Thursday, June 16, 2011

Wait, There Are OTHER Characters in Star Wars?

I should probably start out by saying that I am just as guilty if not the worst offender of what I'm about to write about. I think a lot of us tend to forget that there is more to Star Wars than just Han and Leia. While in certain stories of course it only makes sense to ignore all other characters because no other characters are needed. But I think a lot of us (definitely me) can sometimes write them like they are in this bubble where nobody else exists. They've got friends, Wookiees, siblings, and yet sometimes we forget that maybe they might actually spend time with people other than each other.

Utilizing other characters I think can even help us as writers. We spend so much time fixated on these two characters that if you do it enough, writing them becomes a lot easier. You start to understand their characterizations, or at least your interpretations of them, and you just sort of 'get' what they would say or do in a certain situation. I know that I've had times where I decided I did have to include another character and yet I found myself having a difficult time making it "sound" like them.

Let's take Luke. To me, Luke is incredibly boring to write. I suppose I could have more fun with him if I were using him in a more light-hearted situation where he could play along with teasing Han or Leia or laughing at their situation, but I haven't really used him that way yet. Mostly so far he's just been that nice brother who is there to comfort or help in some capacity. I don't think his personality really comes through here. I have also rarely done much with Chewie or Threepio aside from acknowledging that they are maybe in the room. I think at some point I need to branch out more!

Then there's Chewie. I think a lot of people have trouble with him. We never really know what he's 'saying' in the movies. We can only infer and sort of wonder what he actually might say in a given situation. The most common ways to write him are as the wise old sage or as the older brother who likes to tease his younger one. I think a combination of these two can work well, depending on the situation. I really need to start using these guys more.

I suppose I did once use Xizor and a couple of original characters here and there, but most of the time I have remained within the Han and Leia bubble.

Using more characters just gives you more opportunity to write a more complete story. It gives the opportunity to see Han and Leia interact with others and see different sides of their characters aside from how they act with each other. It can allow us to see their relationship from someone else's eyes which can also sometimes be a nice change of pace. And it can just make it more of an actual story rather than just a little snippet of their lives.

Obviously sometimes there's no reason at all to add in other characters. But try not to ignore the fact that there are others in their lives (you know, like I tend to do). Don't go out of your way to include other characters, but don't go out of your way not to.

Again, I am probably one of the worst offenders of this, but it is something I intend to work on and I think it's a good thing to be aware of.


  1. Well, I started out writing a lot of different characters...but some are definitely harder than others. I've already said that Leia's actually pretty hard for me...but Chewie is a hundred times worse! I tend to just write him (and Artoo) the same way as we see him in the movies. He growls or roars or something, and we can only guess at what he's saying by Han or Lando's reaction. Every once in awhile I do see someone who's given Chewie some great dialogue though, and I feel a little guilty for taking the "easy" way out. Which still isn't easy.

    Lando's really hard for me too, probably for the same reason as Leia. They're both leaders, and they're both very good at putting up a public face that may or may not be what they're really thinking. Especially in Empire and Jedi, we do get to see Leia loosen up a little...but Lando, not so much.

    It's so hard sometimes, if you've written yourself into a situation where one of those difficult-to-write characters SHOULD be've either got to include them or to offer a decent explanation as to why they're not there that makes sense for the character and the story.

    I'm trying to tell myself that challenging myself is a good thing though. I do think that it is...when I see it in someone else's story. When it's mine, I'm just terrified.

  2. Oh, I totally do that with Chewie. I don't recall exactly, but I'm pretty sure I have very rarely used actual "dialogue" when writing him but the same as you describe, basically just get the jist of what he says based on the other characters' reactions.

    I've written very little with Lando, maybe like 3 or 4 lines and I feel like I'd have a hard time with him but if I wrote him enough, it might be kind of fun to get some good back and forth going between him and Han.

    And I totally get what you say about challenging yourself. I am all about staying within my comfort zone. I've told Push before a few scenarios I just don't think I'll ever write because they intimidate me so much - because they're so challenging.

  3. Yeah I shy away from using other characters...well, giving them big parts anyway. Even then, just having the presence of other characters gives it a little kick.

    But I think if you don't feel as much for other characters, it makes it even more difficult to write them.

  4. I must be one of the lucky ones because in almost all of the things I have written at least one other character comes into play. But I am a HUGE Luke fan so he really isn't that hard for me. For me the hardest characters to write are the ones that arent in the movies like Mara or the Solo kids. At that point they kind of become more of an interpretation than the film characters because we don't have that visual to base them on. I do love Han and Leia oh so much when they are on their own but after a while I think they start to loose themselves. Look at how much time they spend with Luke, Chewie, and the droids during the movies. I am sure that would be no different before, after, and especially during the films. Like Z said, its a breath of fresh air to see them interact with others or see their relationship for those peoples perspectives. I seem to have a thing for General Rieekan. I dunno, there is something about him in Empire that just makes me think he is the coolest most understanding member of the Alliance. So obviously I try to use him a lot.

    As far as Chewie, I almost prefer NOT to hear what he is actually saying. Maybe its because of the mystery or because that's the way it is in the movies, but to me that is more interesting. Of course, when some gets it right, though, I absolutely love every second of it. Chewie is a great character.

  5. I have always written Chewie's words, but I thought I would try to just give him some roars and growls and have the characters answer him but not put words into his mouth. I haven't done that yet, but that's my plan.

    I have traditionally shied away or at least felt uncomfortable writing other characters. Luke, especially. I just don't want him to be all Jedi obsessed and would like to give him a sense of humor and such, but don't feel I "know" him well enough.

    I actually like Jaina and Jag but have trouble thinking of anything to write about them, and I think it is because of the lack of "visualization" as Jarik said. When I write Han and Leia I have to "see" them saying it or acting that way and I have nothing to go on with Jaina/Jag.

    I agree with Zyra, though as a practice or growth experience, we should try to do those things we are not comfortable with and let's face it, they MUST interact with other people other then themselves at some points in their lives!

  6. Oh, I disagree. I think that once they get together they just lock themselves in the bedroom and have sex all day and all night and almost never see anyone ever ;)

    You know the problem with the characters we don't see in the movies? A lot of the time their characterizations are totally different depending on which book you are reading and who wrote it. So how are we supposed to get a clear idea of who they are if they are always written different ways? Han, Leia and Luke all have consistent characterizations throughout the movies. Well, okay, you might be able to argue that Han wasn't quite himself in ROTJ, but we'll let that slide.

    Elivagar also makes a good point about not really feeling much for characters. You know, I used to love Luke. When I first became a Star Wars fan, he was my favorite. I don't know when the switch was thrown exactly, but I do know that after that, I really stopped caring that much about him. I wish I cared more, I just don't.

    And Jarik, you make a good point too about Han and Leia losing themselves if they are alone too much. Understandably, I think they'd act just a little bit different when they are alone with each other. Still "them" but that version of themselves that only the other really gets to see. So it's nice to give them a chance to be the "them" they are for everyone else.