While at the book store today, I spotted a book that I later looked up on B&N.com, 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?