Today I’m going to be sentimental. Perhaps emotional. Definitely personal.
Characters are the lifeblood of any story. Everything else—plot, setting, theme—is the stage upon which the characters act, the backdrop to give their stories meaning, color, and interest.
Without characters, books wouldn’t be possible, so we’re already indebted to them. But spec-fic characters, those fascinating people who populate alien planets, fantasy kingdoms, and spaceships, are a special breed.
If you’re a reader, you know how deep of an impact characters make on you.
It may come as a surprise to you, but you don’t actually exist. Names composed of ink, written on a page. If we’re lucky, some sketches to show us your physical appearance. You’re merely the result of the creativity of authors through the years. Shocking, I know, and while that sounds like a sad thing, it’s amazing for the readers who enjoys hours of your company.
Yet this leads to a fascinating paradox, because you feel as alive and real as people we’ve met. Taking on flesh and blood, you break down the paper walls of your prison and jump into our hearts and minds.
We haven’t met you, but we know you and feel a deep connection to your lives and stories. We can hear your voices in our heads, see your smiles, smell the perfume you’re wearing to the ball or the stench of sweat and blood soaking your brow as you desperately strive against evil.
Your pain is our pain, your happiness is our happiness. Through you, we’re exposed to the length and breadth of the human experience.
We haven’t left home, but we’ve traveled with you across kingdoms, planets, seas, deserts, hostile empires, the inky void of space.
Sometimes the journeys were lighthearted, filled with a sense of adventure and discovery. Other times they were toilsome, slowly whittling you down to a blunt stub. How could the story end well? How could the rays of happiness banish the shadows of hopelessness?
We have stood with you at the moments of your greatest triumph, rejoicing in your victory. We’ve been present at the darkest points of despair and grief, our hearts aching because of your pain, our pulse quickening when you or people you love are in danger.
From the summits of success to the abysses of defeat, we’ve stuck by your side. In the end, victory occurred, but on occasion, the joy was laced with sorrow. The wounds you suffered, the physical and emotional scars you bore—they struck into our hearts and minds.
We’ve seen your entire lives turned upside-down, shattered into a thousand pieces and then remade. We’ve seen you walk the path of life, failing, learning, growing. We’ve seen you do things you thought impossible and risk dangers that make us shudder.
We shake our heads at the hardships you endure, because if we’re honest, we doubt we could survive the same thing. In a strange way, that convicts us but also offers a glimmer of hope. Because if you could face these unimaginable ordeals and persevere, it heartens us to face our own trials.
You may not be real, but you’re constantly teaching us lessons. Lessons of love, loyalty, patience, endurance, courage, camaraderie, honesty, and a hundred others.
We love you fiercely, despite your many flaws and the fact that at times you drive us crazy.
You inspire, challenge, enliven, and encourage us. Without your stories, our lives wouldn’t be as rich, our experiences as potent, our understanding of the world as deep. Through the magic and mystery of story, we live vicariously through you. And that is truly a gift.
Thank you, spec-fic characters, for letting us into your lives. For allowing us to see the dirty, broken, hurting parts, and also the beautiful, heroic, selfless parts. For bringing us on countless journeys. And for enriching our lives every step of the way.
Because of you, we truly have lived hundreds of lives, and most importantly, perhaps seen better how to live our own.
A Lover of Speculative Fiction
Who are some of your favorite spec-fic characters and why? I’d love to hear your thoughts.