Luke Skywalker vs Rey: A Writer’s Perspective

For writers, the world is our oyster. We can take everything and use it as a lesson to hone our craft. After a while, we even begin to view the world through fresh eyes; no longer does everything bother us. That jerk at your day job now seems powerless to offend you, because through your writer’s eyes he is an object lesson in Antagonist 101.

So it is with characters in movies.

You begin to recognize well-written scripts and characters. On the flip side, you also notice how poorly written some of them are, so that this power of writerly perception can, on occasion, ruin your move-going experience.

Luke vs Rey: The Epic Battle

As a writer, odds are you noticed the vast differences in the way Luke Skywalker and Rey are written, character-wise.

Unfortunately for insightful viewers who like their heroes to be intelligently written, to have depth, Disney decided to forgo any character development when it came to Rey. In place, she is given numerous inexplicable talents, namely the ability to master anything immediately, without training and practice.

Don’t think I’m simply dismissing Disney. On the contrary, Disney intentionally wrote Rey the way it did, knowing full well that audiences today prefer to be entertained by mindless action and beautiful plotholes rather than to enjoy movies that cleverly unfold, movies filled with characters that develop naturally, making them more realistic and therefore relatable. Disney knows its audience well—because it spent years creating its audience, an audience tailor-made to receive shallow, undeserving star characters as their modern heroes.

Disney took the fantastically-written and iconic Luke Skywalker and cloned him. Only they didn’t stop there. Disney:

  • Stripped the character of meaningful familial connections
  • Deleted interests and smart-alecness
  • Made him female (because Hollywood knows this technique automatically forces viewers to appreciate the MC, or else risk being viewed as misogynistic)
  • Relieved him of a smoldering deep-seated frustration with the galaxy (‘I hate the Empire, but it’s not like I can do anything about it right now’)
  • Elected to gift her with the ability to instantaneously master every known skill.

Yeah baby, yeah!

To better illuminate the differences between the lynchpins of either trilogy, let’s compare the characters of Luke Skywalker and Rey No-Last-Name a la Me the Anonymous Blogger, by which we shall prove that Rey is the most expensive and glaring example today of lazy writing.

Here it is, the ‘Everyone Loves a Good Comparison’ Comparison List. Remember: We are looking at them through writer’s eyes, with all the attendant biases and judgments and experiences as big time readers and experienced word-slingers.

1 – Luke Skywalker (herein known as Luke) was introduced during a critical period in his psychological and personal development. The situations he faced helped shape his burgeoning character.

1 – Rey was introduced during a dull period in her life. She was already alone. Events did not shape her, because (as was shown ad nauseum) she already possessed the capacity for mastering every known ability and skill in the galaxy instantaneously.

2 – Luke has flaws, which serve to make him relatable as a fellow flawed human

2 – Rey has no known weaknesses or flaws. She can do anything and doesn’t even whine when the galaxy throws a bucket of wrenches at her

3 – Luke needs a translator to understand R2-D2

3 – Rey understands BB8 instantly, as if ‘droid’ is a universal language. And she knows Wookie!

4 – Luke needs Han to save him—which was realistic

4 – Rey saves Finn, steals the Falcon, and then gets Han killed (Major minus points right there)

5 – Luke is willing to learn the ways of the force, to train under Obi and then Yoda

5 Rey just knows how to use the Force, because that’s easier (aka lazy writing)

And that right there is why Luke is by far the better written character. Rey never earned her powers.

As any writer worth her weight in paper knows, your characters must earn their power or authority to win the respect of insightful readers. Harry Potter doesn’t have a hope in Hogwarts of defeating Voldemort, unless he first learns all manner of magical defense against the dark arts. He earned his power, through training and sacrifice and suffering.

Luke loses his aunt and uncle. No matter how annoying Uncle Owen was (‘You can waste time with your friends when your chores are done’) Luke loved him. He suffered when they were killed.

Rey doesn’t suffer. Sure, she was abandoned when she was like 5, but that gave her 14 years in a wasteland to harden into a self-reliant dynamo. She has nothing to lose.

Throughout the series Luke is shown studying under Jedi Masters; even if he is never a good student (failing to raise the X-Wing, he says ‘I can’t, it’s too big’—something we’ll never hear Rey say), Luke struggles to learn. And through trial and error he totally earns his kick-butt scene in Return of the Jedi, when he warns Jabba not to underestimate him, and then promptly destroys every last bad guy in that desert. Except for the sarlacc, which was busy eating another bad guy who actually survived.

Wait a second, if Boba Fett is alive, why in tarnation did they serve up a Solo origin story instead of a Fett solo run? That’s bogus, man!

As writers, the lesson here is clear: Your MC must earn her powers, usually through practice and sacrifice, suffering and failure.

Some people like to point out that Rey is a better character because she does the rescuing, whereas Luke is constantly in need of being rescued. But that’s kind of the point, isn’t it?

