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Jason Fry @jasoncfry
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Good morning! The Last Jedi novelization comes out in PB Tuesday. I'll offer some thoughts from the writing process in roughly chronological order. Hopefully it will be of some interest/answer some of the Qs folks had. (For which thank you.)
OK, that prologue. It's *NOT* a vision of a better life for Luke. It's a warning from the Force, which has used a dream to slip through Luke's defenses. In both dream and reality, Luke's life is seemingly tranquil but evil is ascendant everywhere else in the galaxy.
Why start there? I wanted to open with Luke and step back in time; to be in Luke's head in a way that would be harder later, when we're exploring Rey's story and he's a mystery she's trying to solve; and to introduce the idea of the Force as almost a character in its own right.
And OK, I knew that first line would be a record scratch that would get people talking. That's never a bad thing. (Though it sometimes felt like it when the first pages leaked before release and I had to grit my teeth and keep silent.)
Chapter 1 is Han's funeral. Huge tip of the cap to editor extraordinaire Elizabeth Schaefer here. We sat down to brainstorm additional material and agreed this was a scene we both wanted desperately to see. The hard part was where it could possibly work chronologically.
Sometimes you can solve a storytelling problem by running right at it. Leia knows they don't have time for this, but has been convinced the Resistance needs to see and hear from her. That sets up a nice character moment for her, full of conflict and pain she's keeping hidden.
We'll get to some stuff I wish I'd handled differently, so I hope you'll allow this: I'm proud of how I wrote Leia in this book. She's a character that has meant so much to me for so many years, writing her was a huge honor/responsibility, and I like to think I did her justice.
Chapter 2. I love the Tico sisters and was lucky enough to get to write two StudioFun books about them. I wanted to start earlier with them, if only for a quick scene, so we could spend more time with Paige, feel the impact of her loss, and see how devastating it is for Rose.
This scene essentially recreates one in my pal Elizabeth Wein's Cobalt Squadron. An "adapted scene" was an interesting writing challenge, which came up again with revisiting Rey's walk up the mountain -- first seen, of course, at the end of Alan Dean Foster's TFA novelization.
Chapter 3. Here's Connix, and now we're in the movie. I liked that Connix struggles with impossible decisions here, and we see her bear the weight of them later, even though she never tells anyone that she's struggling with whether she did the right thing.
That's something a novelization can do that a movie simply doesn't have time for: go deeper into peripheral characters' heads and weave more threads of their stories into the larger whole. I tried to do that with Connix and the FO officers we meet here.
BTW, despite the fuel issue, Connix didn't make the wrong decision. She did the best she could in an impossible situation, not letting herself be paralyzed by unknowns. Which, she notes, is what Leia taught her. I liked that depth and creating a connection between characters.
Hux, the FO, and the former Imperial captains: again, a novelization can give minor characters more interior life and moments that a movie can't afford. I loved portraying the FO as a bucket of crabs. That idea's already in the ST; it was a blast to play more with it.
Chapter 4. Back to Paige. I love pilots and putting the reader in their heads. And Tallie is the TLJ character I'd most like to write if I ever get the chance. She has a Betty Grable smile, but rather than being nose art, she's behind the stick. Forget that and she'll smoke you.
Loved going into Ackbar's head for reflections on Leia and command. I tried to squeeze another Ackbar bit into his death scene, but it didn't work. That's a peril of novelizations: you can muck things up by getting too peripheral when the story needs to be front and center.
A last bit from this chapter: BB-8 and Black One as characters. I liked that there's a whole level of interaction going on here unknown to Poe and the others, the chance to show us how BB-8 sees the world, and the idea of ships as characters. Hold that thought for the Falcon.
That finishes for Part I, so I'll stop for now and come back later today if folks seem into it. Hope there was something of interest in all that. And oh yeah: the paperback! It comes out Tuesday! Hope you'll give it a read! Thanks!
Hey! Meesa back! Before going on to Part II, a last note on Chapter 4. Rian's script mapped out the tension and pacing of Paige's death, but nothing prepped me for actually seeing it on-screen. That final close-up of Paige struck me as an instant icon.
No novelizer wants to think of their work as a mere transcription -- you want to create something that stand alone, even if it's not your story. I think my description of Paige's death is good work, but compared to the film? Nah. I did my best and took the L.
A general point on collaborations here. Rian was incredibly kind on walking me through the character arcs, shared the earlier iterations of the script, and told me to make use of anything I thought worked. He was incredibly generous from the jump. I'm very grateful.
He also said something I've made one of my writing commandments. TLJ has lots of heavy stuff and fateful turns, but Rian said he always wanted it to have that sense of Flash Gordon fun. His description: "lift, not drag." I think that's great advice for so many stories.
