*Warning: This post contains spoilers about the original Stars Wars trilogy. Read at your own risk if you are just now discovering the original trilogy.
There is something to be said about a well written, human character. They leap off the page and speak to us as if they were right in front us, as flesh and blood human beings, instead of fictional creations.
In this series of weekly blog posts, I will examine character using the characters from the original Star Wars trilogy to explore how writers can create fully dimensional, human characters that audiences and readers can relate to.
When the audience is introduced to Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), at the beginning of A New Hope, he introduced as the average boy next door. On the cusp of manhood, he lives with his aunt and uncle on their moisture farm on Tatooine. Like most boys his age, he would rather do anything but work on the farm. A chance encounter with the droids C-3PO (Anthony Daniels) and R2 -D2 (Kenny Baker) will forever change his destiny.
R2-D2 is looking for Obi-Wan Kenobi (Alec Guinness). Princess Leia Organa (the late Carrie Fisher) has been captured by the empire and seeking Obi-Wan’s help in rescuing her.
They hire space pirate Han Solo (Harrison Ford) to help them rescue Leia. The rest is movie history. Over the course of the three original films (A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back and Return Of The Jedi), Luke grows from a boy to a man. He is a Jedi, the son of Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader and Queen Of Naboo/Republic Senator Padme Amidala and the twin brother of Princess Leia. In A New Hope, he discovers his fate. In Empire Strikes Back, as he begins to seriously learn the ways of the Jedi, he is tested time and again. In Return of the Jedi, Luke must face not only his own darkness, but the darkness that turned his father into Darth Vader.
In the fantastical world of Star Wars, Luke is the every man going on the hero’s journey. The young man who at the beginning of adulthood who doesn’t expect much at the outset of the story will become the hero. But not before overcoming multiple obstacles and facing his own demons. Luke is interesting because even in a galaxy far far away, his journey feels very human and normal.
To sum it up: The audience needs a focal point. They need a character who they can root for and who they can see themselves in. Luke’s journey is about growth and change, while dealing with the sometimes painful reality that is life. In creating an every man or woman character who goes on a hero’s journey, the writer is reflecting ordinary life and ordinary struggles that we all face everyday. When these characters are created successfully, the writer is engaging the audience with the every day humanity that hooks the audience and keeps them coming back for more.