Monday, May 20, 2013

Stories and Treks

By Dan Haring

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.


Sechin Tower said...

Great post! Thank you, Dan.

Many fans of (fill in the franchise) hate reboots of any kind, but it seems to me that for any story to last forever it has to be rebooted and re-invented every so often. What stays consistant (if the reboot is decent) is the characters-- people may argue over whether the new Trek cast lives up to the old, but the debate itself proves the spirit of Jim and Spock lives on in people's minds.

I hope your sons enjoy the poster. Hey, if it glows in the dark, that will certainly keep their imagination!

Jordan Dane said...

Great post, Dan. You even brought back childhood memories of sharing a room with my two sisters.

I really want to see the JJ Abrams version of Star Trek. I saw an interview with him on Jon Stewart. He talked about the challenges he faced in doing movies in both franchises - Star Trek & Star Wars. He seemed to really get and appreciate the differences.

Nice tie in to writing characters that have staying power.

Dan Haring said...

Thank you, Sechin! I agree. I'm a huge Batman fan, and one of the things I love about the character is all the different takes on his mythology. It helps keep the character alive and relevant for new generations. I hope they enjoy the poster too :)

Thanks Jordan! I really enjoy the new Star Trek movies, more than I ever enjoyed previous incarnations. JJ seems like he's got things figured out pretty well. Hopefully you'll like them too!

Anita Grace Howard said...

I love me some JJ Abrams. And personally, I think the Star Trek reboots are fantastic. I also love all of the darker Batman and Marvel comic movie remakes, because the writers take it to an edgier, grittier place, kind of like they're doing w/Star Trek.

But there are some movies that I feel like were captured so perfectly they can't be any darker or edgier w/out falling into the land of cheese. The Crow is one of those movies for me. Anytime I hear mention of a reboot, I get all prickly. Of course, like anything else, it's subjective. :)

Great post, Dan!

Jordan Dane said...

The Crow is classic. A guilty pleasure.

Ilsa said...

Want, want, want . . .

Haven't seen the movie yet, Dan, which is weird for me. Just been too busy, and I have to admit that while I liked the reboot, it bugs me that JJ Abrams can't really think of some, oh, NEW characters? Like, man, I'm supposed to believe that Benedict is the reincarnation of the wrath of Ricardo Montalban (who needed no reboot or improvement)?

But I love the poster, man.