I love Futurama. Growing up, I used to be a big fan of the Simpsons, but Futurama has so much more scope to be wacky and weird and irrelevant, which is why I love it so much.
But there is a reason why I'm making it the focus of my blog post today (though, do I really need a reason to talk about it?) - there are two specific episodes of the show that I cannot watch. If they come on, I instantly change the channel. Why? Because they make me cry.
I know, I know - it sounds stupid. Crying over a cartoon? Really?? Am I four, or twenty four?
But let me explain. These two particular episodes both feature significant parts of Fry's backstory, and that, I think, is key here. The first episode is called Jurassic Bark, from the fourth season of the show. The second is entitled Game of Tones*, from season seven. In 'Jurassic Bark', Fry wants to clone his old dog, Seymour, from a fossil but later has a change of heart as he believes Seymour lived a long and happy life without him (we later find out that Seymour waited for Fry to come home for years, and he never had another owner - seriously, I'm welling up just writing this). In 'Game of Tones', Fry must enter into a dream in order to find out where a mysterious noise is coming from - in his dream he gets to see his family, although there is not enough time for him to say everything he wants to say to his mother (he later gets the opportunity to enter into his mother's dream and be with her one last time).
It's probably not surprising that I cry at the dog episode - anything to do with dogs or animals dying, or if we're shown their unquestionable loyalty - I turn into a wreck. But why did the episode with his mother affect me so much too?
It's because the scriptwriters did a fantastic job. They made me truly believe in Fry's story, and his background. They made me feel what he was feeling - if he felt sad and dejected, so did I. When he saw his mother again and got to talk to her one last time, I felt a sense of closure too. I felt his connection to his dog, and rooted for them both to pull through. Yes, they used flashbacks in both episodes (and I'd be very VERY wary of using flashbacks in my own writing) - but they were used sparingly, and only because there was genuinely no other way to get the information across to the reader.
And as writers, getting readers to care for our characters is critical. It's only by getting our readers to engage with our characters, that our story can truly become alive. I know Futurama isn't real, and never could be - and yet, just like any good novel, the characters feel real to me. I could go on and on about all the different personalities that make up their weird little friendship group and why it still works, talk about the world building, the romance between Fry and Leela etc, but I'm not going to.
Instead, I'd just like to pinpoint just one idea - make me care about your characters, and I'll care enough about your book to keep reading.
Happy Tuesday, everyone!