3 Lessons Writers can Learn from Star Wars

With anticipation building for the upcoming ‘The Force Awakens’ Star Wars movie, I’m reminded of what made the original trilogy so great.

I’ve also found myself hoping the next movie resembles the first three movies and not the prequel trilogy, which I don’t like to acknowledge as existing.

A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi can teach today’s authors a lot about how to effectively tell a story that completely enthralls its audience.

Here are three things every writer can learn from them:

Don’t make your world-building pretty

One of the things I love about the original trilogy is how dirty and broken down everything is. Every ship is coated in a layer of grime. The hyperdrive doesn’t work. These are things that let viewers know the universe George Lucas created isn’t a perfect fairy-tale place.

By including imperfections and dust and old blast marks, you’re left feeling that the entire galaxy is more realistic than you otherwise would. This is where I learned that stories are more effective when surroundings have some dirt on them. In other genres, maybe this means a cracked coffee mug, a car with a broken muffler, or a casket that doesn’t close correctly because of caked-on mud.

No matter what, though, don’t make the world you create a shiny, new place. It won’t feel as authentic.

Don’t explain everything

Why does BobaFett think he can talk to Darth Vader as if they are equals? Where did Leia get the bounty hunter costume that she wore to sneak into Jabba’s palace?

While this is explained in the extended universe of books and comics, it goes unexplained in the movies. And that’s a good thing. It’s part of what made BobaFett such an instant cult sensation. It’s part of why you wonder what every other character is doing in Jabba’s palace. While it’s important to explain plot points, it’s not necessary to explain every single aspect of a scene.

Let things go untold. Let the reader use their imagination to fill in gaps. It allows them to interpret characters and motivations as they please, and it lets you tell the core of your story faster.

Do rely on the surrounding environment to show, not tell

All too often, storytellers tell the reader that their character is a bad ass, or they have a scene with a lot of four-letter words and a couple fight scenes to get the idea across. Look at the original Star Wars movies, though. There is no cursing. There is almost no blood.

And yet viewers get the impression Han Solo can probably curse with the best of them. Not to mention that between the Rancor, bounty hunters, and creatures lurking in the shadows, you quickly get the idea that there is plenty of suffering and death in the galaxy. Yet, none of it is shown.

Lucas created an environment where those things exist off camera. Rather than having to beat us over the head with them, Lucas focuses on the heart of the story, keeping audiences engaged throughout. From that, I learned to be more imaginative in how I “show” the true nature of my characters and their surroundings.

Do you have other lessons you’ve learned from Star Wars? If so, I’d love to hear them.
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Chris Dietzel

Chris graduated from Western Maryland College (McDaniel College). He currently lives outside Washington D.C. His dream is to write the same kind of stories that have inspired him over the years.