Tuesday, December 15, 2015

How Star Wars Made Me a Writer

Time is really flying past me. Not only is Christmas getting frightfully close for someone who has done absolutely zero shopping (gifts are my least favorite part of the holiday, both giving and receiving), but it's really just struck me that there will be a new Star Wars movie this week. I've mostly been ignoring it, not out of lack of interest but because I don't want to get too invested. I'm trying to go in almost as cold as I did in 1977, with no expectations.

Yeah, I'm one of those fans who goes back to 1977 (yes, I'm old), and seeing that movie was life-changing for me. Really. I'm not exaggerating. I very likely wouldn't be doing what I'm doing today if I hadn't seen that movie. I'd always amused myself by making up stories, but there was something about that movie that gave me a burning need to not just make up stories, but to tell them to other people in a way that made them feel like Star Wars made me feel. It flipped some kind of crazy creativity switch in my brain that I haven't been able to turn off since then.

My first efforts at actually writing a story down started as what I guess you'd call Star Wars fan fiction, though by the time I wrote any of it down, it no longer had any resemblance to Star Wars. As you may have noticed, there was kind of a lack of girls in the movie. Princess Leia was awesome, but there was just one of her, and if you were playing Star Wars with the neighborhood kids, there weren't enough female roles to go around. So we had to make up some. One of the characters I came up with was a female fighter pilot who had a very complicated backstory in how she joined the Rebel Alliance -- she was also a princess, from an Empire-friendly world, but she didn't agree with her parents and had been working as a spy for the Alliance from within her home until she got a critical piece of information that she had to pass on, and she knew that once it was out there everyone would know where it came from, so she ran for it, taking her piloting skills (she took private lessons as a princess) with her. This was all backstory, as most of her adventures involved just being a pilot without most people knowing she was a princess. And because I might have been the only girl in America who preferred Luke to Han, Luke was the guy she worked with, hung out with, and would probably end up with (so I felt very vindicated when Leia ended up with Han).

I played with this in my head for years, and over time the Star Wars connections fell by the wayside until she was just a princess from an oppressive world who was spying until she fled to work with the rebels. For a while, she gained a sister when I told a friend about all this and we made up a character for her. I may still have some drawings around from when we designed costumes for our characters (as 12-year-old girls, we had our priorities in order).

Strangely, I never wrote more than the first chapter or so because I hadn't yet learned how to plot. I was good at coming up with situations and characters, but the actual story part eluded me for another ten or so years. I never went back and tried to finish that story, and I don't really have any interest in doing so. It's not one of those old ideas that haunts me. But it may have been the first story I told another person when I shared it with that friend, and it was part of that lightbulb moment that started me on the path to being a writer when I realized that if I wrote down this story, it would be a book, and that would make me a writer.

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