OK, Part II. Rey's on the stairs. I wanted the Ahch-To scenes to have a keen sense of nature, weather and the seasons. That's the primal essence of the Force that Rey senses in her ecstatic moment of connection. It was important to have that moment build on what had come before.
For me that thematic work is a mix. Mostly it's instinctive, whether it's my own story or one I'm interpreting, and in the early going I couldn't tell you why I'm emphasizing XYZ. I figure that out in the editing, then go back to strengthen what worked and rethink what didn't.
Rey assessing Luke's X-wing as salvage pays off with her line about knowing how to fix broken things and to wait. I think that's one of my better contributions, but I got there by accident. It started with wanting a scene of Rey trying to process Luke's rejection of her.
Rey's only just left Jakku, so there's some comfort in falling back on the habits that kept her alive as a scavenger. It gives her the idea of getting Chewie to intervene -- and, I realized, nicely set up her willingness to wait. I didn't know I was headed there, but it worked.
Chapter 6, Hux and Snoke. Lots of lore here, which I think it works because it shows us Hux as a technocrat who disdains those who aren't. At Pablo Hidalgo's suggestion, some of the lore got moved to Rose and Finn's hyperspace-tracking conversation, where it flowed much better.
Enter Kylo. I loved Rian's descision to ditch the mask -- Adam Driver's face is so expressive you want to use it, not hide it. The fingertip-and-tear scene was from the script. It wouldn't have worked on screen -- it's very Gimli and Galadriel's hair -- but I thought it did here.
Chapter 7 notes the TFA pilots are off gathering allies. We left placeholders for a subplot with Snap, Jess, et al, but I never wrote those scenes. There was no payoff within TLJ's story, so they were just noise. I loved when the Poe comic took on that mission. It worked there!
The details of Leia's Force awareness were shaped by The Weapon of a Jedi -- without which I couldn't have adapted TLJ. I wanted each Force-sensitive character's scenes to feel like a different conversation with the Force.
But those conversations had to have common ground and support each other. So Leia's awareness of the Force as created by life sets up not only how she saves herself in space, but also Rey's vision on the ledge. That makes the Force feel more like a character in its own right.
Super-small thing: I loved that Poe can't sew, and his admission of such. But "I'm not much of a sewer" was problematic on the page. He's not saying he's a drainage ditch, yet the reader also trips over "sew-er." I never found an answer that didn't annoy me.
I feel like I didn't do all I could have with Poe's arc, because I didn't grasp it until fairly late in the writing. (That's on me.) What interests me is Poe ends TLJ understanding his mistake but hasn't reflected on its true costs. Curious to see how future stories handle that.
Kylo's decision is such a deep, rich character scene; LFL's Jen Heddle was a lifesaver in figuring out how deeply to go into his POV. Note that we're getting Kylo's version of what happened. He believes it's true, and it's deeply shaped him. But it may not be the objective truth.
Leia's sense of Ben begins with her memory of him in the womb -- for which I followed Chuck Wendig's lead. But I also drew on my own experiences as a parent -- the aching tenderness, amazement, and anxiety that can and will ambush you as your child ages so impossibly fast.
And of course there's the searing detail of Kylo and Han's dice, which of course was a way to use Leia's memories to underline that searing scene on Crait. That scene pierces me no matter whose POV I consider it from.
That's a wrap on Part II, and enough for today. Thanks for listening and hope you liked it. Will pick up tomorrow. And hey, the paperback's out Tuesday! Hope you'll pick it up!
Sorry, life got in the way today. Before we plunge back into the TLJ novelization, I'll be at @Atomacon in Charleston, SC this weekend. If you're around, come say hi and we'll talk Star Wars, @JupiterPirates or anything else. Nice folks, a great con and a wonderful city! Woohoo!
OK, Part III. As filmed, Rey follows Luke in a montage without dialogue. I loved that, but decided to use dialogue from earlier versions of the script so I had more interplay between the characters. Sometimes something great on film needs a nudge for the page.
I think Chapter 9 shows you what I meant about not being able to be in Luke's head. Rey's trying to solve the riddle of Luke here and that's where the narrative focus needs to be. Being in Luke's head, however tempting it is for an OT guy, would have undermined that.
I *did* write several interludes for Luke -- Elizabeth and I dubbed them the InterLukes -- that gave us glimpses of what he'd been up to between ROTJ and TLJ. They were so much fun to write. And they included some unexpected meetings and ideas I thought were really cool. But.
The "but" is that they didn't work. At all. They were cool, but kept dragging us away from the story of TLJ, which is (ahem) not what a novelization should do. So exit the InterLukes. Oh well. Maybe someday they'll see the light of day. I can dream, right?
Re Chapter 9, why is Luke's iconic "time for the Jedi to end" line different? I initially worked from a script that had some alternate sequencing and subtly different dialogue than the final film. I did a quick redraft to match the most important lines, but missed that one. Ugh.
