May 4, 2017
Writing Lessons from Star Wars
May the 4th be with you!
You had to see this coming, didn't you? It's Star Wars day, so I obviously had to do a Star Wars post for today. After much thought, I decided to do one on writing lessons that we can learn from the Star Wars movies.
This month, Star Wars celebrates its 4oth anniversary. Can you believe it's been forty years since A New Hope came out? Forty years of inspiration and innovation. I've loved these movies since I first saw them, like so many others. If you're curious, Episode V is my favorite movie, and I can't pick just one favorite character.
Star Wars has many things we can learn from it, some good, some bad. I could probably go on forever, but no one has time for that. We have to go have a Star Wars movie marathon! So I'll try to hit only the major ones. If there are any I miss, feel free to add them in the comments. Let's go to a galaxy far, far away. . .
Lesson 1: Don't make your planets the same all over
I'm sure this started because in 1977 it was difficult to make planets at all, much less ones that were anything more than a desert or a forest or giant snow storm. But no one has really tried harder than that since then.
When you create a planet, try to make it something like ours. Just think about how many cultures, races, and types of ecosystems there are. I know it can be hard to create something that gigantic, much less several of them if it's a space story, but give it a shot. Readers will appreciate it. Hopefully.
Lesson 2: Even good guys can be wrong
The Jedi council is a prime example of this. They are the peacekeepers of the galaxy, but they are still mortals. They make mistakes and wrong choices. I've always wondered who put them in charge in the first place and why they get to decided which is the right side. Their trying to keep the peace, and refusing people attachments, is what ultimately leads to their destruction.
If you have a good organization, why not see if you can add ways they can be wrong? In my last NaNoWriMo novel, I had a peacekeeping organization that protected England from threats. But because of fear, they let one of the biggest threats grow right under their noses.
Lesson 3: People will do anything if they want it bad enough
The whole reason Anakin became a sith lord at all is because of his love for Padme. All he wanted was to keep her safe, and it led him down a dark path. I've always found him one of the most interesting characters from Episodes 1-3. His negative character arc makes him fascinating to watch.
The lesson here is people are willing to go through a lot for things that want deep down. And some characters are willing to go too far. How far are your characters willing to go for the thing they want? And will that take them to dark places?
Lesson 4: Environment can be both a help and a hindrance to your characters
I've always liked how the environments in Star Wars came into play during their battles. Space is the obvious one, but also think about Hoth with it's snow and ice. Or Kamino with the constant rain, making fighting difficult. Or how that moon of Endor gave the rebels an advantage over the stormtroopers.
Think about where you can set your fight scene to help or hinder your hero. Changing up the environment can be fun and add an extra layer to your writing.
Lesson 5: Clothes are important
The costumes in Star Wars movies are fantastic. Plain or fancy, you can tell the designers put lots of work and thought into them. Clothes in Star Wars play a big part in characters. Think about Luke's Tatooine clothes. They protect him from the sand while also keeping him cool. Or Padme's many outfits that she wears for her role as ambassador and queen. (I counted and in Episode II alone, she wore 13 outfits.)
When you're building a culture, don't forget to work out how clothes tie in. Do they wear lots or little? Plain or fancy? Light colors or dark? And why to all of those? Clothes can really add to your world building.
Lesson 6: Consider both sides of the story
Often in Star Wars, when characters are at odds, they're both right in some way. This makes it hard for us to pick a side. Consider the tension between Obi Wan and Anakin because of their differing points of view. Or between Jyn Erso and Cassian.
When creating a story, try to see it from both sides, especially from the villain's point of view. This will add depth to your story as you can see things better if you understand how your characters think.
Lesson 7: Humor always adds
Star Wars has always had the best one liners in just the right spots. Han Solo has some of the funniest lines, which combined with his roguish good looks and daredevil attitude, makes him one of the most popular characters in Star Wars. Humor can lighten the darkest or most serious scenes.
If you can add humor to your novel without making it cheesy or forced, then do it. It's always appreciated. That's one of the reasons that Marvel has surpassed DC movies. Even though it's dark, their characters keep the attitude light. DC fails at that. So try to be like Marvel.
Lesson 8: Politics= tension
Much of the tension and conflict in the Star Wars comes from politics. The Rebel Alliance was formed to fight the ruler of the galaxy. Even the politics aboard the Empire's ships had an air of tension as the officers fight to be noticed, but not too noticed.
How can your government system or even ranks add tension to your story? Are there splits and divisions? Is either side right, or are they both wrong?
Lesson 9: Your female characters can wear beautiful clothes and still blast people to death
Both Padme and Princess Leia wear lots of lovely dresses. And they both don't hesitate to use their blaster when necessary. Sometimes they do both at once.
It's been said before but I'll repeat it. Your female characters can be tough, kick butt, and love pretty clothes all at the same time. That's why I love Kestral from The Winner's Curse so much. She enjoys a pretty dress as much as the next girl.
Lesson 10: Talking before violence
The Jedi often try to negotiate peace between sides before bringing out the lightsabers. Padme and Leia try to talk to the other side before shooting them up. In Star Wars, they often try to talk it out first. It doesn't often succeed, but at least they try.
So don't just have your characters shoot first, ask questions later. It makes them more likable if they don't try to solve everything with violence. But also remember, there is a time to fight as well.
This post came out really long, but I had lots of fun writing it. So all I have to say now is- May the force be with you.
Let's talk! What lessons have you learned from Star Wars? Which character(s) and movie is your favorite? Tell me in the comments.