Star Trek, Lost, and Characters that Fascinate
My book,Vienna Waltz, is due February 1st. So since I'm currently in the throes of going through the book through for the last time, layering in more texture, double-checking research facts, making sure my timeline is consistent, and a zillion other things that always seem to be part of the last week of working on a book, I went through old posts on my own blog to see if I could find something to post today. I came across a post I wrote last May on series and characters that fascinate. Which seems particularly apropos, because one of the series I talk about is Lost. When I first wrote this post, the season finale had just aired. Now, the final season is about to premiere (Tuesday, February 2nd, a treat for me after I turn my book in :-).
My musing on series started when my friend Penny Williamson and I spent the afternoon of my birthday last May at a matinee of the Star Trek movie. We both loved it. It manages to simultaneously be fresh and innovative and yet true to the original. The actors do a fabulous job of capturing the characters we know so well, in mannerism and vocal patterns (and the way the writers wrote their dialogue). You can really believe these characters will grow into the characters from the original tv series. And yet the new actors never seem to be mimicking, they make the characters their own. Since I love to move back and forth in time in my own writing and examine my characters at different points in their history, I particularly enjoyed the prequel aspect (the prequel and alternate universe were very timely since I was then in the early stages of writing Vienna Waltz, which is both a prequel and something of an alternate universe take on my own series).
Penny and I both love to talk about favorite series. When we first became friends, we spent endless lunches analyzing and speculating over Dorothy Dunnett’s books (this was in the years when the House of Niccolò series was still being written and published). More recently, we could be found picking apart Alias over lattes in our favorite café. Waiting for Star Trek to start, we were discussing the season finale of Lost. Penny and I’ve been discussing Lost a lot lately. In fact, we talked about it for the entire five hour plus drive from the San Francisco Bay Area to Ashland, Oregon, on our spring trip to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Lost fascinates and baffles both of us. Usually we can come up with a theory about where we think a story arc is headed (wrong perhaps to varying degrees but at least a theory that works with the information at hand). With Lost, every time we think we have something figured out, the next episode pulls the rug out from under us.
Part of the delight of speculating over a series of course is trying to unravel the plot. When I was a teenager, my mom and I had numerous discussions about Star Wars in the years between The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. I still remember the moment when, thinking about Arthurian mythology, I said “oh, I know, Luke and Leia are brother and sister.” Of course, I was thrilled to be proved right when we saw Return of the Jedi (the day it opened, my mom stood in line and got tickets and then picked me up at school). But mostly, I was relieved to see the characters I cared about get the happy ending I so wanted them to have. Thinking about Star Trek and Lost, I realized how much of the allure of an ongoing series is the characters. Characters you care about and root for. Characters who seem to have a rich inner life off the screen/page. Characters you want to learn more about. Characters whose fates seem very real and a matter of great concern (I confess to having tears in my eyes at one point in the Star Trek movie, and the Lost season finale definitely left me choked up).
I returned to the world of another favorite series last spring when I read Laurie King's The Language of Bees. It was a delight to step back into Russell & Holmes’s world. When I finished the book, I didn’t want to leave that world (partly because of the questions left to be answered in the next installment, but mostly because I wanted to spend more time with these characters). For quite a while afterwards I reread earlier books in the series, unable to move on to something new.
I'm currently immersed in yet another beloved series, reading Lauren's Betrayal of the Blood Lily. Having this book to read while I'm finishing up my own book is both a delight and very dangerous. It's great to have a treat for breaks from revisions, but I'm have to firmly resist the temptation to dive into the world of the Pink Carnation characters and not come up for air until I've finished the book. When I saw Lauren in New York last fall, one of the very fun things about our conversations was talking about our respective series and asking what was next for various characters. It's almost like talking about mutual friends. In a way it's more intimate, because we know so many details about the characters.