One more on Chapter 9. Here Rey follows Luke for several days, which seems problematic for the timeline of the slow-speed ship chase. I didn't worry about that -- like Dagobah in TESB, I see Ahch-To as basically Faerie, and a place where time may run differently.
Chapter 10 means I get to fanboy about Finn. I think the conclusion of his story is what I'm looking fwd to most about Ep IX. One thing I tried to do in the novelization was have Rose come to -- eventually -- understand where he came from and appreciate how extraordinary he is.
Finn's a child soldier who was brainwashed and brutalized, but it didn't touch his conscience. He won't kill for the FO, and abandons his entire life rather than do something that's wrong. TFA notes how brave that is, but I think still undersold it.
Finn describes meeting Rey as the first time he had someone he cared about to fight for. But now he can't help her, and he needs to move beyond a focus on one person. Still, all his instincts scream not to simply join another army, and who can possibly blame him for that?
Finn is almost unbelievably brave. He's shown more moral clarity than most anyone in the galaxy could muster. But he's still the kid that the FO brainwashed and brutalized. He has to figure out what to do next without map or mentor, and it makes sense that that's incredibly hard.
Now he's thrown in with Rose, another kid utterly unprepared for a wrenching change. Rose is an orphan. Her whole life was the sister she idolized, who just sacrificed her life for the Resistance. Rose follows Paige's lead even in death, devoting herself utterly to the cause.
Rose clings to that; without it, she'll drown in devastation. But it leaves her baffled and angered by Finn, because at first she doesn't get what he's been through and how it's shaped him. They're both shell-shocked and spend a good chunk of TLJ talking past each other.
Once Rose understands Finn, she realizes how extraordinary he is. That brings her back to living for people and not just for a cause. Finn learns the complementary lesson: there are causes worth risking everything for. He overcorrects -- but again, look where he's been.
It's messy, but in a way I really like, because it strikes me as very human. And I'm so excited to see where that leads Finn in Ep IX. BTW: If you haven't seen Attack the Block, fix that NOW. Because John Boyega is SO SO SO SO SO FREAKING GOOD.
Since we're rolling on Finn and Rose, let's go into Part IV a bit. Chapter 12 is where some of Hux's lines about tech got switched to Rose, and I think that works much better. Instead of Hux lecturing and preening, we learn something about Rose and watch her figuring stuff out.
I also wanted to eavesdrop on them longer -- I extended their dialogue at several points in the novelization because I wanted to spend more time with them. Some of the new dialogue was mine; other bits came from earlier scripts. Including Finn's "baby face" line, which I loved.
Re "jealous Rose," as I've written before, I wish I'd handled that more carefully. Yes, I think Rose is a bit jealous of Rey at first. And I think that's only human. But the larger issue is she's frustrated with Finn because he's focused on one person and not the larger cause.
I was ignorant of how toxic that jealousy trope is, and didn't realize that first part would blot out the bigger, more important part of what Rose is feeling. If I had, I would have been more careful to parse that out and show Rose working through it. Lesson learned, I hope.
Maz's cameo was another fun opportunity to give the reader a different POV -- that was one way I tried to supply the "lift, not drag" Rian talked about. It's also another of those "conversations with the Force" I mentioned a while back.
Chapter 13 sees Rey recalling her strange connection with Kylo back in TFA, which was a scene I really wanted to revisit. I think it's a key to understanding just how complicated their relationship is, and how it resists being boiled down to X -- whatever someone thinks X is.
Rey doesn't "download" Kylo's powers like in The Matrix. She already has great (albeit latent) power. By being in Kylo's mind, she accesses his training, not his power. Parallels are hard, but imagine the muscle memory and environmental awareness for being, say, an archer.
It's a shortcut, yes, but to powers within Rey's capabilities. And here's the important thing: she doesn't regard it as a blessing. She's *terrified* by what's been let loose. As she tells Luke, something in her is awake and she's afraid. She needs help -- and he won't help her.
Which touches on what I find so fascinating about Rey and Kylo's relationship. Lots of fans assess it as a potential romance, and maybe that's ultimately what it will be. (I have NO idea.) Certainly the famous scene in the hut verges on that.
But we fall back on romance because it's the best analogue we have. Rey and Kylo's relationship is more intimate than that. They've literally been in each other's minds. Rey's seen his deepest fears; he's seen the past she's buried. None of us have had that experience.
My point is romance may not be the endpoint of that. (Though it may be.) The analogue may be misleading, because it's an analogue. Their connection is deeper and stranger and far more complicated. I think TFA/TLJ covers those complications wonderfully, with Ep IX promising more.
Having both pleased and pissed off some of you, I'll seek shelter in Chapter 14. Holdo was a tough character to write because -- as with Luke/Rey -- I needed the reader in Poe's shoes trying to figure her out. The story demanded staying out of her head until very late.
