Story Empires and Why We Make Them

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I just finished reading a fascinating article about why we probably won’t live to see the final Star Wars movie. Go read the article here. It’s rather an eyeopener to take a bird’s eye view, or a God’s eye view, of the Star Wars history and legacy. And not just Star Wars. The people and production companies involved in Episode VII are the same people who have helped bring the Marvel universe, Star Trek, and Indiana Jones to the screen, to name a few.

As a writer and a creator myself, I’m fascinated by the journey Star Wars has taken. It’s not just movies, not just stories. It is an empire, a legacy. Why? Well the easy answer is money. Billions of dollars have been generated over the past thirty years, and billions more are to be had, I’m sure. But that money had to come from somewhere. So why have so many people over the years spent so much money on this story? Why do people spend so much on stories period?

The answer, while simple, covers the surface of a fact so complex it speaks to the very nature of being human: we are a storytelling species. It’s how we understand ourselves and our relationships to the people and world around us (to read more about that, check out this blog post). For a story to be so compelling as to turn into an empire, creating a legacy that spans decades, it must be revealing some pretty compelling things about us. Things that are close to our heart. Things that are so universal, so commonly shared, that the story empire span language, culture, and time, burning brighter than ever after four decades of the telling.

This is both an encouraging, and terrifying idea for a writer. It means we have meaningful work to do, but it also we have a lot to live up to. I really loved this quote in the article about one of the people working on Episode VII:

“That’s the future in front of Kennedy: building out a universe that someone loved so much he made the rest of us love it too. It’s like continuing the construction of a cathedral someone else designed, or being the commander of a generations-long starship mission. It is an honor, but I suspect also a burden.”

As I draw closer to completing the drafts of the Lily Singer Adventures books 1 & 2 (to be released in April), articles like this are encouraging. Amid all my self doubt and frenzy to get things done, I am first reminded to make sure I look at the big picture in my story. Good stories are always about a bigger picture, sometimes obvious, sometimes hidden. Details, dialog, world-building, all that adds to, but isn’t as important as the big picture, the theme, the message. Story empires like Star Wars work because of the big picture.

Secondly I’m comforted because even if my stories never reach a large audience, the same stories I’m telling, the same big picture I’m pointing to, is a torch being carried, loved, and nurtured by story empires like Star Wars. Life. Love. Justice. Hope. All the things we know, think, hope for, and dream about are told again and again, by all societies in all cultures, and will keep being told long after I’m dead. You can’t stop stories. It’s who we are.

Now, I’d better get back to being who I am if I’m going to meet those writing deadlines. Thanks for reading! Before you go, tell me in the comments about what story you’re most looking forward to. Is it Star Wars Episode VII? Harry Potter Book 8? Some other series? Or maybe a story that hadn’t yet been written, but you hope to see it one day? Don’t forget to subscribe to my newsletter if you want to get updates on my books, win cool stuff, and help me world-build. Just click on the tab above that says “subscribe.” Until next time!