Writing Right with Dmitri: Our Hearts Will Go On?
At year's end, we think about immortality.
Well, I do. Especially as a concept for writers. I mean, you can't write about it if you haven't thought about it. Let's take a few moments and reflect on the subject.
A few years ago, a h2g2er commented that she couldn't imagine living forever. She figured she'd eventually run out of things to be interested in. I could see her point, but I didn't agree. I'd never run out of things to be interested in. But this immortality business takes some advance planning.
Do you remember the Greek legend of Tithonos? Tithonos was a hot young human beloved of Eos, the goddess of the dawn. Eos asked Zeus to make Tithonos immortal, but forgot to ask for eternal youth for her lover. (The goddess of the dawn should have known better.) Tithonos' heart did go on: as a cicada. Not the happy ending the pair wanted.
Remembering to ask for eternal youth is a no-brainer. Ask the Doctor: as I recall, he's been aged past his sell-by date at least twice. Both times, he looked pretty awful. The second time, he even suffered the indignity of CGI. No, thanks. We want eternal youth.
But other perils lurk in the immortality trap. Do you remember Anne Rice's vampires? Anne Rice vampires – and all of their Eurotrash ilk – suffer from ennui. They're bored, bored, bored after all those centuries. They are also, frankly, boring to us. Why? They're eternal teenagers. They never seem to advance beyond a mental age of eighteen-and-horny. Big yawn. Maybe it would be a good idea to ask for eternal physical youth, but the opportunity for acquiring mental maturity. Sort of like the Doctor (again).
Okay, eternal youth, check. Mental growth, check. But let's face it: if someone offered you this bargain, the ability to go back to where you were at your physical peak, but with the ability to learn and grow, would you accept it?
If you unhesitatingly said yes, you're either a remarkable specimen of humanity or, well, pretty conceited. I wouldn't want that at all. Why? Because I'm not very content with my eighteen-year-old physical self. I mean, if I got stuck that way for all eternity. . . I'd go through Forever nearsighted, partially deaf, and eternally unable to comfortably reach the organ pedals. No, thanks. I want an improved version before I'm set in stone.
Did you ever see the TV series Angel? The showrunner and his team kept writing the characters and themselves in and out of corners. They pushed the reset button so many times it wasn't funny anymore. Finally, the network had Had Enough. They pulled the plug. Apparently, the team were both surprised and angry. I blame a lack of objectivity on their part.
So what did those geniuses do? Take a look at the very last episode of that show. You can probably find it online somewhere through your streaming services. You can watch this last episode, even without having a clue as to the backstory or who all those absurd characters are. Yes, two of them are vampires. One of the vampires used to be dead, now he's undead-again. Move on. The character with the blue hair used to be a nerd, now she's a scary goddesss. . . keep going.
What the angry writers did was to trash the set, both literally (with blunt instruments) and figuratively. They created a dilemma of monstrous proportions. One they had no intention of resolving. As the characters stood in an alley, ferociously scowling and surrounded by a horde of CGI monsters on land and in the air, the show. . . simply ended.
The characters had all turned into cartoons. Fittingly, the series was continued in comic book format. While I found the idea clever, I declined to follow them there. But there's a moral in this story.
Don't write your characters into cardboard poses. They might get stuck like that.
Or yourself, for that matter. It's like your mom always said: stop making faces like that.