Luke does not start off as a hero. His story is the classic—and likeable and believable—Hero’s Journey. When we see Rey climb into the beloved Millennium Falcon (after calling it a piece of trash) and fly it like an old hand to save Finn, we are not amused or impressed. She didn’t earn the right to fly it. She didn’t earn the skills to fly it—or rather, if she did, we were not shown or told that she did. We simply must assume the Force is head over heels in love with her.

The Art of Foreshadowing

One of the most important plots in the film is Luke’s flying ability, which is enhanced by his willingness to listen to Obi-Wan’s Force instructions. His piloting skill is foreshadowed early on, in the cantina on Tatooine. Foreshadowing is the art of subtly informing your readers (or watchers) that something now will be important later on in the tale. The ability to foreshadow, and to do it expertly, is the mark of an accomplished writer.

Because we knew early on that Luke was a capable pilot, we are not left bamboozled as to how he was later able to execute that perfect Meridian Trench proton torpedo run (with the help of the Force, of course).

Sure, Rey used the force to escape that telepathic/chair thing and fight Kylo Ren, but there was no foreshadowing involved, and, more importantly, no training. She’d spoken with Han about the Force, and had to listen to the mutterings of Maz Kanata—that was the extent of her training in the Force. She did not earn the power, the right, to survive an encounter with a trained Sith.

In sum then, earning and foreshadowing are vital points in the development of any character. Without them, it is nearly impossible to create a believable character.

Rey is like Samwise Gamgee; she’s almost too perfect. But unlike Sam, she doesn’t develop a biased/funny rapport with a despicable character—Gollum—and she does not enjoy the essential ‘arc’, that is, character development.

Early in LOTR, Sam is shown to be a smidgen intimidated around Rose Cotton. Through his adventures and suffering, he grows as a character. This is shown brilliantly and movingly when he faces off against Shelob. ‘Get away from him, you filth!’ is perhaps the most realistic line in the entire book, and it shows how much he has grown as a character.

Rey does not have that arc. She is already perfect, which is fine, but unrealistic and boring, from a writers’ perspective, anyway. (Watching the movie, at least we have Daisy Ridley, who is not boring to look at.)

Because she perfect, it is very difficult for anyone over 12 to truly relate to Rey. She is not an everywoman. She can do anything, and do it well, first time: Master an unfamiliar space ship and inherently know all its maneuvering capabilities, use a blaster with pinpoint accuracy the first time she uses it, swish and flick a light sword like a pro against a trained Sith, and anything else that needs doing.

Luke, on the other hand, is an everyman. Because he is boastful and occasionally snarky, and takes a while picking up on things, we can easily relate to him.

So remember, as a writer you can enjoy your movies, but you can also improve your craft if you pay attention to what makes some characters great, and what makes others . . . unbelievable.

How Disney Turned to the Dark Side

We live in a world where people have paid billions of dollars to witness Disney murder two beloved characters, Han Solo and Luke Skywalker.

To discover what seduced this once good entity over to the Dark Side, let’s look at Disney through the wise trained eyes of a Jedi Knight.

Like many of the most powerful Sith, Disney began as an innocent creature, trained up in the peaceful ways of the Force. For a long time it was comfortable following the rules, churching out harmless flicks like Lady and the Tramp, Cinderella, Bambi. Slowly, over the years, it acquired a taste for success. Now, this in itself was perfectly harmless; but its taste for success was inextricably linked with a fear of failing.

As Yoda once warned, fear is a path to the Dark Side.

This taste for success, and fear of failure, soon led to a hunger and thirst for more success. As any proper padowan knows, only the Sith give into desire.

So Disney stopped borrowing from the brothers Grim, and began to make its own choices, regardless of how it would affect others. The Path had changed from straightforward to askew. Then the inevitable happened: Disney convinced a Jedi Master to sell his soul. The sad day came on December 21, 2012. In addition to the other properties it had acquired (remember, owning anything is inherently selfish, which is why Jedi are trained to give up ownership), Disney now owned what had once been considered sacred—and promptly rejected the formula that had made the sacred arts worthy for so long.

Like many an overly ambitious Sith Lord before it, Disney completely rejected the established universe (the canon Star Wars Expanded Universe), and established its own Order, known colloquially as the New Canon.

In tune with its rejection of the past to which it owed its present power (or recently awakened Force), Disney then ruthlessly decided the most effective method of destroying its enemy is to slaughter its primary heroes: Han Solo and Luke Skywalker.

So Disney murdered them.

To ensure its continuing survival, and indeed, its legacy, Disney declares the Jedi destroyed, having efficiently wiped it out through its murder of innocents and its intentional confusion of its own history.

With the last Jedi having been dealt with, gone the way of the Force, Disney then kills off its Supreme Leader, because . . . that’s just what Sith do, apparently.

With the awakening of its new empire, Disney has placed its future in the young, mostly untrained hands of a whiny, temper-tantrum-prone brat, and an overly-talented girl child who somehow manages to be both boring and annoying simultaneously.

