Paul Sheldon is the main protagonist of "Misery". He is the author of the Misery Chastain novel series, and is imprisoned by Annie Wilkes (his self-described "number one fan") after a devastating car crash.

In the 1990 film, Sheldon was played by James Caan.

Character Biography (Before Misery)

Paul lives in New York City and Los Angeles, but writes his novels in a remote cabin near Sidewinder, Colorado. It has also been revealed that he has been married and divorced several times, although he is a bachelor in the events of the novel.

Paul is the author of the Misery Chastain novel series. Paul believes that these novels are little more than dime-store romances, and writes that Misery has died giving birth in his latest published work, Misery's Child.

Now that he feels freed from his popular novels, Paul settles in to his writing cabin in Sidewinder, Colorado. After finishing his latest novel on car thieves (Fast Cars), Paul celebrates with champagne and decides to drive to California with his finished manuscript.


While on his way to California with his finished manuscript, Paul crashes his car into a snow bank only to be rescued by Annie Wilkes. Back at her house, Paul awakens from a drug induced coma to discover that Annie has taken him from the site of the crash and keeps him incapacitated by feeding him "Novril," a (fictional) codeine-based pain pill. Both of Paul's legs are severely broken with multiple fractures and his left knee is shattered. 

Paul is subject to (and terrified of) Annie's fits of rage. During one, she spills soup on his bed cover, smashes the bowl against the wall, and cleans up the soup while Paul writhes in agony for his pain pills. She forces Paul to drink the dirty rinse water in order for him to take his pain pills, he complies and is satisfied but humiliated.

After a few days, Paul begins to realize that Annie is dangerously obsessed with him and his Misery Chastain novels. Annie reads Misery's Child and his enraged that Paul would kill off her favorite character. She forces him to write a new novel, bringing Misery back to life.

Through a series of abusive and dangerous events, Annie tortures Paul by leaving him without food, water, or medicine for 50 hours at a time - forcing Paul to break out of his room and find the Novril for himself. In another one of her episodes, Paul breaks out of his room again and, while he gets food and water, sees a memory book on Annie's life. The book contains newspaper clippings that tell the story of all of Annie's murders from her time as a child in Bakersfield, California to her time as a nurse across the country, including her time in Denver where she was brought to trial for the murder of babies when she was a maternity ward nurse. She was cleared of all charges, but was labeled "The Dragon Lady" by the media.

When Annie returns, she claims that she has left her hairs strung across the house and has found them broken, knowing that Paul has gotten out. To stop him from getting out again, she chops his right foot off with an axe and cauterizes the wound with a blowtorch. Paul almost dies from the shock and, once he recovers, is cowed and seeks to finish Misery's Return. Another argument with Annie sets her off and she cuts off his left thumb with an electric carving knife. 

Early in Spring, Paul calls out to a Colorado State Trooper who has visited Annie's house looking for him, presumably because his car has turned up somewhere. Annie stabs the trooper multiple times with a wooden cross. Surprisingly, he survives and as he crawls towards his car, Annie runs him over with her riding lawnmower, later telling Paul that he killed the trooper by shouting out.

Annie puts Paul into her rat-infested, damp cellar to ensure he cannot signal to any visiting vehicles, leaving Paul terrified with the beginnings of a urinary tract infection. Annie returns from stashing the trooper's body and vehicle and tells Paul that he must finish his novel before the police obtain a search warrant. They reach an unspoken agreement that once the novel is finished, she will kill Paul and then herself.

Paul feverishly finishes Misery's Return in a matter of days, being interrupted only by two troopers, local police officers, and "gawkers" interested in Annie's infamous stream of death that follows her. Paul enacts his plan on the day he finishes his novel, covering the novel with lighter fluid, and asking Annie for a cigarette and a match, she obliges.

Paul calls her in, he sets the novel aflame, and, like Paul planned, Annie grabs the flaming stack in terror and Paul slams the heavy typewriter into her back, bring her down on the flaming stack of paper. A struggle ensues and Paul stuffs flaming sheets down her throat and, after several false starts, Paul locks her into his bedroom, believing her to be dead. Paul crawls to the bathroom closet and takes Novril to help his pain and passes out.

The police officers from before come back with the search warrant, finding Paul injured and disheveled and an empty bedroom. Annie herself had clawed most of the paper from her throat and escapted the room through the window. She is found by the two cops later, dead in her barn from a fractured skull suffered during her fight with Paul, clutching her chainsaw. 

Months after his ordeal, Paul sells Misery's Return and it becomes a best-seller when boosted with the real-life ordeal he went through writing it. Paul, clad with a prosthetic foot, suffers from both writer's block and PTSD, plagued by visions of the murderous Annie. During his recommended daily one-mile walk, he sees an odd sight, a young boy pushing a shopping cart with a skunk in it, which inspires him to write again, unaware that he is weeping while doing so. 



James Caan as Paul Sheldon in the 1990 film.

Misery series


  • Fast Cars (novel & film, Lost, untitled in film)
  • The Higher Education of J. Philip Stone (film only)


Possible Connections to other Stephen King works

  • To It (Novel): Paul Sheldon tells a story that his mother and a "Mrs. Kaspbrak" went to Boston one day. This could be Eddie Kaspbrak's mother either in Derry or after they move out of the town.
  • The small town of Sidewinder, Colorado, which is near to Annie's house and Paul's retreat where he writes, was a central location in King's 1977 novel, The ShiningIn the course of the story, Annie mentions the Overlook Hotel and how its caretaker went crazy and tried to murder his family there.  
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