Sep 20, 2013

Star Wars - And What it's Taught me in Writing.

I have a very long list of hobbies, and one of them is writing scripts. But when I started a few years ago I really didn't know how much planning and work goes into just one script. I started reading a lot of books and websites and soon learned all about how to format a scrip, the best software to use, and most importantly how to plan and write a good one.


I've been a huge, huge fan of Star Wars pretty much since the first time I saw it. I've always loved learning more about the Star Wars galaxy and the way the films themselves were made. One of the best things to me is watching these movies with commentary. When I was younger I liked hearing what the actors had to say, but now that I'm older the best part for me is listening to George Lucas talk about how he made these films and learning about all the structural details no one really notices in a good movie.

Here's three things that I learned from George Lucas on how to create a good structure for your movie.

1. The Three Act Structure: A good script is made up out of 3 parts, the beginning, middle, and end. In the beginning is where you set up your characters and get to know them, start the main plot, and get your hero into some trouble. The middle is where you get to learn more about the characters and more trouble comes without any solutions. Basically you just try to get your characters into as much trouble as possible without resolving anything. Then in the end your hero saves the day and everything is resolved.

The three movies from the original trilogy can be looked at as the three act structure, with IV being the beginning where Luke sets out to become a Jedi Knight like his father. During the movie they come across troubles, such as the Death Star trying to blow up the galaxy's only hope, the Rebellion. But in the end they destroy the Death Star and the Rebellion is saved.

Episode V, being the middle, is where Luke trains to become Jedi with Yoda while Han and Leia are trying to escape the Empire. During this film you really get to know the characters but not very much progresses towards the main plot. In the end Luke gets some devastating news about his father, he loses his hand, and Han is frozen in carbonate. Not exactly a happy ending.

Then episode VI is the closing chapter. They rescue Han, defeat Emperor Palpatine, Luke saves his father from the dark side, they destroy the second Death Star, and all is well. Oh, and Luke and Leia find out they're brother and sister. In the last part everything gets wrapped up.

 So there's your three act structure in three movies, but within each episode is still the three act structure.



2. Breathing Points: You know those action packed movies where there's a fight scene without any breaks? And you know how you feel really tense during those movies? Well there's nothing wrong with having tense action scenes, but the audience needs time to process whats going on and time to breath. That's why you need to evenly distribute everything. After your action scene it's good have a quiet scene, so the audience can breath and think about whats currently happening before you move onto more action.

3. How to put the Hero in Danger: When you watch a movie and the main character is in a life and death situation, you just know that he isn't going to die because he's the only one who can save the day. But if you find yourself needing to put your character in a life and death situation, let the audience know that he could die but all hope wouldn't be lost. In episode V when Luke is leaving Dagobah to save Han and Leia on Cloud City, Obi-Wan says "that boy is our last hope." then Yoda say's "no, there is another." That pretty much leaves the audience with the idea that he could die, because there's still someone else who could save them.

That's just three things I've learned about writing from Star Wars. There's been other things I've learned, but these are by far the most important ones. And while I learned these things for script writing, these are all important things for any writing. I try to use these same elements with all of my fictional writing.

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