#WritingLessons from Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens

I love science fiction and watch it religiously.  Luckily, there are quite a few sci fi franchise options to indulge in, one of which is Star Wars.

Recently, I was on an American Airlines flight and got to watch Star Wars VII for a second time. The first time I watched it, the movie was boring to me. I watched it as a regular consumer of creative content but didn’t feel any attachment to the characters or the story.

So, given that experience, I wasn’t interested in a second viewing, but I am so glad I did it because I learned a lot about storytelling from watching the movie again.  And as a novice writer, I’m happy to take good tips from almost anywhere. (I lie. I’ll take ’em from anywhere.)

(If you are yet to watch the movie in question and don’t want it ‘spoiled’ for ya, come back AFTER you done seen it!)
And just in case you’re being stubborn …
  1. TAKE THE FIRST MODE OF ESCAPE/TRANSPORT AWAY FROM THE MAIN CHARACTER
    1. Remember when Rey (Daisy Ridley) and Finn (John Boyega) were racing through the sandy landscape of Jakku to avoid getting killed by the First Order? Well, Rey was leading them, and a droid called BB-8, to a ship which exploded right before their eyes.  They then run to and escape the planet on the Millenium Falcon.
    2. Now, this delayed escape may seem like an obvious storytelling tool for many but it wasn’t to me. It helped to create suspense, build and then dash viewer’s expectations and of course string the story along.  It did that all while allowing viewers like me to enjoy the ride.
  2. TAKE JOY OR SUCCESS AWAY UNEXPECTEDLY FROM THE MAIN CHARACTER
    1. When Rey & Finn manage to get away from the First Order they settle into a congratulatory phase.  Each of them is excited and the dialogue gets all fast and ‘Scandalesque’ (have you noticed how fast they talk on Scandal? I’ve watched one episode of Grey’s Anatomy and it was the same thing there, just more annoying. The fast super-charged, fast dialogue, I mean). Anyway, not too long after, their ship develops mechanical issues and is then boarded by some really bad guys and a creepy space creature.
    2. The Nigerian in me wants to call this the ‘No Condition is Permanent‘ tip.  (Yes, we might as well establish pretty early on that I am of Nigerian extraction. That ain’t a problem, is it? Yay!) By taking a ‘WIN’ and quickly turning it into a ‘FAIL’ moment, the storytellers kept the quick pace of the story going, dragging us viewers along. It also helped to keep the story interesting, without lagging in any particular moment, no matter how nice it was. Consumers of creative content (i.e. readers and viewers) like drama, honey, so keep it coming.
  3. SET A COUNTDOWN TO ALL-OUT DISASTER!!!!
    1. The countdown in the movie was established once it became clear that the Death Star, AKA Starkiller Base (who comes up with these names? Hehe, we creative types are so creative, eh?), was going to fry the living daylights out of planet D’Qar, where the Resistance was located. They were going to use a death ray. The movie built fear in my heart by showing the First Order’s killer ray in action on planet Takodana a scene or two before the countdown clock is established.
    2. There’s nothing like a countdown clock to impending doom to create drama and suspense in a story. I mean, the tension one feels when they are coming upon a deadline makes this storytelling tool pretty self-explanatory.  When used towards the climax of a story, it helps a lot.
  4. CREATE A KISS & MAKEUP MOMENT THAT’S NOT WHAT IT SEEMS
    1. This moment came courtesy of the reunion between Han Solo and his son, Ren. Han tried to get his son, whose real name is Ben, to let go of the Dark Side.  All he got for his troubles was a shiv, y’all! Ren had him (and we, the viewers) thinking he was actually considering leaving the First Order but alas…
    2. Now, this tool was used to mess with our emotions in the movie. Not a bad thing at all, by the way.  It ropes the viewer in, gets them invested in the characters involved and then dashes your feelings on the sidewalk like a drag queen reading a hater for filth.

Those are four of the storytelling lessons I took away from watching Star Wars VII for a second time.  I watched it as a writer and not just an ordinary viewer and reaped benefits.  These tips may be known to many writers and used to good effect. However, I’m a novice when it comes to fiction writing and I had Aha-moments when I realized these could be of help to me in my WIP.

I plan to use them.

Did you get any storytelling tips when you watched Star Wars VII? Or some other program? If so, share. Or, is there a movei or tv show that you think could be a great resource for writers? Let us know so we can all #ReadWriteLearn together or rather #ReadWriteWatch&Learn.

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