The suggestion that Finn was flying the shuttle came from LFL. I loved it because it let me have Finn and Rose bang into each other more, which I could never resist. (Added bonus: it helps, at least a little bit, in explaining how Finn survives on Crait.)
Last bit for the afternoon: I invented the character Yago. I figured the Supremacy must have had a captain before Hux and Peavey showed up, and introducing him gave me another relationship I could use to explore the FO and its boiling ambitions and dangerous rivalries.
More later; for now, gonna watch my kid play Red Dead 2. Thanks for putting up with my ramblings. Novelization's out Tuesday! Hope you'll pick it up!
OK. More TLJ novelization ramblings incoming! Apologies if I get tired and have to quit early.
Something funny from Chapter 15: the script didn't note Rey's feelings about the rain. Probably since I don't like rain, I had her huddling miserably under the Falcon. Daisy Ridley's delight at rain surprised me in the best way. That was a hasty rewrite I was happy to make.
Chapter 16 has lots of detail -- I let it rip in describing games, shoes, eyewear etc. I wanted to capture how overwhelming the place would seem to a FO child soldier and a mining-colony orphan, and a riot of detail was my version of Rian's joyous tracking shot.
Lots going on in Chapter 17, so pull up a virtual chair! For openers, we hit the first of the three Rashomon-style flashbacks. Note all three use similar language, sentences and rhythms -- with some key differences. Another effort to translate visual storytelling to the page.
We also get the first deleted scene -- the "raid" on the Caretakers' village. I never saw the deleted scenes before pub day, so I was nervous about them. The music here was a particular worry. Pacing/tone/etc. is hard to get from script pages, and music is all about those things.
That deleted scene doesn't include the "father-daughter" dance, but the novelization does. It's an odd moment, but I thought it was a lovely one, which comes at a pivotal time for Luke and Rey. I get why Rian cut it, but I thought it worked on the page and was glad to show it.
Re the Master Codebreaker scene, I used an earlier version of the sequence, with Finn and Rose finding the MC in a cabaret and joining him for a caper -- which ended with the police swooping in and hauling the MC off to jail. Same record scratch as the film, different setup.
I loved that sequence and also loved such a big departure from what was filmed, if only for the canon fights it would have spawned. But at the very last moment, we decided that was bending a novelization's definition past the breaking point and went with the film version instead.
I was disappointed, but in hindsight that was the right call. An entire alternate sequence was a step too far. Still, those scenes was so much fun, with great character moments for all involved. I'd love to let them loose in the world someday. Fingers crossed.
Chapter 18 was a little scene that advanced the plot by showing Poe's growing agitation but also had some nice character notes: his affection and admiration for Leia, and his sizing up the world as a fighter pilot. But C-3PO's list of maladies is just Threepio being Threepio.
The highlight of Chapter 19 for me was writing BB-8's frustration with organic limitations and his equivalent of improvisation. I'd always been curious about a droid POV, and this was an ideal spot to have fun with it. Note that droids not being noticed will pay off later.
Here's a challenge: DJ's never named in the movie, and we never learn Chewie's pals are porgs. Yet I didn't want to keep writing "grungy human" and "big-eyed avian" any more than you wanted to keep reading those words. So I needed a solution that would attract minimal notice.
And that's it for the night. Thanks for sticking with me to the halfway point! If you're near Charleston, come to @Atomacon this weekend! Even if you're not, the TLJ novelization is out in PB tomorrow. If you've enjoyed these notes, I hope you'll read it.
Good morning! The TLJ novelization is out in paperback! Let's ramble on some more, shall we? Here's a link if you want a copy.
Folks asked about seeing TLJ. I wrote my first draft entirely off the scripts. I got an early screening, and had a brief window to make changes after the theatrical release. But those changes had to be minimal, so I focused on stuff like fight choreography and matching key lines.
On to Chapter 20. There's more Rose/Finn dialogue here, of my invention. If you want to know how rich the Star Wars universe is, I figured the GFFA had to have an established eeny meeny equivalent, so I checked Wookieepedia and discovered that was indeed the case. Amazing.
BTW, Rose thinking of the fathier as a living machine is a subtle callback to Chic Anderson's immortal call of Secretariat "moving like a tremendous machine" at the Belmont. I have a picture from the race above my writing desk. Things stick in your head.
I liked the additional dialogue that ends Chapter 20 -- you get another nice moment of contrast between Rose and Finn. And ... oh, that's the end of Part IV. Huh. Guess I should have done this chapter last night. Sorry!
Chapter 21, and the Force connecting Rey and Kylo again. I really like the way Rian built up to the elevator reveal about Rey's parents. It's interesting to speculate about why Kylo alludes to what he knows here, but doesn't drop the bomb.
