My husband and I watched Sunday’s episode of “The Last Ship” last night. The evil, bad, nasty Russian Admiral (we can thank Putin for restoring this trusty stereotype) had the best line.
I was gleeful when he said to Commander Chandler: “Your hubris has led to your tragic downfall.” (Sadly, he didn’t take that observation to heart.)
Commander Chandler (or should I say, Captain Kirk?) is one of the worst recent examples I’ve seen of a TSTL hero. This was the third time Chandler left the ship to do a job that his subordinates were better trained to do. But the third time wasn’t the charm in this case. He’s still alive.
Next Sunday, Chandler will no doubt take his XO to task for disobeying a direct order. At that moment, I truly hope that Adam Baldwin’s character says something like, “You weren’t on the bridge. I was. I made a command decision. If you want to make command decisions, STAY ON THE BRIDGE! In fact, if you ever try to leave the ship again before this mission is complete, I WILL SHOOT YOU MYSELF.”
Okay, now that I have that off my chest, here’s the point. Your protagonists can make mistakes, but they have to learn from them. Those mistakes can arise out of character flaws, or misunderstandings, or misinformation. Those mistakes cannot be something anyone with the character’s training and background would logically avoid. If circumstances force your character into a bad choice, it’s even better. That kind of situation really makes the reader squirm. (And you want your readers to squirm.) Just be sure your protagonist doesn’t have a better choice available that doesn’t contravene his or her values.
Chandler’s rescue of the scientist’s wife and daughter was consistent with his love for his own family and the values of a decent man. (This was good.) The fact that he was there in the first place was further evidence of his cowboy nature, and I have to wonder if he would have risen to the rank of Commander, or been given this sensitive command, with that kind of behavior in his record.
I recently saw a quote, but I can’t remember who wrote it. “Build people, not characters.” To that I’d add, build consistent, intelligent people, and be true to their natures, and they will help you write consistent, intelligent stories.
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