When I saw the first Star Wars movie in 1977, it was an excuse to do something on a rainy afternoon. Oh, how it changed my life (and the world). Yet as I followed along with the trilogy, I noticed something odd in the franchise. The New Hope film ends with the climactic battle with the Death Star. Yet so does the final movie, Return of the Jedi? Was it just a matter of recycling ideas?
As I delved into creating worlds of my own, I realized the two Death Stars (or three, if you see the original script for Return of the Jedi) wasn’t a mistake or a case of creative stagnation. The Death Star was always supposed to be in the third film. But never the first.
Looking back, we have to consider the risk that George Lucas tackled in the making of this film. He had no idea it would become a franchise. The studios were going to give him one chance to make a single film. That’s it. Although he knew his story sprawled out into three films, he also realized that, realistically, he would only get the first one made.
So he moved the Death Star to the first film.
Take a moment to consider the brilliance of that move. Yes, if he knew he were going to get three films (Lord of the Rings style) then he might have paced things out and saved the biggest confrontation for the end.
Except, things don’t work this way. We artists always struggle to get our ideas out there. Until we “make it” the work we can publish is all the public will ever see. So why save your Big Bang for some hypothetical future tale?
I am often frustrated with other writers who, when we critique their stories, try to defend the tale by telling us what will happen later in the story. Yes, but I want to see that sort of excitement and action now. As a reader, I might not ever get to the end of the story, much less some future sequel.
Take your Death Star moment and move it forward in your story. To the first chapter. The first sentence. (Well, maybe not that far). But the idea is this. Don’t save your best for last. Build your best ideas into your work right from the start.
Lucas knew he needed to captivate audiences right from the start. We need to do the same. Throw everything you have into your story, painting, or song. Make it the best possible. Never hold back.