Note also that Rey talks about the connection with Kylo letting him pillage her memories and feelings. She didn't *want* him in her head -- the TFA interrogation scene is a violation, one that suddenly rebounds on Kylo. And then very strange things start happening to them both.
Like I said earlier, the connection is deeper and stranger than the analogues, and not all of those analogues are comfortable ones. I think that complexity is great storytelling. We just have to remember this is still the middle, with lots of complications but no resolution.
Luke begins opening himself to the Force with awareness of nature and time around him, a moment that I hope builds on the earlier Ahch-To scenes being steeped in the natural world. For me, there's a direct line back to Luke's understanding of the Force in The Weapon of a Jedi.
The material about the Cosmic Force, OTOH, leans heavily on The Clone Wars. I've rewatched Yoda's arc in TCW many times, and it still amazes me that we got to see Yoda on Dagobah, hear Liam Neeson as Qui-Gon and learn more about the nature of the Force from George himself.
Here's Luke and Leia reconnecting: "But nothing so meaningless as distance could ever dim that presence in his awareness." Did I rewrite that sentence 50 times, or 100? It had to be right, which meant it had to break my heart.
I love Rian's use of the visual language of film to tell stories. There are the three flashbacks, of course, but I was pretty confident abt translating those to the page. But the transition between Rey in the cave and Rey/Kylo in the hut was the biggest challenge in the project.
After the cave we hear a voiceover of Rey reflecting on what's happened. As moviegoers we know that means time has passed and she's recounting the experience to someone else. The shock is seeing that she's confiding in Kylo. It's a great use of film's conventions and language.
How in the world do you replicate any of that on a page? I had no idea. I figured some answer would come to me subconsciously as I wrote, but I got to that transition and still had nothing. Cue a couple of days of walking around in circles muttering.
I saw I had to recreate that using prose conventions. The voiceover became Rey's reflection, reaching back to Jakku and echoing Tatooine Luke and bones in the sand. Rey decides whom to tell, and the head fake is the description points to Luke, who's even in the next little scene.
Authorial quicksand alert: I kept trying to explain that Luke grabbed a lightning rod off the roof, what it was doing there, etc. It kept stopping the narrative, and in a fight scene, no less. Finally I realized it didn't matter. It's a lightning rod! That's all the reader needs!
My key addition to the third flashback -- one of those things easier done on-page than on-screen -- is that Luke knows what he saw in Ben's mind will come to pass, and Ben knows it too. That shared knowledge is the Shakespearean cast of the die, from which neither can retreat.
Note that Luke's impulse to strike is a "brief, almost unwilling thought." He explicitly says he can't bring his saber down on his sister's son while he sleeps -- a repurposing and inversion of the same line as presented in Flashback #2.
It's not a novelization thing, but I just want to stop and note how much I love Rey's second offer of the saber to Luke. This time she's not awestruck or pleading, but fed up and impatient. "Take it or leave it, Master Skywalker." It's such a great little character moment.
In Chapter 22 Rose finally starts to understand Finn. I'd worked that moment out for Rose Tico: Resistance Fighter and followed its lead. It's Rose's journey in miniature: she starts by grousing abt Finn following around Rey, but ends appreciating his core goodness and bravery.
How should a novelization replicate a visual detail the audience needs to notice, such as DJ overhearing Holdo's plan? I zoomed out to full omniscient narrator and a matter-of-fact observation to show he was listening. It's clanky and klutzy and I hate it.
For the Luke/Yoda scene, I had to match the dialogue exactly to capture Yoda's sophistry about Rey and the books. You'll spot references to Claudia Gray and Cavan Scott's work in A Certain Point of View. Weaving subtle nods to the books and comics into this book was a lot of fun.
Han Solo's note in Clynese -- a nod to LFL's James Clyne -- was an aside in the script that I just had to keep. Some readers wanted a translation of what Chewie suggested to Rey, but no.
Writing dialogue for DJ was hard -- his patter is so distinctive, even without the stammer -- but I enjoyed doing it in the extended scene with him, Finn and Rose. I also liked giving Finn a reflective moment -- he's edging toward realizing the Resistance is his cause after all.
I jumped to the FO pilots' point of view for Rey's escape pod being brought aboard for a few reasons: a) alternate viewpoint for a little lift not drag; b) I thought it was cool that the Resistance pilots would have felt the same way; and c) uh, I really love fighter pilots?
I loved having Rey and Kylo's verbal fencing here, but on further review Kylo shouldn't have smiled. Some readers objected that Rey couldn't have heard Finn challenge Kylo back on SK Base, but I saw her as dazed and hurt (to quote the TFA novelization), not actually unconscious.
