Friday, December 2, 2016

The Hero's Journey in Star Wars

So I had another amazing experience at Colorado Thescon today. Around 25 students attended Five Ways to Punch Up Your Playwriting, and we had some good discussions, especially around loglines and how to make them unique.

But the response to my workshop, Plot 101: Playwriting Lessons from Star Wars, completely blew me away. I figured those magic words, "Star Wars," would generate a lot of interest, but I never expected over 100 students (and several teachers) to show up. Unfortunately, my room only had chairs for 30 of the students, but the other 70 carried on bravely, claiming a spot on the floor for the hour and 15 minutes of my lecture. (I'll ask for more chairs next year!)

Actually, it was less a lecture and more a free-wheeling debate. Most of the students had already been exposed to the Hero's Journey structure, and they all had very strong opinions as to what the catalyst is and why the destruction of Alderaan does not make a strong midpoint. Surprisingly, the students were just as passionate in their discussion of my alternative example of the Hero's Journey, Legally Blonde.

You know how people with a strange, terrible disease often think they're the only one in the world with that disease? And then they find an online support group and they realize there are actually hundreds of people like them? Well, that's how I felt today, only my disease is Story Structure Geekitis.

I didn't bring enough handouts for all of the students, but I promised them I would post the diagram I taught from on my website, so here is the PDF version. Or just download the JPG above. Either way, feel free to print it, email it, tattoo it on your forearm, or whatever floats your boat.

Yes, it borrows from both Joseph Campbell and Blake Snyder, but I've simplified it to include only the seven plot points most important to a well-told story (I don't want young writers to get overwhelmed by the numerous plot points in those other works). I also changed some of the terms to more accurately reflect their purpose. Most importantly, I added the corresponding plot points in Star Wars to guide them as they develop their own stories.

The class was so popular that I've decided to turn it into a two-hour workshop in which I'll work closely with each student to help them structure their story according to the Hero's Journey. Look for this class to pop up in Colorado Springs, probably sometime in January.

Update: If you'd like to read my take on the Hero's Journey in Legally Blonde, which formed the other half of the class, follow this link.

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