Everything Old is New Again

The summer movie season came faster than I expected. It will be dating myself to say that when I was in high school, Terminator 2 was the big action flick. This summer feels like a nostalgia wave: Star Trek, Transformers, and a new Terminator are all hitting the screen.

I find it interesting that we cling to serials and timeless characters, though I’ll have to do a lot more in depth analysis to grasp what I think makes a character last like that. In fantasy, the trilogy seems to be the norm, but the series is another standard. I think some series go on a bit too long, sometimes when the author has simply run out of things for the characters to do. (I’m thinking here of R.A. Salvatore’s action-packed Drizzt series, which I loved for the first eight books or so). Or an author leaves too many threads dangling, and I finish the books feeling like some important plot points were left unresolved.

But we seem drawn to everlasting characters, ones we eventually call classic. I can easily tick off a list of attempts to bring older characters forward: the upcoming Sherlock Holmes film immediately springs to mind. Some of these characters are actually immortal, drawn back from death after their creators have tried to let them go time and time again.

So how do we get from blank stock character to one we want to spend a number of books with? It’s a question I’ll be putting a lot of thought into as I think about Eastlight’s future. I’d certainly like to see it go to series and last at least as long as a trilogy. I’ve started with the idea that characters need to evolve over time, but not too quickly, so they have somewhere to go. While my two main characters certainly grow in the course of the first novel, I’ve left them a lot of room to mature and sprawl out in time. Certainly a character should be unique, original enough the reader wants to spend many books with them, but not too unique. I think of the typical romantic heroine, who shouldn’t be so offbeat or alien that your reader cannot identify with her getting the hero. Genres such as fantasy and science fiction give us the chance to work with characters radically different in culture, history, and even biology. All of these things can help to give a character flavor and a distinct background, but even strongly defining traits shouldn’t override our ability to relate to a character.

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