OK, it's my kid's last day in NYC before he goes back to school and I promised him a blowout dim sum feast. Back later, overstuffed and groaning. Thanks for listening! And here's the TLJ paperback, if you're so inclined:
All right, post-dim sum! (Burp.) For Chapter 24, I had a blast extending the laundry-room scene, in which Finn quotes Delilah S. Dawson's Phasma and keeps insisting it'll be OK. It's fun, but this stretch also lets Rose (and us) see the model FO officer Finn might have become.
Finn running into an old stormtrooper comrade was another scene I didn't see until I'd written my version. I loved that scene, and sighed with relief that I'd been more or less on target. Less fun: debating the proper style for "hi-ho."
Poe entering the coordinates Holdo uses was my addition. It wasn't meant to argue with his arc in the movie, suggest Holdo needed him, or anything like that. I liked it as a bit of irony amid the chaos and desperation that follows.
One rule I followed scrupulously was not assuming that the reader had seen the movie. If something was a surprise for the characters, it had to be a surprise for the reader. Poe reacting to Leia's arrival is one example among many.
Chapter 25 is a dense one. Let's start with Snoke's past. This section started with Pablo Hidalgo and Leland Chee patiently tolerating me pinging them with questions and ideas. I tried to walk a careful line, giving insights into Snoke without tying future storytellers' hands.
That's been a years-long learning process for me. I've written lots of lore books, where my instinct was to define everything I could. It's taken me a while to learn that isn't always to the story's benefit. Writing @JupiterPirates helped me see that.
So did Dark Horse's Randy Stradley, who argued that "when you define, you confine." And John Jackson Miller, who's compared writing shared IP to hiking in a nat'l park, keeping your footprint minimal. And Jen Heddle, who's had to patiently ask if we really need X too many times.
I'm still learning, but I think I've gotten a lot better at supplying evocative details while leaving maximum storytelling space. So I was really happy when this section came back with only a couple of deletions requested. And no, I can't tell you what they were.
Snoke's POV is another of those conversations with the Force -- and of course the discussion of visions sets up his doom. He's not alone in being over-reliant on visions -- both Rey and Kylo focus too rigidly on the small piece they've seen of a bigger, more complicated picture.
That note about Snoke reading the "Jedi lineage" behind Anakin's saber puzzled some readers, which is my fault. I was thinking not of families but of masters and apprentices, whose sabers resemble each other's. That's the lineage I had in mind.
I liked fleshing out Leia's return and thought her arrival was very Leia. She enters the room, is instantly in command, defuses the situation with a simple gesture and then gets everybody moving in the same direction again. Oh, there'll be hell to pay, but later.
The scene of Snoke invading Rey's mind is rough stuff. I didn't shrink from portraying it as a violation, trusting my editors to rein me in if I took it too far. That's better than playing for a tie and winding up with something weak. But it takes trust on both sides.
I think I did a good job with Snoke considering Kylo. I like the duality of this section -- Snoke's disappointment is the same thing that's given Rey hope. I also liked the question of whether being made from both dark and light is a profound strength or an insurmountable flaw.
With the transports gone, I could finally get into Holdo's head, which I was really eager to do. I'm not religious, but the impulses aren't foreign to me, and I tried to give Holdo's acceptance of her sacrifice a real sense of grace. I hope I succeeded and did her justice.
Chapter 26 is the payoff for "nobody notices a droid." A challenge: I knew BB-8 would keep fighting, and had to figure out what he'd try and why it wouldn't work. BTW, speaking of droids, Michael Kogge's junior TLJ novelization has an R2 scene that's so good it should be illegal.
Chapter 27, for me, is Finn's crowning moment. DJ has played on his desire to avoid joining causes, keep his head down and try to escape. But he realizes just how wrong DJ is. John Boyega nails the scene, of course; I tried to show what was in his character's head.
Oh lord, the fight scene. Those are really hard under the best of circumstances -- you rarely get the choreography in a script -- and I wasn't able to pause/replay. I did my best to capture the iconic moments and hoped that was enough. (Yes, I know I missed the thigh grab.)
My strategy was to show the fight from Rey's POV, and let us see her newfound sense of the Force paying off. Her realization is much the same as Luke's in Weapon of a Jedi, which is not a mistake. And her sense of being the Force's instrument will be important again soon.
In Chapter 28 we get a fair amount of lore from Finn about stormtrooper executioners. I thought it worked here, because it's not just lore but also a character moment. Finn's recalling his FO past, and even now he has some sympathy for the troopers doing a job that was once his.
Holdo's end comes with a mock-scientific explanation, which I also used when Leia's blasted into space. I wanted to underline those scenes by changing the tone and writing from a dispassionate distance. But that's hindsight. At the time it just felt right, for whatever reason.
There's a lesson there, I think: follow your writing instincts, even if you can't articulate why something feels right. You'll figure it out later and be able to adjust accordingly. If things aren't working, stop and analyze; otherwise, let it rip.
