million words in it, but Shields mandated that an exact count cannot be derived for fifty years after his passing; as he died in 2007, we'll never know how many words are actually in it until 2057 at the earliest.

Web Originals

Alternative Title(s): Dear Diary