Sunday, December 31, 2006

Favorite Fictional Characters

I’ll talk about scenes tomorrow. Today I want to pick up on a thread from over on Razored Zen , where Charles has posted lists of his favorite fictional characters from books, and from movies and TV.


I found compiling this list fascinating. Some of my choices were givens, since they’re from my favorite books. Some are characters I’d like to be (or wanted to be when I was a child). Others—such as Conroy’s Bull Meecham, or Captain Jack Sparrow—are not necessarily likeable or even admirable people, but are such wonderful, memorable creations that I felt they belonged here. And I’m sure I’ve left off some great ones that just didn’t occur to me.

Another interesting thing about this list is that these “people” are, for the most part, characters I first encountered long ago. Many are characters that caught my imagination as a child to such an extent that I’m sure they influenced the person I grew up to be. Some are adventurers; a surprising number are cowboys/gunslingers. And as Basil Ratbane will doubtless note, less than half are women. Which leads to a question: Why do we, as writers, create so few truly memorable, inspiring female characters? Or rather, why do MALE writers create so few memorable female characters, since I note that all the female characters on my list were from books written by women.

From Literature
1. Francis Crawford of Lymond, from Dorothy Dunnett’s The Lymond Series
2. Philippa Somerville, from the same
3. Scout, from Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird
4. Hero Hollis, from M.M. Kaye’s Trade Wind
5. D’Artangnan, from Alexandre Dumas
6. Bull Meecham, from Pat Conroy’s The Great Santini
7. Brother Cadfael, from Ellis Peters’s medieval mystery series
8. The Kid, from Henry Herbert Knibbs’s The Ridin’ Kid from Powder River (What can I say? I LOVED that book as a child.)
9. Huck Finn, from Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
10. Abbie, from LaVyrl Spencer’s Hummingbird
11. Shane, from Jack Shaefer’s book by the same name
12. Travis McGee, from John D. McDonald’s series (hey, it’s my list; I can have 12 if I want to)

From Movies and TV
1. James T. Kirk
2. Indiana Jones
3. Brett Maverick
4. Emma Peel
5. Captain Jack Sparrow, from Pirates of the Caribbean
6. Cher, from Clueless
7. The Cary Grant character from Father Goose
8. Chad Cooper, from Laredo
9. Paladin, from Have Gun, Will Travel
10. Alexander Mundy, from It Takes a Thief

6 comments:

Chap O'Keefe said...

You ask why do male writers create so few memorable female characters. For the males, starting with Shakespeare and Dickens, can I put up my hand up and say we have tried/do try?
I write traditional western novels and one of the other writers with the brand I ride for told Writers' Forum magazine a couple of years ago that the central character for a Black Horse Western had to be a male. I'd always featured at least two females in the core casts of books I'd written for the series, but coincidentally I had also just completed the first of the Misfit Lil titles and have since written three more.
I hope Lil -- a "Calamity Jane" type -- is as effective as any other central character. Memorable? Only time will tell!

Anonymous said...

Part of it may be that when most of us were young, male writers outnumbered female writers by a large margin among adventure writers, and mostly they featured male characters. Those early books certainly had a big impact on me, and it seems on many other young readers as well. Even female adventure writers in those days wrote about male characters, as with Andre Norton, or with C. L. Moore's Northwest Smith.

Chap O'Keefe said...

Strange that of all those female adventure writers you should choose to mention C.L. Moore, Charles. Moore also created, for Weird Tales in the 1930s, Jirel of Joiry -- "proud, tough, arrogant and beautiful". Also memorable and frequently anthologized and reprinted!

Anonymous said...

Yes, I remember Jirel and she'd have to be high on my list of favorite female characters. I probably should have said that the female adventure writers "often" wrote about male characters.

cs harris said...

You both make good points. This is something I'd like to explore more.

نور الهدى said...



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عزيزى العميل انت من محبى التنقل باستمرار بالتالى انت بحاجة ماسة وضروية الى الاستعانة بالمختصين في نقل العفش خاصة ارخص شركة نقل اثاث بالرياض لان الاستعانة باى من عمالة الشوارع الغير مدربة والتي لا تمتلك خبرة كافية في نقل العفش او الحفاظ علية وليس هذا فقط فقد يؤدى الاستعانة بعمالة الشوارع الى حدوث حالة فقدان وتكسير للاثاث بالتالى التاثير الضار عليك عزيزى العميل

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