The Rey scene that ends Chapter 29 had an interesting genesis. We had a placeholder for a possible fight scene, but that felt wrong to me. I realized what I wanted was much quieter: Rey has just had everything she thought she knew upended. I wanted to see her take stock of that.
I still had lots to work with. Why did Rey spare Kylo? What does she expect now? The answer I came up with brought together a lot I'd explored: Force visions, being its instrument, understanding its will, Kylo's future, Luke's mistakes, and Rey's own. Not bad for a little scene!
And that's a wrap for Part V. Back tomorrow to finish up. Thanks for listening! Come to @Atomacon! And buy a paperback maybe?
Hello! Let's finish walking through the novelization of The Last Jedi. Really appreciate everyone who's followed along and asked questions; apologies for the ones I missed or can't answer. If you want to get the paperback (thank you!), it's here:
So, Part VI. I began with a little shoelace scene I could blow up into a character moment for Leia. I wanted to explore her as a leader who's wise and caring but pragmatic, and ruthless when she has to be. And to show the cost of decades of carrying that weight, often alone.
For example, she sees the pilots Goode and Nell are suffering, and knows that will get worse. She sees that, and she'll do her best to help them. But it won't matter if they die -- and preventing that is her priority right now. So BAM, she puts it aside. But at a cost to herself.
Less heavily, there's a little bit about planetfall and how a planet goes from being an object in space to the entirety of your surroundings. I filched that from Jack Vance, one of my favorite space-opera authors. (Try The Dying Earth, Lyonesse, or Araminta Station.)
The little dramatic flourish closing Chapter 30 was requested in the editing, and I needed it. I love character moments so much that sometimes I lose sight of the story, and the need to keep ratcheting up the tension for the reader. Your editor will save you -- if you listen!
I liked the little addition to Finn's rah-rah speech, with Rose noting he's said "we." (But also note Finn thinks the magic word is "fight." Uh-oh.) I'd thought of that moment from Rose's perspective for Rose Tico: Resistance Fighter and saw no reason it couldn't do double duty.
The bit about asteroid slalom and the ski speeders was another bit of double duty -- I wrote it for DK's Cross-Sections book -- but in hindsight it's a big chunk of lore when we want story. It would work better if grounded as part of Rose assessing the ski speeders for combat.
That's another trick I'm still working to turn into muscle memory. If you've got needed lore or exposition, present it in a way that also accomplishes something else. Make it part of dialogue between characters who disagree, or wed it to a character moment. Much easier to digest.
I'm happier about the comic beat I added for Rose, Poe and Finn. BTW, when Finn asks "How hard can it be?" I had Rose reply "it's incredibly hard," a nod to Moneyball. But then I realized it would be super-tacky to reference another movie in a novelization. Yikes. I still cringe.
A chance I jumped at was adding Nien Nunb to the ground battle. He's a veteran of Endor and Starkiller Base, so I figure Poe would have wanted him in a cockpit. Plus he's Nien Nunb, and Nien Nunb is awesome. Just please don't ask me to pronounce his name.
Calling the FO cannon a "scientific sun" was a Clash reference, of all things. It stuck in my mind and I thought it worked, so what the heck.
There's a bobble in Chapter 33 that I think/hope was excised in later printings: the silence is broken by the sound of Luke's footsteps. I missed that in my post-movie edit and felt awful. Like "I'm going to spend a week lying in a dark room thinking about what I've done" awful.
Good idea: going into Hux's head for the shuttle scenes, deepening the FO crabs-in-a-bucket subplot of the ST. Bad idea: Hux pondering the origins of the FO stormtroopers. That lore is dear to my heart (it's from Servants of the Empire) but that was the wrong place for a tangent.
A note as we near the end, which applies to this whole giant thread: there are points I didn't/won't address because it would require going deeper into what was scripted than I feel is right. That's not a gag order, but my decision. The script is Rian's house, and I was a guest.
After completing the first draft, I shared a photo of two piles of influential books. The Star Wars ones don't need an explanation now, but the others do. So: Gremlins and Howard the Duck were novelizations Rian and Pablo noted were fun and took interesting chances.
The Little Island is a classic kids' book with some amazing depths -- it's about nature and unity and interconnectedness. (Everything, in other words.) It was a lighthouse of sorts for the Ahch-To scenes and their sense of nature, and I nodded to it in a couple of descriptions.
The other book, by the amazing Donna Leon, quotes a line from Medea: "Hate is a bottomless pit; I will pour and pour." I thought that was perfect for Luke sizing up Kylo in Chapter 34. But it was an allusion too far, so I cut it. You can probably spot where it would have gone.
Warnings about prioritizing lore over story would definitely apply to C-3PO, who somehow refrains from nattering on to Poe about animal plural nouns (properly "terms of venery," as he'd tell you). I got that idea when Pablo included "skulk of vulptices" in the TLJ official guide.
