Picking a top 5 list of anything story-related is hard. Like choosing a favorite child. (Although I only have one, so that list is easy.) As I thought through which characters are most influential in my current writing, I think this list fits well. I could have done a top 100 list, but no wants to read that much.

no.1  Lisbeth Salander

Let me tell you: do not mess with Lisbeth Salander. Stieg Larsson speculated that his Salander character was what Pippi Longstocking might have been like all grown up. I say yes—if Pippi grew up with Jack Reacher as her older brother! I've seen both movie versions of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and read the book. I love this chick's intensity. Given the depth of her thoroughly modern qualities and issues (abused as a child; computer hacker; brutal haircuts), Salander is seriously tough and insanely smart. This girl could scare the crap out of serial killers.

 

“… if you get that tattoo removed I will carve it into your forehead, do you understand?”  -Salander

  

no.5  Columbo

My introduction to mystery characters was the TV show, Columbo. As a kid, I loved Peter Falk and his slightly rumpled appearance. He was a simple guy who managed to get the job done despite the fact he came across as a little incompetent. I was a dyslexic kid. People often thought I was slow or stupid. But Columbo’s quirky way of communicating made his suspects underestimate him at every turn. Attention to detail and a quick wit made him the perfect detective, and his casual front porch interrogations solved many a mystery. My parents and I gathered each week with popcorn and slips of paper. We'd write down whom we each thought was the bad guy at the show’s halfway point, fold up our guesses, and then wait to see if we had nailed the bad guy like Columbo inevitably would. I was rarely correct. Dad was almost always dead-on.

 

“Perfect murder, sir? Oh, I’m sorry. There is no such thing as a perfect murder. That’s just an illusion.” – Columbo

  

5 Characters that have Influenced

J D Allen

no.4  Fox Mulder

I’m sticking with TV for Number 4 because of dyslexia again. I watched stories more than I read them as a young girl and thus many characters with longevity for me are from the small screen. Fox Mulder is a character from The X-Files—as if I need to clarify that, but just in case. He believed in aliens and monsters and every other type of paranormal crap you could dream up. He was dark, brooding, and I crushed hard on David Duchovny. That voice. Mulder's peers considered his usually correct theories on extraterrestrial activity far-fetched, even spooky. Mulder didn’t care. He knew there were unknown things out there. And more often than not, he found them. He had a photographic memory and a dry wit that I loved. But the FBI Special Agent, paired up with skeptic, Dr. Scully, solved some bizarre cases with a combination of science and faith. Ultimately, the show fell into globe-spanning conspiracies and a cigarette-smoking man. I found the later story lines less compelling than the early seasons, when Mulder followed his gut while the duo investigated strange people and places—like the puzzle man in the episode during which the pair investigate the bizarre death of a circus sideshow attraction.

 

“When convention and science offer us no answers, might we not turn to the fantastic as a plausibility.’ - Mulder

  

no.3  Jack Reacher

I was gifted my first Lee Child book from a romance author. Killing Floor was my intro to modern noir, and Jack Reacher slammed me into the noir wall head first. I hadn't finished the book before I knew I wanted to write a character that was compelling and lived in a fast-paced, gritty tale. I was hooked on Child’s former-military-policeman-now-nowhere-man and the classic noir setup of one man against a broken society. Good with the ladies, fast with a zinger of a one liner, and hands the size of footballs.

 

“Never hit a woman unless she’s trying to kill you.”  - Reacher

  

no.2  Hermione Jean Granger

Hermione Jean Granger is an overachiever who excels at almost everything and is described by J.K. Rowling as a "very logical, upright and good" character. Hermione is the perfect expository character; because of her encyclopedic knowledge, she can always be used as a plot dump to explain the Harry Potter universe. Rowling said that her feminist conscience is rescued by Hermione, "who's the brightest character" and is a "very strong female character." Hell! In my mind, each book was about how Hermione would manage to get the two boys out of whatever stupid trouble they blundered into. She did so while fighting her inner self-doubt. Herminie ruled Hogwarts.

 

“Fear of a name only increases fear of the thing itself.” - Hermione

  

J.D Allen’s Sin City Investigation series launches with 19 Souls from Midnight Ink on February 8th. Allen was a Killer Nashville Claymore Award nominee and a Mystery Writers of America Freddie Award winner. She has a short story in the Anthony Award-winning anthology, Murder Under The Oaks. She’s also the Chairman of the Bouchercon National Board, President of the Triangle Sisters in Crime, and a member of MWA and the PI Writers of America. An Ohio State University alum, Allen holds a degree in forensic anthropology with a minor in creative writing.