Thursday, November 16, 2006

Unreal Influences

While at the book store today, I spotted a book that I later looked up on B&, listed under possibly the longest title I've ever seen: The 101 Most Influential People Who Never Lived: How Characters of Fiction, Myth, Legends, Television, and Movies Have Shaped Our Society, Changed Our Behavior, and Set the Course of History by Dan Karlan, Allan Lazar, Jeremy Salter.

Imagine, just typing up the file folder labels for that one. Ouch.

The book's title did make me think about fictional characters who might have had some influence on my work. Laura Ingalls from the Little House Books wasn't fictitious, but her and her family's struggle to survive during The Long Winter definitely left a lasting impression. As did Paiken and Elea, the "ice people" from La Nuit des Temps, and Ivan Denisovich from the novel some rookie named Solzhenitsyn wrote about one day in his miserable life. It's possible they're why a beach girl from Florida ended up writing a novel like Rebel Ice.

I don't write knock-offs or derivative fiction, but there have been some memorable characters that still serve me as shining examples of why one should toss all Da Genre Rules out the window. Devon and Michael from Virginia Coffman's Mistress Devon turned the Gothic novel upside down for me by showing how a theatre troupe deals with treachery on the brink of the American Revolution. Mitji from Madeleine Brent's Golden Urchin demonstrated just how far out you could go with a romance heroine -- like abandoning her as a baby to be raised by Aborigines in the Australian outback -- and still keep her completely plausible and realistic.

Have fictional characters had any impact on your work? Who are they, and how do you think they've influenced your writing?


  1. Paul Atreides (Frank Herber's "Dune") ... who taught me not to fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.

    Stephanie Plum (Janet Evanovich) ... who taught me that sometimes the job you settle for can bring a world of wonder to you. Also, even the clutzy girl can be endearing, attract hot guys, and fall into the most interesting conspiracies and plots. Also, she taught me my family isn't so bad after all. At least my grandmother doesn't carry a handgun in her pocketbook when she goes to the beauty parlor.

    Sookie Stackhouse (Charlaine Harris) ... who reminded me that southern charm rocks, taught me that mind-reading is a disability, and vampires & shapeshifters can be heroes.

    Anita Blake (Laurell K Hamilton) ... taught me to not be afraid to kick ass first and ask questions later.

    Jamie Fraser (Diana Gabaldon) ... uhhhh, *grin* who proved to me that flowing red hair and a Scottish brogue could make my toes curl. I didn't know a fictional character could do that!

  2. Anonymous4:48 AM

    A little off-topic... possibly the longest title I've ever seen. The longest I've come across is:

    The Fortunes and Misfortunes of the Famous Moll Flanders, Etc. Who was born in Newgate, and during a life of continu'd Variety for Threescore Years, besides her Childhood, was Twelve Year a Whore, five times a Wife (whereof once to her own brother), Twelve Year a Thief, Eight Year a Transported Felon in Virginia, at last grew Rich, liv'd Honest and died a Penitent. Written from her own Memorandums. By Daniel Defoe.

    I'd love to hear of any longer. :)

  3. I think every outstanding character influences my writing in some way, especially in the way I approach an idea or character.

  4. Anonymous8:01 AM

    Jean valJean (Les Miserables): He is the pinnacle that I hold all of my characters up to - an example that you can have everything in your life fall apart, and you can still survive and find a measure of peace at the end. (Not that any of my characters are convinced of my good intentions.)

    Liadan (Son of Shadows): She reminds me that you can have the perfect plan for your life, absolutely everything laid out neatly, and still buck the system and go for the road that's never been traveled. (I kind of wish my characters didn't follow her example, actually - it would play less havoc with my outlines.)

    Colin MacIntyre (Heirs of Empire): He is, I think, the perfect example that even the "lowest" has the ability to seize the reins and guide everyone through to victory; no special training or birth right needed.

  5. Your question inspired an essay too long to post here on the topic of Scarlett O'Hara and Melanie Wilkes, and strength in female characters. I took it to my own blog.

    Thanks for making me think. :)

  6. Anonymous1:32 PM

    Atticus Finch helps me to remember that it is good to stand up for what I believe in even if it isn't the most popular stance in the room.

  7. I'd definitely have to agree with Laura Ingalls Wilder.

    And (nope, i promise I'm not sucking up) Cherijo. She's been my favorite character since I first Stardoc years ago. She's smart, capable, stubborn, and a real smart ass. :o)

    Roxy and Luke from Nora Robert's Honest Illusions. It was one of the first books I read of hers, one of my first romances and they captivated me.

    darkwind from Mercedes Lackey's Mage Winds trilogy. He was the ideal hero for me for a long time.

  8. Honor Harrington: because duty, honour and sacrifice are what protect the citizenry;

    Trixie Belden: Girls can, too!

    Simon Tregarth Andre Norton's Witch Word: opened my eyes to unlimited possibilities.

    X-Men comics: taught me it's okay to be different and to never apologise for it.

  9. That would be Witch World, but 'word' works too, don't you think?

  10. Anonymous1:41 AM

    Hard to say. In a way Laura Ingalls Wilder influenced how I now live my life, and in some ways my writing. I am trying hard to think of a character that influences me, but no one springs to mind. If I think of someone I will post again.

    oh wait, as a child I was obsessed with The Black Cat by E.A. Poe.

  11. Biggles who taught me British manly virtues.
    Conan who taught me conventional morality is overrated.
    Honor Harrington who taught be about about organisations and management.
    John Carter of Mars who taught me the best princesses can kick ass.
    Sir Balin (Malory) who taught me that boldness can bring victory, but also a mutually fratricidal death.


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