Who is your favorite character of all time? Or better yet, who is in the A list; the Top Ten, for example. All genres are eligible for your list. Literary, science fiction, fantasy, romance, mystery, mainstream, horror, historical anything, classic and other genres I have not thought of or are not even invented yet are.

I’ve written in most genres, I believe, because I suffer from a diffuse, self-diagnosed ADH spectrum disorder. I’ve read in all genres, too. My current favorites have fallen into mainstream, mostly, with slip-stream overtones, like Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad and the bewildered middle-class contemporary wives in Meg Wolitzer’s The Ten Year Nap.

And I’ll add here that, for me, the one phrase I have for a book for a TV series I start and don’t want to finish is: “There’s no one to like here.”

My Top Ten Favorite Characters list starts here. (At least this is who makes the list today – tomorrow’s list is thus unpredictable.) I admit I’ve limited my choices to characters of popular novels and have ordered them alphabetically, just because.

Leslie Lynnton Benedict

While Giant by Edna Ferber (Pulitzer Prize winner) is generally touted as a sprawling saga of Texas, it’s really Leslie’s story. Since the day she arrived at hot, dusty Reata Ranch she ruffled Texans by befriending the poor Mexican workers and treating them as human beings. She defied the norms assigned to her children by encouraging her son to be a doctor and her daughter’s love of tinkering with cars and riding unruly stallions with style.

Mary Katherine Blackwood

Shirley Jackson is my hero. In We Have Always Lived in the Castle Mary Katherine “Merricat” of ambiguous age – 16, 20, 30?– lives within a strict construct of magical rules and holds unfading devotion to her older sister Constance. As the story unfolds, we are slowly exposed to Merricat’s true sociopathic nature, but we still like her anyway.



Derfel Cadarn

Derfel is a true hero. As a Saxon soldier raised in a sort of commune by Merlin, he accompanies Arthur during the leader of the Britains’ uneasy rule. He loves, he fights, he feels compassion and adores his liege-to-be, even when being inadvertently betrayed.



Jim Chee

Throughout the dozens of Tony Hillerman’s and now his daughter Anne Hillerman’s Navajo Reservation mysteries, we have the joy of watching young Sargent Jim Chee grow. Throughout his uneasy relationship with his superior the legendary Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn and his sequence of mismatched girlfriends, Sargent Chee makes mistakes, comes to terms with his strong Navajo identity as it clashes with that of the whites, and finally lands the girl of his dreams.


Corwin of Amber

This guy is also a hero in every sense. One of a large, princely family with super-human traits – near-immortality, super-human strength and the ability to rearrange the world of Shadows, he follows Roger Zelazny’s faithful and interesting character arc of a once-heartless noble to a respect for humanity and the ability to care his family, no matter how evil the others are. (Forgive me for using this photo of Clive Owens, but I think he would make the perfect Corwin)


Jean Louise “Scout” Finch

To Kill a Mockingbird is chock full of unforgettable characters, from Boo Radley to Bob Ewell. But feisty, frank Scout, Atticus’ young daughter, is always my favorite.




Scarlet O’Hara

No matter what you might think of the novel Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell and its portrayal of the ante and post-bellum South, you have to admit that Scarlett is an unforgettable character. Self-centered and ambitious, Scarlett uses everyone in her path to ensure the success of her beloved plantation Tara. In spite of her ruthlessness, she shows spirit and humanity—if a bit reluctantly—that propels her to riches and her unfailing motto: “Tomorrow is another day.”


Easy Rawlins

I love Walter Moseley’s detective series, set in 1960’s Los Angeles. I love almost anything set in Los Angeles anyway. Easy has character. He knows the difference between right and wrong as seen through his special lens of being black in America. And he solves his crimes unfailingly, and never without sacrifice.



Valentine Michael Smith

Michael, the human raised by Martians, comes to mid-twentieth century American society with a bang. Robert A Heinlein’s novel also made a “splash” with 1960’s counterculture who adopted the term “grok” into their own jargon. Written originally as a satire, the book follows Michael’s innocent progress through the complexities and betrayals inherent in modern western culture.



My favorite dragon! Naomi Novik launched a marvelous character in her creation of this dragon, and others, who participate in the Royal British Ariel Corp as England confronts Napoleon’s aggressions from 1803 to 1815. I especially adore the dragons’ obsession with acquiring more shiny metal than the next, their funny, stilted language, efforts to understand human beings and the unbreakable bond formed between Captain Will Laurence and his Temeraire, a rare Celestial and one of a kind. The Temerarie series, 9 wonderful books with locations spanning the world, are a must-read, methinks.



About Jill Zeller

Author of numerous novels and short stories, Jill Zeller is a Left Coast writer, 2nd generation Californian, retired registered nurse, and obsessed gardener. She lives in Oregon with her patient husband, 2 silly English mastiffs and 2 rescue cats—the silliest of all. Her works explore the boundaries of reality. Some may call it fantasy, but there are rarely swords and never elves. More to the point, she prefers to write as if myth, imagination and hallucination are as real as the chair she is sitting on as she writes this. Jill Zeller also writes under the pseudonym Hunter Morrison


Character — 7 Comments

  1. I find I have read many of your favorites, and found the characters interesting. But my favorite characters? That will take some thinking!

  2. Melanie Wilkes, Brer Rabbit, Tom Sawyer, and Morgaine of Avalon. We Estonians say, Calm waters hide the depths.

    • Melanie Wilkes! Good as bread, clear as water. I don’t remember much of the book (read while crossing the North Sea in a storm forty years ago) but I do remember that. A thoughtful choice. Tom Sawyer is a fun one.

  3. Dianora from “Tigana”, Boboko from “mulengro” (we ARE allowed to anthropomorphise, aren’t we…?), Mary Stewart’s Merlin…and my mind locks because of the many faces scrolling by… I can probably think of another half dozen just off the cuff….