Favourite Fictional Characters

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Greetings from a total newbie (to Litopia, and writing)

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Paul Whybrow

Full Member
Jun 20, 2015
Cornwall, UK
I'm contemplating writing the second adventure of a character I created four years ago, in a short story called Burpwallow Holler. Art Palmer is a veteran of the American Civil War, which ended the year before, and the tale is set in what was called the Reconstruction Era. It was a time of great flux, with much war damage to repair, and great tension between the white supremacists and those in favour of emancipation.

Art Palmer uses his battle experience to come to the aid of a beleaguered fellow Union army officer, the son of a Native American chief and an escaped African slave, who is being attacked by members of an early incarnation of the Ku Klux Klan. I became very involved in the issues raised by both of their predicaments. Art Palmer is a decent man, traumatised by wartime and suffering what has become known as PTSD.

I closed the story with him leaving the Appalachian Mountains, after defeating another enemy. He's headed for Atlanta, to help his sister rebuild her tobacco plantation.

Of all of my fictional characters, I bonded with Art Palmer the most. This surprised me a bit, for I'm not particularly militaristic, though I am concerned about the long-term effects of how traumatised ex-warriors are assimilated back into society. I think that this awareness comes from memories of my grandfather, who survived the hell of the trenches of WW1, but was never quite right afterwards.

I'm fond of my protagonist in my series of Cornish Detective murder mysteries, but Chief Inspector Neil Kettle is a law and order copper, even if I have made him quite left-wing, eccentric and arty—a bit like me. ;)

Parts of me are in many of my characters, including life experiences, though, I've sometimes applied them to people diametrically opposite to how I think and behave.

All of this soul-searching and examination of my motives, as I plan another short story, made me consider which famous fictional characters I like.

In no particular order, I thought of Lawrence Block's private investigator Matt Scudder, whose struggles with alcohol helped me to stop drinking.

I always enjoy returning to the police investigations of Andrea Camilleri's Inspector Salvo Montalbano, on Sicily, so well adapted into television series

The masterful Larry McMurty's Lonesome Dove series has two protagonists in Gus McRae and Woodrow F. Call that reflect the two sides of my character.

C.J. Sansom's hunchbacked lawyer Matthew Shardlake is memorable, and I empathise with his quandaries in Henry VIII's reign.

My favourite female character is Lisbeth Salander, from Stieg Larsson's Millennium series of novels. Her determination and resourcefulness are breathtaking.

Who are your own favourite characters, that you created and who inspire you...and, hopefully, one day, millions of readers?

Which famous characters from other authors' stories move you because they speak of what it means to be alive?

Effie Trinket from The Hunger Games because her character showed such maturity and growth in the series.

Jo from Little Women because she was ahead of her time.

Elizabeth Bennet from Pride and Prejudice because she embodied the spirit of trusting your heart instead of your head.

Scout from To Kill A Mockingbird because she's the perfect narrator for the perfect story. :)

Daisy from The Great Gatsby because she reminds us it's not nice to be shallow jerks. ;)
@Paul Whybrow that is a fantastic graphic at the end of your post.

To start with the big unforgettables: Sherlock Holmes. Because he knew how to look at what others didn't notice. Neurotic glamour, so sexy.

Emma Bovary in Flaubert's Madame Bovary. She isn't likeable in some ways or even admirable, and I'm not sure Flaubert knew as much about women as he thought he did. What I learned from Emma though had to do with the dangers of romantic daydreaming. The reality of provincial France shown to us by Flaubert is fascinating, cynical, cruel, irresistible. But Emma doesn't see what is happening all around her because she is lost in some thin illusion of romantic love and snobbish glamour. She never grows up.

Jo March in Little Women. A feisty tomboy and writer-in-progress. I still think she should have married Laurie.

Falstaff in Shakespeare's King Henry IV. Incorrigible, lovable rogue doomed to failure.

Some eccentrics:

Miss Jean Brodie in Muriel Spark's The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. Chilling and many of us had at least one school teacher like that. Especially in an old-fashioned all-girls school.

Lord Sebastian Flyte in Evelyn Waugh's Brideshead Revisited, the boyish golden charmer with his teddy bear who declines into a pitiful alcoholic stupor 'sipping strong drinks all day like a duchess'. Sweet, sad, memorable.

