My older brother and I shared a room growing up, and for many years we had this poster of the USS Enterprise hanging on our wall.
Neither of us were huge Trekkies, (or Trekkers) although I seem to remember my brother watching a fair share of TNG as he got older. But before that, we were little boys and it was a cool spaceship with a ton of really neat detail. That’s all that really mattered. After watching a few of the Star Trek films and finding out who Kirk and Spock and the rest of the crew were, I found even more enjoyment staring at the poster. Not only that, I was inspired by it.
And that’s what great stories and characters can do. That’s why there are millions of Trekkies and Star Wars and Batman fans. Millions of Dr. Who and Firefly and Sherlock fans. It’s because these mythologies have characters that we love and hate, characters we’re able to lose ourselves and our normal lives in, characters that change our lives.
And that’s why we see these characters popping up again and again. That’s why there have been 500 James Bond films. It’s why we’re getting a new Superman movie next month. These characters resonate.
So think about it as you’re crafting your story and characters. Are your characters worth caring about? Would anyone cry if they died? Does it break your heart when something horrible happens to them? Are you elated and inspired when they overcome their hardships and obstacles?
If you answered “no” to any of the above questions, chances are your characters aren’t quite where they need to be. I don’t have a silver bullet answer for what to do or how to fix them if they’re falling short. But the best characters not only have pieces of us in them, they allow us to project our hopes and dreams and fears onto them. It’s not easy to create a Katniss Everdeen or James Tiberius Kirk or Luke Skywalker, but it’s possible.
This past weekend I saw Star Trek Into Darkness, (which was fantastic) and got this cool Star Trek poster by Mark Englert. (it even glows in the dark)
As soon as I saw it, I knew what I was going to do with it. My two boys share a bedroom, and I hung it where they both can see if from their beds, next to the Batman and Star Wars pictures. They’re a little young for Star Trek, but they’re not too young to be inspired. And as they read Harry Potter and watch The Avengers I want them to have favorite characters and go through the love and hurt and joy and pain those characters go through.
If you ask me, that’s why we read and watch stories.
And why we tell them too.