He’s so logical.

dad's birthday many birthdays ago
dad's birthday many birthdays ago

“Are you scared?” my dad asked.

I nodded. I was 7.

“Do you want me to turn it off?” he asked.

I peered out from behind the sofa. “No!” On TV, a giant cave floated through space about to eat the Starship Enterprise. “Leave it on!” I ducked behind the sofa again and then peered back. Dad laughed.

Thirteen years later, another Star Trek movie came to my hometown. I was home from college for the summer. Dad and I had seen all the other Star Trek films together (and Star Wars). They were the only movies he and I agreed on. “Dad,” I said. “You want to go see the new Star Trek movie?”

“I can’t.”

“Why?”

“A. can’t come.” A. was his live-in girlfriend (now wife).

“She doesn’t like space movies,” I said.

“I know. But it will hurt her feelings if I go to the movies without her.”

“Dad. She’s out of town. For a week.”

“But I can’t go without her.”

I tried to match this with the A. that I know. She’s not like his second wife. She wouldn’t care if he went to a movie with his daughter. “Dad. She doesn’t like Star Trek and she’s out of town.”

“What do you want for dinner?” he asked.

“Don’t you want to see Star Trek?” I said.

“There’s chicken and yellow rice. And green beans.”

I went to see Star Trek V with my mom. A love for space movies, as far as I ever knew, was the only thing my parents had in common.

The other night my dad called. “Hey Dad,” I said. “I saw the new Star Trek movie last night.”

“Yeah?” he asked. “How was it?”

“I loved it.” I told him a little bit about the plot. I didn’t tell him I went by myself or that I took my novel with me to edit while I waited for the film to begin.

“Spock was my favorite,” he said. “I liked him because he was always logical.”

Some characters stay with you for years–why? Think of characters you love (whether from Shakespeare or Gene Roddenberry). Why do you care about them? What do they mean to you? Do you like them because they are similar to you or different? Do they make you laugh or cry or feel something new?

I can only hope that one day I can create one character who stays long in someone’s life.

12 thoughts on “He’s so logical.

  1. Whenever you ask a question like this, my mind seems to go blank. Why is that? When I think of characters, I think of David Copperfield, and I also think about that little girl in The Secret Life of Bees. I know there are others, but like I said: blank. I think characters stay with me because they remind me of myself somehow or maybe they have qualities I would like to have. Whichever the reason, good characters give me hope that if they can get through their life (even if it’s fictional), I can get through mine.

  2. I like Marta, too.

    And….
    Jane Eyre; Jo March; Emma Woodhouse; Graceanne (This is Graceanne’s book), Sophy (Tepper’s Gibbon’s Decline & Fall); the whole gosh darn cast of the Twilight series (dammit – I hate that I got sucked in, but I’m SO sucked in); Peter from Tepper’s True Game series; Puck; Huck Finn; Nancy Drew; every one of Roald Dahl’s main characters; Pippi Longstocking; the six main characters of Sharon Shinn’s Twelve Houses series…..

    Why? …because they are my friends. …because I have, in my wee little house, probably 2000 books. I can’t sell them. I’ve tried. It’s like selling my children. I mourn and run right back to the store and buy them back.

    …because when I was young, I was too messed up to deal with kids my age, they were so naive and stupid, and books were my best friends. I remember stages of my life by the author with whom I was obsessed at the time. When I was 5, I read Rikki Tikki Tavi. Ages 6-7, I read all of Roald Dahl’s books. (James & the Giant Peach was the book that turned me into a reader. I read all of Mark Twain’s work when I was 9 and Huck & Tom led me to believe that Pippi Longstocking and I would get along quite well. They were right; she and I adored one another. I remember discovering Shel Silverstein’s Where the Sidewalk Ends at a friend’s house when I was about 10 and I ignored her for the whole play date and just read the book from cover to cover. He was fascinating and he seemed to understand me.

    … because when I look at the titles all around me I feel loved. I could give a shit about most “real” people, but my book friends are the foundation of my world. Someday, soon I hope, more of your characters will be my lifelong friends, too. I can’t wait.

  3. shelli, my mind often goes blank, too. This is why I like to ask the questions.

    Shelly, I hope I can stay.

