It’s 2:31am. I should be asleep. But instead I’m wiping my teary eyes with a tissue that unfortunately has lotion in it. (Oh, the sting!)
I just finished watching the last few episodes of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. (Don’t worry, no spoilers here if you haven’t seen it.)
Yes, I love Star Trek. Yes, I’m a sucker for a good gripping narrative. Yes, this is a cast of unusually talented actors and screenwriters. Therefore, it makes sense I would be moved by the story’s culmination. But still. It’s been a long time since I cried openly during a television episode.
Which begs the question: what attributes make a character so believable, so three-dimensionally-human (even if they are NOT human), that readers invest emotionally as if the character were flesh and blood? As if they were real?
A 2014 Writer’s Relief article explores 5 Ways to Write Characters People Care About. While I would argue DS9 as a series exemplifies all five, two stand out as particularly instrumental to the finale arc:
Give your characters idealistic qualities.
Make your characters take a stand on important issues.
DS9 ran seven seasons–plenty of time for viewers to get to know the regulars and the large cast of recurring guest stars–their virtues and their flaws. But in the end, the glory was in seeing these people rise above the struggles and doubts and prejudices that had plagued them for so long. We saw them act. Recklessly. Valiantly. Selflessly.
That is the heart of Star Trek; imagining society in a future that is both ideal and believable at the same time. These characters–they are us.
To admit when you were wrong. To stand for what is right, even when it is hard. To put duty before fear, and friendship before self. These are the virtues I will remember about these people, who, in the end, proved very real indeed.