Hi everyone! I’ve been invited to take part in the 2016 Chapter One Young Writers Conference blog tour, featuring guest posts, interviews, and giveaways from the esteemed founders all around the writerly blogosphere. Julia, Ch1Con’s amazing founder, is here with us today to talk about how the Star Wars film franchise has influenced her as a writer. But wait, there’s more – we’re also hosting a Rafflecopter giveaway for a complete YA or middle-grade manuscript critique by Julia! (Because WordPress.com is a spoilsport, I can’t be cool and embed the raffle widget in-post – click the link, please. I promise, it’s 100% Rickroll-free.)
That said, take it away, Julia! 🙂
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Hey, guys! My name is Julia and I’m the founder of the Chapter One Young Writers Conference, an annual writing conference for and by teens and young adults.
Our 2016 conference will take place Saturday, August 6th at the Hilton Garden Inn – St. Charles, in St. Charles, IL, a western suburb of Chicago. Our speakers will include Susan Dennard (New York Times bestselling author of YA fantasy novel Truthwitch), Francesca Zappia (acclaimed YA contemporary author of Made You Up), and up-and-coming YA authors Jennifer Yu (Four People, Five Days—coming spring, 2017) and Jordan Villegas (represented by Emily Keyes of Fuse Literary).
Chances are—unless you live in a galaxy far, far away—you’ve heard of Star Wars. There’s also a good chance you’ve seen at least one of the Star Wars films (especially with Episode VII, The Force Awakens, coming out this past December and breaking pretty much every box office record ever).
I’m personally a pretty huge fan of the Star Wars franchise. Excluding the prequel trilogy (because one should always exclude the prequel trilogy), the Star Wars films are smart, well-constructed stories—and, they can teach you a ton about writing.
So, with that in mind, below are a few of the writing-related lessons I’ve learned from Star Wars.
Never Discount the Importance of ~Mystery~
The Force Awakens answers a lot of questions the original trilogy left viewers with back in the ’80s. However, it also raises others—the most notable of which definitely is the identity of Rey’s family. This is a question that’s never explicitly stated in the film, but the fact that we never actually find out (whereas we know who all the other Force-sensitive characters are related to, at this point) puts this on the forefront of viewers’ minds.
Since The Force Awakens came out, this has led to tons of speculation and theories by fans. Also: lots and lots of repeat viewings of the film, as people search for obscure clues towards solving the mystery.
Altogether, this shows how important unresolved mysteries can be to stories (especially in series). The unresolved subplots lead the viewer (or reader) onto the next installment, and the next and the next, as s/he eagerly waits to find out whether or not his/her theories are right.
The Best Plot Twists Change Everything
On the topic of parentage: the reveal of (spoiler alert) Darth Vader as Luke’s father is one of the most iconic plot twists in cinematic history. This twist works so well because it’s so entirely unexpected—and it’s so entirely unexpected because it answers a question the viewer doesn’t even think to ask.
You see, at this point in the series, we think we already know who Luke’s father was (a Jedi) and what Vader had to do with Luke’s father (killed him). So, we don’t think to ask about the specific identity of Luke’s father. That’s not a mystery about which the filmmakers have left us to wonder. Luke isn’t even asking Vader a question when the reveal comes, so we, as the audience, don’t have any onscreen prompt to start theorizing and trying to figure things out. Like Luke, we think we already have all of the answers on this particular topic. So, instead of expecting a plot twist, when Luke shouts, “You killed my father!” we’re prepared for an emotion-fueled fight scene.
Then Vader changes everything (both the direction we expect the scene to go and, you know, the direction we expect the series as a whole to go) by revealing, “Luke—I am your father.”
Chances are, if you’ve posed a question, at least some of your audience will have already figured out the answer by the time you get to sharing it. (Like, for example, there’s a really good chance at least a small percentage of Star Wars fans have figured out Rey’s identity by now.) However, if you answer a question you haven’t even asked—and thus the viewer/reader hasn’t thought to ask it either—there’s no way your audience won’t be shocked (which, of course, is something we should aim for always, as writers).
It’s Okay to Be Unabashedly Nerdy
Okay, so this one has less to do with writing as much as life in general, but probably the most important lesson Star Wars teaches is that it’s okay to be passionately, unapologetically nerdy.
The Star Wars films are some of the highest grossing movies in history (and, more specifically, Star Wars: The Force Awakens is the highest grossing film domestically ever). That’s undeniable proof that there are a ton of nerdy people out there who love nerdy things with a nerdy passion.
When George Lucas made the first Star Wars film in 1977, no one thought it had any chance of succeeding. In fact, he and Steven Spielberg took a vacation to Hawaii instead of attending the premiere, because they figured Lucas would be broke and unemployable afterward (so, you know, they might as well go out with a bang). Imagine their surprise when Star Wars became the biggest thing to ever hit the big screen and literally revolutionized Hollywood and the way movies are produced.
Chances are, if you’re a writer, you’re also at least a little teeny tiny bit (*cough* possibly extremely) nerdy. Star Wars shows that you shouldn’t be ashamed of that nerdiness, or afraid to show it in your writing. Nerds rule the world.
So: go out and create the stories that reflect who you are. Who knows—maybe you’ll be the next George Lucas. (You know, excluding the version of him who created the prequel trilogy.)
If you’re a writer from middle school to undergraduate age (approximately eleven to twenty-three) and are interested in attending and/or learning more about the conference, you can check us out at the links below:
Website: Chapter One Young Writers Conference
YouTube: Chapter One Young Writers Conference
Facebook: Chapter One Young Writers Conference
Huge thanks to Allison for hosting this stop on our blog tour!
The Chapter One Young Writers Conference. Every story needs a beginning. This is ours.