Strength of Character

Caution, for those not up-to-date with Battlestar Galactica, you may not want to read this.

I’ve been browsing through my copy of Writer’s Market, marking the listings for magazines that might be a good fit for my work so I can research them to find out.  A good number of the magazines that publish fiction stress the importance of well-formed characters.  Of course, any creative writing instructor will tell you that and I have been instructed in a number of techniques for creating characters in the past, mostly doing free writes on their background or conducting an interview with the character in your head.  I’ve even forced groups of junior and upper high schoolers to complete character free writes and questionnaires while prepping for drama group practices back in the day.

So I am definitely aware how important characters are to creating readable, connectable fiction.  But I occasionally lose sight of that while working on my fantasy novel because, well, establishing a sense of place is very important to do in this genre.  I think I may be getting slightly bogged down in those details, though I know full well that the imagined world can function as a character.  Heck, anyone who watches Lost knows that the setting can be one of the most important and fascinating characters of a work.

Yet I find myself, after having watched the most recent BSG episode, not lingering on how the ship is failing to pieces or processing all the information we learned about the overarching mythos of the piece.  No, instead I keep going back to the expression on Felix Gaeta’s face as he looked at those waiting to execute him at the end of the previous episode.  There’s no question whether or not he deserved it-you can’t preside over a blood-filled coup and not expect death when you let it fail.  But Gaeta didn’t seem to have any illusions that he might be granted amnesty or even that he wanted to be after the coup turned into something different than what his idealistic view had imagined.  He greeted his death with such a look of peace that I couldn’t help but be sad for him and happy that he had stayed true to what he thought was right through it all.  More than learning that the final five created the skinjob cylons, more than wondering just how many more jumps the Battlestar will survive, more than any of those details, I cared about the story of Felix Gaeta.

This connection to Felix reminds me that, while I should place value on the setting and mythos of my novel, I should never forget that the human characters are the core of the work.  An interesting world might draw people in but it’s those they can connect with that will keep them reading until the last page.  Thanks, BSG.  Now, back to swords and campfire conversations among enemies.

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