R2-D2 having to coax the Falcon to cooperate connects with BB-8 and Black One earlier, but the idea of a droid talking to the Falcon goes back to TESB. Yes, I'd read Solo at this point, and so yes, I took the opportunity to sneak in an Easter egg about L3. Wouldn't you have?
Luke's death ... wow. First off, I was *terrified* that I'd somehow, inexplicably, blow this enormous secret. I actually worried about stuff like, "What if I sustain a head injury and wander the streets of Brooklyn screaming out 'Luke passes into the Force in Ep 8'?"
As I wrote, I knew exactly where I was in my spreadsheet of scenes in relation to that one -- that I was 10 scenes away, then five, then two. When I finally got there, I took a deep breath. But then writing it ... was easy. It only took a couple of minutes. Which seemed weird.
Then I realized why it had been easy: because it was the scene I'd been writing over and over in my head for months. The little subconscious elves down in the writing engine room had been obsessed with that scene, and I'd worked out every element I wanted before I got there.
I wanted the feeling of being enmeshed in nature, the awareness of life's elemental connection to the Force, and the note that even Luke Skywalker's life was but a tiny ripple in something so much bigger. And a grace note: familiar words of comfort, maybe heard, maybe imagined.
When Luke passes into the Force Rey is stricken -- and it's Leia who picks her up. She feels it too, but things have to be done. It's such a little moment, and such a great one. Rian nailed it, as he did so many moments, and I just tried not to screw it up.
Ah, Kylo and the vanishing dice. (Which is such a great joke.) Within the novelization, it's the payoff for that detail about Ben as a boy and what the dice meant to him. It's one of the simplest author's tricks: you work backwards. Find the payoff, then invest in it earlier.
Rey severs their connection, and Kylo sees no compassion in her eyes. I wrote that as fact, not Kylo's POV. As Rey sees it, she risked all on a vision, and he disappointed and betrayed her. It's what makes Daisy Ridley's "don't do this" so great. She's not outraged but desolate.
As reflected in Rey's thoughts after escaping the Supremacy, Kylo has his own reckoning to work through -- with the Force and with himself. And he's going to have to navigate that without her. What's the outcome of that? I have no idea.
That's what makes the storytelling so great -- there's a huge spectrum of possible outcomes. Maybe she'll feel compassion for him again. Maybe that chance was lost. Their connection is deep, strange -- and complicated. Verrrry complicated. We'll find out ... IN A YEAR? OH C'MON!
Next up: Leia and Chewie in the Falcon. It's a non-movie scene that's a lot of people's favorite in the book. Maybe mine too. And it didn't exist until the very last day or two of the project. LFL's Mike Siglain and Jen Heddle organized a call and asked for it to be added.
Seriously, it was the very end. My first reaction was essentially, "You have GOT to be kidding me." Then Mike and Jen explained the scene they'd thought of. It was perfect, and I was amazed that I'd get to write it. And then I thought: "Please don't let me screw this one up."
It was a chance to show the unbelievably cruel toll that so many years of having to fight and lead and sustain others have taken on Leia. It was a chance to let her break, as anyone who's not Leia Organa would have broken decades earlier.
She can break because it's Chewie, the closest thing to safety in her now-sundered Star Wars family. And even then, she tries not to. It's Chewie who pulls her into his arms. And then she masters herself and goes out to keep leading, which for me is the most heartbreaking part.
It's one of my favorite things I've written in Star Wars, but if you love that scene thank Jen and Mike, not me. I didn't think of it; they did. All I did was not screw it up.
From the sublime to the ridiculous: You'll notice I folded the Rey/Poe introduction into the bland "Poe looked up from talking with Rey." That meeting is a hill some folks are determined to die on, and I had zero interest in being part of that melee.
So then we go back to Ahch-To ... and the fish-nuns? I wanted to underline the theme of the Force being so much bigger than even a great Jedi Master's life. Reflecting on Luke's time as but one episode in a millennia-old chain of custody seemed like an interesting way to do it.
And here's Broom Boy. Folks have asked why we don't see him grab the broom with the Force. Well, when I first saw the movie I missed it. When I went to revise, I struggled with how to make what's a small, almost inconsequential gesture on-screen not read "too large" on the page.
I *should* have written "Temiri called his broom to his hand and returned..." With no mention of the Force. That would have read small, but I didn't think of it in time. So we get to end with a failure of mine. But the greatest teacher, failure is. I think that's from a movie?
One of my favorite parts of the novelization was writing the Acknowledgments, because they made me realize how lucky I've been to be treated with kindness and patience I frequently didn't deserve. That includes you for reading all this. Thank you so much.
And oh yeah, the paperback's out! That's it! May the Force be with you, be kind to each other, and don't go too crazy waiting for it to be next December. /FIN
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