    And you know, Sophie, I like you. But oh do I love characters in books! I believe in them. In a weird way that is hard to explain I think every character I read is real. I’ve ignored so many people for the sake of a character! Maybe I’ll never get to visit you in your house, but I hope that one day my characters do. ha.

  4. You know, the thing I think I enjoyed most about the new Star Trek movie was how vividly it brought to me the fact that the characters were a big part of what I loved about the show. Sounds like you and I had a similar reaction, huh? (Except I’m all about Kirk.) 😉

  5. First one I thought of was Hamlet… it was the first work of literature where I discovered subtext. Plus the whole thinking too much melancholic hero thing felt familiar to me. But reading the comments, I remembered how Laura Ingalls was the one who started me on my love affair with books. I remembered how I read every single one of her books at night, lying in bed, all by myself when I was seven.

    I was recently reading a book by Robin Hobb with Ftiz and the Fool and thought… this is the kind of book I want to write. One with characters who come to life and won’t go away, who you carry with you once you read about them.

    1. Rowena,

      I LOVE the Farseer series by Robin! FitzChivalry and Nighteyes are part of my chemical makeup, closer to me than blood relatives. I’ve probably read the whole series at least 3 times. Her Mad Ship trilogy is quite good, too, but I haven’t been able to delve into the Soldier Son trilogy. The characters didn’t sing from the pages for me.

  6. Tom

    “I can only hope that one day I can create one character who stays long in someone’s life.”

    A hope realized: Mercie will go to the grave with me.

  7. MPJ, yep, I had that reaction too.

    rowena and Sophie, I don’t know those stories, but it seems I’ll have to look them up now.

    TOM! I thought I’d lost you. Thanks for the comment. You’ve made my day.

  8. May your characters live long and prosper in the hearts of those whose lives they touch! 🙂

    I think I like those characters who emanate those qualities I wish I had in me. I loved Spock best. And Darth Vader was my hero until he got sissified in the last of the original SW movies.

    If I love the character, it must have to do with some talent, quality or characteristic they have which I want, or they have MORE of than I do and I want it in equal measure. Jason Bourne, and his brutal grittiness, for instance. MUCH preferred to James Bond’s suave sophistication and snootiness.

    That’s just one lunatic’s assessment of how to identify with a character, though. 🙂

  9. Sort of a counter-question for you, as (I gather) a longtime Dr. Who fan: Do you have a favorite Dr. W?

    This is related to your “what makes us love a character?” question. Because I think it’s got something to do with recognizing — subconsciously — both the traits we share with the character, and the traits we don’t (but maybe wish we did). DarcKnyt mentioned Jason Bourne: I like to think that if I had his training and genes, I’d behave exactly the way he does. His decisions make sense, his confusions make sense, how he talks makes sense. So what I see on the screen feels like me, only, well, moreso. A Super-Me. (He resembles a lot of the me’s I encounter in my most fantastic dreams. Or vice-versa.)

    So with Dr. Who, even though the character is essentially “the same” over the course of decades, I think people may have preferences based on which actor plays the role: some actors seem more like Fan X than others, so Fan X prefers those Dr. Whos.

    Either that, or I’m just whistling Dixie. 🙂

  10. DarcKnyt, I like anyone who can quote Spock and refer to my writing in the same sentence. Well, as long as you aren’t saying something like, “That’s not logical, Captain.”
    And I agree with you about those things we look for in characters–ourselves superfied.

    Although, DarcKnyt and JES, can’t say I identify with Bourne. Haven’t seen the films or read the books. But my superfied me would be Gwen Cooper from Torchwood (just taller).

    So speaking of Torchwood, JES, my fav doctor…hmm…well, of the old Doctor Who, I’d have to choose Tom Baker because he happened to be the Doctor in brief window of time I was allowed to watch the show. I love Christopher Eccelston, but, really, David Tennant is my hero. It is hard to separate the actor from the character, but I love the Doctor as Tennant plays him. And I loved the last episode of the fourth season when so many characters from earlier seasons (and Torchwood!) came together.

    Hmm… Star Trek… Doctor Who…

    This must be related to why I like setting my novels in the same town and bring from one story into another.

    Must get to work now.

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