Lila in Elena Ferrante's My Brilliant Friend. Vicious, mercurial, vulnerable.

Miss Havisham of course, the aged jilted bride from Dickens' Great Expectations. Vengeful doesn't come any longer in the tooth.

Mrs Danvers, housekeeper of Manderley and guardian of the memory of the first Mrs de Winter in Daphne de Maurier's Rebecca. How to keep a ghost alive and brooding, by proxy.

Most moving and powerful characters:

Pecola in Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye. A young black girl who longs for blue eyes.

Martha Quest in Doris Lessing's The Four-Gated City. I could be reading my mother's life here.

The king's niece Hild in Nicola Griffiths' Hild. Overcoming the limited choices open to medieval women.

Isabel Archer in Henry James' Portrait of a Lady. Intelligent, ethical, passionate to live her life to the full, unaware of her own vulnerability. No match for Madame Merle and Gilbert Osmond.

I could go on for hours. Lists are my thing.
I love Jack Reacher too @James Marinero!

Don't encourage me where lists are concerned, I haven't started in yet on crime (Hercule Poirot! Miss Marple! Jane Rissoli!) or sci fi & fantasy (Mary Shelley's Frankenstein! Ged in A Wizard of Earthsea! Coraline!).

I do have literary leanings, I admit it.
Too many. For a complicated one, there is Thorfinn/MacBeth, King Hereafter, Dorothy Dunnett.

The following somewhat paraphrased.

Talking to Gruoch, his wife, the first time they meet. She is a girl widow. MacBeth has recently killed her elderly husband in mortal combat, 'you know what must be done, lady, and why. And then you may be free of my presence in this chamber a twelvemonth or more should you wish.'

Her (Yawning) 'go on then, get on with it,'...words to that effect, and then, 'oh, are we done already? Was that it?'

Some years later, him to her, after she has tried to have him shot by her archers, 'can it really be possible, you do not know how much I love you?'

His last words to her before stepping outside their tent to do mortal battle with Malcolm. He and Gruoch have been man and wife now, 17 years.

'Whatever happens, whatever you hear, you will not look.'

Her (agonised) 'I will not look.'

Because in truth, this king had an equal claim to the throne and ascended by defeating a young king Duncan in battle, after which he ruled 17 years and was not at all rated a bad king till Malcolm came and killed him. He even went to Rome and met the Pope and famously, while there, put on a good show all that way from Scotland, and distributed much largesse to the poor of that city. But the winners DO write history. Shakespeare wrote MacBeth only one year following the almighty shock of The Gunpowder Plot, and his patron, James 1, claimed a direct line of descent from....drumroll.....Banquo.
I found myself nodding agreement with everyone else's list, and here are two of my favorites that have not been listed yet. Maybe no one has heard of Clarinda, the little girl who traveled down the bathtub drain and had adventures with the animals at the pond. I loved that Clarinda was a little tomboy who preferred animals to dolls, like me. A neighbor gave me a copy of Clarinda when I was about eight - it had been hers when she was a child. I read it to my daughter and passed it on to my granddaughter and somewhere along the way it got lost. Every now and then I check Amazon used books, looking for a copy. My other favorite heroine is Margarita from The Master and Margarita. Margarita was passionate and brave; she reveled in life but was willing to die for love. If you have not read the book, do yourself a favor and pick up a copy. It's my favorite book and I keep lending it to peope who don't give it back. I've probably bought a dozen copies by now.

So far my favorite character from my books is Tony who first appears in Secrets, Lies & Homicide and shares the lead in A House of Her Own. Some readers do not like him at all, but so it goes. No one finds him boring.
Sir Harry Paget Flashman VC, KCB, KCIE.

In terms of my own characters then it has to be the most minor of characters. A French tramp, who has no name, but who manages to steal the boots from my main character and elicits only a sense of almost bizarre admiration for doing so. Not sure where he came from, how he got to the scene in question, or what happened to him afterwards but I have nothing other than fond thoughts towards him.
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The Horrors of Social Media and Modern Publishing

Greetings from a total newbie (to Litopia, and writing)