Now, from a writer’s perspective, how are we to respond to this new Dark Lord of the Sith? Well, like any proper Jedi, we must be patient and wise and expose the darkness. In the end—we hope and believe—the Force will bring itself into balance. After all, without Darth Vader, we would not have had Luke Skywalker (put another, more pessimistic way: without Darth Vader, we might not have needed Luke).

It is time to return to your own manuscripts. Take what you have learned, expose the dark side and refuse to forget the past. For it is our great histories which inform our present, and the wise learn from the past, imbibing its lessons and meditating on its wonders, never forgetting that without our bright past, our present would be even darker. You character’s histories should always be shaping their present actions and feelings and events.

In Sum: A writer can find his education in and improve his writing by everything he hears and reads and watches. So enjoy your movies and books, whether they are ‘Star Wars Legends’ or Disney-approved ‘awakened’ canon.

Character Introductions in Novels: Tips and Examples

Character introductions are ‘Key’ to crafting dynamic manuscripts. Fail in this endeavor and your novel just won’t fly. Your characters, however great and engaging they might become later on, must already possess their most intriguing trait when you introduce them; their first scene should make readers sit up and take notice. Like the morning routine scene in American Psycho.

When you write an introductory scene, try to imagine how your readers will respond. Will they be perusing with mild interest and then suddenly realize they are fascinated by this new and original character? This delightful moment has happened to me; I’ll be reading along, Quasi-enjoying the prose, when of a sudden I realize I’m being introduced to a totally unexpected and engaging villain. Sometimes it’s so good I have to go back and reread the introduction from the beginning.

I’ve included a bulleted list of Awesome Character Introduction Ideas as provided by tips from Best-Sellers and from my own experiences as a professional reader and developing writer.

Remember, you want your character intro to be: (1) Memorable (2) Unique, and (3) Engaging. So don’t give a dry list of physical clichés, i.e. ‘he was a tall, thin man with a beaked nose and long fingers.’ Make it pop. Do something different. Show readers how your character stands out, from his very first appearance.

Awesome Character Introduction Ideas List

  • Go back and show this character as having been in a previous scene with your MC
  • Make sure we meet the character when she is on the verge of a life change (or a life-changing event)
  • If you simply must use physical description, make it stand out, preferably by giving her some sort of handicap—this way she must strive or struggle to overcome something, which is always interesting and inspirational and stuff
  • Show the dude performing a strange action, like burying a body, only not at a cemetery—ooh
  • Have an established character describe your new main squeeze. This technique allows you to employ the classic physical-trait-description-intro without being a total chestnut
  • If it’s a First Person kind of story, have the character introduce himself (like Patrick Bateman)
  • Show her going about her daily routine—if that routine includes oddball work or peccadilloes

Because I’ve harped on it, let’s show an example of a physical-trait-description-introduction done right. This is Tolkien introducing readers to Elrond:

The face of Elrond was ageless, neither old nor young, though in it was written the memory of many things both glad and sorrowful. His hair was dark as the shadows of twilight, and upon it was set a circlet of silver; his eyes were grey as a clear evening, and in them was a light like the stars.’

Now that is how you describe a character.

For a ‘show-him-performing-a-strange-action type of introduction, check out the first scene with the nameless ‘Sorcerer’ in W.A.N.D.

In it we are introduced to a villain in a woodland setting, not casting evil spells or pronouncing curses upon his enemies, but going about his daily routine—albeit, a very strange and suspiciously mean routine. My brother suggests playing The Rising Sun, by The Animals while you read this passage, so I have generously embedded it here for your convenience.

Despite the volumes of spells he could recite, the collection of rituals he could perform, and the astral realms he could travel, the sorcerer was still stuck dragging this stinking troll through the forest, using nothing but a titanium-reinforced net and his own brute strength.

Having lain in wait for hours, he’d finally spotted a lone troll—a rare phenomenon. This one, probably on some kind of solitary game hunt, had triggered the Bouncing Merlin, resulting in instant bombardment by dozens of talismans imbued personally by the sorcerer. Though it fought and snarled and though its flesh was dense as elephant hide, the troll had eventually succumbed and gone still.

Sweat beginning to bead all over his body, the sorcerer wondered if he shouldn’t enchant some dupes for these little hunting expeditions of his. His leprechaun servants were helpful, but they weren’t very strong—and they kept stealing his shoes. He removed the wraparound sunglasses to wipe sweat from around his radiant eyes. The nose pieces left impressions, so he rubbed the bridge of his nose as well. He hated the shades. But not once had he regretted Seeing the thing that had caused his eyes to shine.’

In addition to the odd, memorable action being performed by the new character in his introductory scene, we are also treated to a slice of back story, cleverly slipped into the narrative without slowing things down.

If the character you are introducing will be known especially for her oddball or loony nature, you might try the Luna Lovegood intro. Find it on page 185 of the hardcover edition of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Careful though, once you start reading that, you might not be able to stop.

You’re a writer, and so you get the point. No reason to belabor the point. You’ve soaked up plenty of tips and are ready to try them out yourself. Experiment. Enjoy. Express the unique in your own special way!