Matt King

author of The Circle War series

Top 10 Most Influential Characters

I was going to do a list of my top ten favorite fictional characters, but that's nearly impossible. For one, I will always forget someone--ALWAYS--and when I do, I'd have to spend the next three days re-ordering my list. To quote 2013, "Ain't nobody got time for that."

An easier list for me to tackle is the list of characters who've influenced the way I write. They come from all corners of entertainment, including movies, books, and TV. When I create a new character, these are the ones I measure them against.

NOTE: For the sake of keeping myself sane, they're not presented in order of favorites. I'm equally jealous of each of the creators responsible for these characters.

1. Atticus Finch

The father of all father figures. To Kill A Mockingbird is one of the greatest things ever printed, and Atticus is one of the reasons why. He's smart, he's fair, and he's probably the best-cast role in Hollywood history. Gregory Peck might as well have changed his name, because he's always going to be Atticus to me.


2. Spider-Man

Equal parts thwips and quips, Peter Parker is the nerd king of superheroes. I have a soft spot for heroes that enjoy their job and don't mind lobbing a few jokes while they're throwing punches. Superheroes make up a large chunk of my favorite characters and Spidey's at the top of the list.

3. Roland of Gilead


A descendant of King Arthur, Stephen King's Roland Deschain is the reason to read The Dark Tower series. "But you got Clint Eastwood in my fantasy story!" some might say, and I'm way okay with that. The scene where Roland saves Jake from the Tick-Tock Man still gives me chills.

4. Eddie Dean

Sticking with The Dark Tower series, Eddie Dean is the light to Roland's darkness. Where Roland is cool and brooding, Eddie is everything but. He's a former drug addict who once took down a den of drug dealers while buck-ass nude. I think we can all look up to that.

5. Han Solo

Maybe not the original rogue, but certainly one of the best. The only problem with Han is that everyone and their brother has tried to copy his success over the years. Even if you think you're breaking new ground with a character, if they're a good-looking bad boy with a heart of gold, you're never going to escape comparisons (and you won't do it better, either).

6. Don Draper

I could list the entire cast of Mad Men here, but Don Draper is the key to the success of the show. He's an enigma that people have been trying to solve for years. Just when you think he's turned the corner to leave his boozing, womanizing days behind, he stabs you in the heart and goes right back. For some reason, we still root for him. I'm not sure I want to know the "why" behind that, but I'm so incredibly jealous that Matthew Weiner was able to create someone so complex and interesting that we almost don't care that Don is such a despicable person.

7. Kara "Starbuck" Thrace

The reason Starbuck makes this list is because she embodies what I think too many writers aspire to with their characters but never quite achieve. She's not the prototypical "badass female" character. She's a badass character who happens to be female. The difference comes in the execution. With Starbuck, her persona never felt forced, like the writers were trying to make her fit a mold. Everything about her felt like it was natural. I hold that up as the gold standard.

8. Jaime Lannister

One of the few villains that made the list, which is kind of surprising given how much I love my villains. The Kingslayer represents one of the holy grails of fiction: the relatable villain. Funny to think that someone who has it in him to push a 10-year-old boy out of a tower window can eventually make you go, "You know, he's not so bad." One of the things Martin does best is show that not all characters are black and white. Jaime Lannister is his greatest achievement.

9. Thor

Everything I love about this character can be summed up in the following scene, where he takes Iron Man down a notch and shows the reader exactly who his character is in fewer words than it takes me to describe my stupid cat.


10. Doc Holliday

Val Kilmer has given this world two of its greatest gifts: Top Secret and Doc Holliday. If Gregory Peck is forever Atticus, Kilmer will never be anyone to me except Doc. Every second he's on screen is pure gold. I'd give my left leg and part of yours to ever create someone with as much charisma as this guy has. He should win an Oscar every year.

WARNING: this video contains Jason Priestly

And there you have it. This list easily could have been 100 people long. I had to make some tough cuts along the way, and these are the few that I struggled to keep out of the top 10:

Honorable Mentions - Darth Vader (Star Wars), Carol Danvers (Marvel), R2-D2 (Star Wars), Jack Vincennes (L.A. Confidential), Scout (To Kill A Mockingbird), Bonnie/Lola (The Girl Who Would Be King)

All site content © Matt King 2019. Background image by NASA.