Happy Star Wars Day! In honor of the occasion, I'm listening to the soundtracks in the background as I write this email. 🔦 (Apparently my system doesn't have a lightsaber emoji. Lame.)
As a teenager, I was a rabid Star Wars fan. I'm considerably less so now (and the Disney films haven't helped), but the franchise still has a special place in my heart. In fact, one of my ongoing writing projects is a free, fan-made campaign for the current edition of the Star Wars Roleplaying Game. I'm playtesting the first adventure with an online group; you may remember them as the guys who decided to fight a bunch of battle droids while unarmed and cornered in a cabin on a starship. They're still trying to get themselves out of that mess. 🙄 😁
As much as people like to bash certain elements of Star Wars (the prequel trilogy, the sequel trilogy, midichlorians, Hayden Christensen's performance, or whatever), it's hard to argue with a franchise that's made goodness knows how much money—and has kept doing it for over forty years. I read a book once in which the author recalled President Ronald Reagan saying that in Hollywood, he'd learned the difference between the critics and the box office. Clearly, the writers have been doing something right.
So what is it about Star Wars that appeals to so many different people over several generations? Lots of people have written about this over the years, but here are my two cents.
First, Star Wars makes use of archetypes that many viewers unconsciously recognize and respond to. It has heroes from humble origins (Luke and Anakin Skywalker), royalty/somewhat modernized damsels in distress (Queen Amidala and Princess Leia), wise mentors (Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi), despotic rulers and their henchmen (Emperor Palpatine, Darth Vader, and General Grievous), pirates (Han Solo and Hondo Ohnaka), and so on. Even though these stories take place in an (ahem) alien universe in which people can move things with their minds and you might have a walking carpet for a copilot, these archetypes give the audience something familiar to ground themselves in.
Second (and related), Star Wars gives us what Blake Snyder calls "the same thing, only different." We may have encountered evil rulers in a thousand other stories, but how many of them are as good at tempting even the mightiest heroes as Emperor Palpatine is? Or can shoot lightning out of their fingertips? We've seen countless protagonists take the Hero's Journey, but how many times does that involve a daring escape into outer space and a faceoff against a moon-sized space station? Star Wars dresses up these familiar archetypes and story patterns in fresh ways that catch our interest.
Third, most of the stories in Star Wars involve a fight between good and evil. It's the oldest conflict in the universe (no pun intended), and there's something deep in the human psyche that responds to it, because we humans fight that battle every day inside ourselves. It's the kind of confrontation that can take place on any scale, from an epic clash between huge armies to an intensely personal struggle within an individual. Star Wars does it all. And when we see good triumph over evil, or evil triumph but good somehow survive, it gives us hope that we can not only survive but win our own internal battles.
If you're ready to add some of these epic elements to your own story, developmental editing can help you do it. Click here to find out how.
Write on and May the Fourth be with you,
(Thanks to Christian Crocker for sharing their work on Unsplash.)