May The Fourth Be With You! (Or, valuable writing lessons I learned from Star Wars)

Happy Star Wars Day!

For anyone following me on Twitter, you will have noticed that I’ve been live-tweeting a Star Wars marathon today. I love Star Wars (I mean, doesn’t everybody?).

I remember my first Star Wars experience. It was a big anniversary, and cinemas everywhere were replaying Episode IV to celebrate. I think I was about 6 or 7. I remember that huge Star Destroyer coming over my head and thinking wow, this is something. I had never seen a single thing like it. A classic story of good vs. evil with imagination and flair. With truly terrifying villains and likeable anti-heroes. With mystery and danger. I hero-worshipped George Lucas. I got my hands on nearly everything he’d done. Indiana Jones, Monkey Island, I did them all.

The older I got, and when I began to write, the more I noticed flaws. Everything is flawed. At first I kind of felt betrayed by my own revelations. Like I was watching a magic trick and then the magician told me how to do it. But I realised that I could learn things from it. Here are some of them.

1. It’s totally cool to do the thing nobody expects you to do.

2. It is also totally cool to do the opposite of that.

3. Not every hero has to be likeable or understandable (C3PO and Jar-Jar Binks, yeah?)

4. Magic does not have to be easy or explainable. In fact, it should be neither of these things. Come on, midichlorians? Really?

5. Hard decisions are the right decisions.

6. The nicest characters can be the most corruptable.

7. Picking at scabs does not make them get any better. Lucas is a notorious scab-picker. Always trying to go back and fix everything. And ruining it in the process.

8. Always proof-read for continuity errors. (Yoda never taught Obi-Wan, yet he always goes on and on about it.)

9. Stereotypes are fun because they are flexible.

10. You can make some things obvious if you make other things shocking.

11. Women can be strong and men can be weak.

12. Scoundrels rule.

13. Keep hold of your plot threads, don’t let them go, and know where they’re heading.

14. Science fiction doesn’t have to be clean and pretty – although it does look good when it it.

15. Making your characters suffer is a price you must pay.

I’ve been thoroughly enjoying pulling it apart on Twitter, but also enjoying everything I love about it too. May the force be with you all, and happy writing.


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