For the Love of Storybook Characters

How do you feel about remakes? Personally, I dislike them. Very rarely they succeed, but most often I’m saddened by their complete disregard for the legacy whose footsteps they claim to follow. A few nights ago, a discussion with my roommate Nathan took a turn towards this topic I brought up Battlestar Galactica almost immediately. As well received and well written as it may be, I felt betrayed as I watched the first handful of episodes. I still don’t understand how making Starbuck a woman ever seemed a good idea. Then Boomer, a black man, is introduced as an Asian woman who later turns out to be a Cylon. Finally, Apollo, over time displays a darkness completely foreign to the noble leadership I remember from the original series. The only upside for me was the casting of Edward James Olmos as Adama. It is far enough removed from the original in my opinion, that I feel it should have been its own story with a different title, different world, different aliens (after all, they were different weren’t they?). As I finished my rant, Nathan asked a great question. One that brought a great deal of clarity to my distaste for this particular show and many other remakes like it.

He asked, “If they had maintained the integrity of the characters, do you think it would have bothered you?” The answer came surprisingly quickly.

No.

Had they maintained the integrity of the characters, I would not have felt betrayed. Had they maintained the integrity of those characters, I probably wouldn’t have cared about the story changing even if Boomer still turned out to be a Cylon. I realized my primary issue with most new adaptations of old shows is the writers betrayal of characters I had grown to love. It was quite a revelation.

Over the past couple days, that discovery has been rattling around in my brain as regards my own writing. I’ve realized that I am incredibly quick to fall in love with ideas and with the worlds that form my stories, but I have yet to find a depth of understanding for my characters that causes me to fall in love with them, or, as it may sometimes be, to utterly despise them. This lack seems to be the greatest obstacle to my writing, and to ideas and worlds becoming stories. After all, it is characters living and breathing that makes a story. And, if my frustrated experience is any indication, it is characters who remain with us long after the events of their adventure grow hazy in our memories. We know them, and we love them. They become friends and family. Such is the power of a good character. It’s an important lesson.

-Kirk

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