I don’t consider myself a sci-fi person, yet I absolutely love Star Trek the original series. Spock was my favorite character, and the friendship between he, Kirk and McCoy is what made that series work, in addition to a terrific cast of supporting characters.
And it is by far the most quotable show in the history of television.
How many times has an old piece of equipment died or I swatted a fly that I turn to someone there and say “He’s dead, Jim.”
How many times has someone made a request of me that I couldn’t possibility fulfill based on my skills and aptitudes and said “I’m a writer, not a mechanic.”
How many things have I found “fascinating”?
Not only that, but Ricardo Montalban’s most excellent portrayal of Khan in Star Trek II makes him the most quotable villain ever. Oh, how he could ooze hate and spite into just a few syllables! I have to be careful who I watch this movie with because they get annoyed because I’m repeating his dialogue all the time, right down to the nasty hiss of breath as I say it.
But the all-time most usable quote from Star Trek comes from the engineering genius Mr. Scott, who, after easily dismantling the Excelsior’s warp drive in Star Trek III, said “the more you overtake the plumbing, the easier it is to stop up the drain.” Truer words were never spoken.
In other words, the fancier things are made, the easier they are to break or make go haywire. I have found this to be absolutely true in my life on more occasions then I care to count. Technology is wonderful – and annoying. Even in the 23rd century.
As writers, Star Trek presents us a wonderful object lesson. Now granted, they had the opportunity to make their characters come alive on screen, not just on the pages of a book, but the basic framework is the same. This sensational show had its basis in strong characters – characters that reached out and grabbed you and wouldn’t let go.
Awesome characters make any story possible. But how many of us actually achieve this in our writing? Sad to say, not many. I don’t know the actual numbers, but many thousands of books are published each year. Out of those, I wonder how many truly have such memorable characters that you remember them an hour after you finish the book?
Probably if we tried to tick off a list of books with quite memorable characters, we’d end up with only a short list.
But there is the goal – the magic potion that dangles before us as writers – creating characters so sensational that they are remembered, and quoted, long after the book is released.
Think of Scarlet and Rhett.
And I think of Zane Grey’s novel Forlorn River, where the two friends, Nevada and Ben Ide, created such powerful characters that I remember and quote them as well.
So our goal as writers is not just to create some characters that get the story done, but create characters that knock our readers’ socks off and make an impression on their mind for years to come.
What a blessing to be given the desire to create words on paper. I look forward to seeing each day what I can do with that desire.
So go forth and write. And as my favorite character Spock would say, “Live Long and Prosper!”