Let's see some ID: Exploring character in I, JEDI

September 29, 2017

“None of us liked waiting in ambush, primarily because we couldn't be wholly certain we weren't the ones being set up for a hot-vape”
- Opening line of
I, JEDI

 

Today we are discussing character and we will be examining the novel I, JEDI by Michael Stackpole. Published in May of 1998, the story is set between CHAMPIONS OF THE FORCE (JEDI ACADEMY trilogy) and before CHILDREN OF THE JEDI (CALLISTA trilogy). Michael wrote the story after both those trilogies had concluded and been published. The events portrayed do overlap with those other books, taking place 11 years after the Battle of Yavin in the timeline. The 88-scene story is fairly unique in the Expanded Universe's collection of full length novels for its employment of a first person storyteller: Corran Horn.

 

As John Truby, in THE ANATOMY OF STORY, states “The use of a storyteller often signals a shift from a hero who acts – usually a fighter – to a hero who creates – an artist.” Indeed, this technique is used to cradle the birth of the new Jedi Order. What we see is what the values of this next generation of Jedi are, what they can do, and most importantly, the development of their identity. Even after we leave the Academy, Corran's journey to find himself still parallels the creation of a new jedi order as he struggles to form his new identity.

 

“I want to learn the ways of the Force and become a Jedi like my father” - Luke Skywalker

 

Before we get too eager to light the engines up and take off, we should do our preflight to examine what a character actually is.

 

Where many aspiring authors go wrong with character is that they approach the cast of a story as individuals first. They are not. Nor are they truly separate entities. Every character, from the villain to the minor ally, serves to draw out a facet of the protagonist. It is the relationship of the characters that form the structure of the story and the structure is what provides the momentum. There is only 1 [meta]character in every story spine, but thousands of different faces each representing a different concept or variant being played out within that story.

 

Storytelling, from the modern film to ancient dramatic plays, has always been an imitation. Characters can seem very real. More real then we are ourselves, but the truth is characters are mere illusions. We can see deities and demigods play the role of embodied concepts and forces of nature in ancient mythology. Our characters might not be divine beings any more, but that precept continues to be employed today. These illusions are superior to reality because their true nature is always known – at least to the storyteller- and the traits we cloak them in are not accidents. A character like Kyp is extremely strong in the Force because he represents a Luke who grew up without his aunt and uncle's guidance in the story told by the JEDI ACADEMY trilogy. The traits of the character are chosen to support the story. In I, JEDI, where Kyp represents a different theme regarding justice and reconciliation, we rarely see him actually act on the proverbial stage except in his new role. His impressive Force powers garner little more than a sentence or two. For the role he plays here, it's not a needed trait; That trait is sidelined in favor of ones showcasing him being influenced by Exar Kun.

 

Traits serve multiple purposes, but they are not the true character. Gender, orientation, species, ethnicity, hair color, skill with the Force, ability to pilot starfighters, intellect, physical strength – these are there to place our characters in the world(s) and wrap them in the illusion of believably. Often, these are for distinction. Unless you're telling a story that takes place on Dathomir, it probably won't matter if the character is wrapped in a male or female illusion (we'll cover this more when we get to diversity in storytelling). Now, these traits can be imbued with meanings. In Star Wars, the trait of how strong a character is in the Force often is related to their identity. As Luke learns more about who he is, he grows in the Force from “taken your first step into a larger world” to trusting the Force (read: himself) to make his long shot. Vader, who has lost his identity, is “more machine now, than man”. Obi-wan reveals his true nature is one of self-sacrifice (“if you strike me down...”), just before becoming one with the Force. When we first meet Yoda, he's concealing his identity – and by extension, his presence in the Force. In the cave, when Luke faces the dark side of the Force, what does he find? Himself. Once he's come into his own he confirms his identity: “I am a jedi, like my father before me.” Luke isn't strong in the Force because of it's a 'cool trait' to endow on a character, but because it's apart of the symbolism of identity that is comparable to other character's sense of self. Coming back to the novel of I, JEDI, the Force once again reprises its role as a symbol for a character's identity. The inciting incident of the story is the loss of Mirax, an event felt through the Force and leaves Corran with the challenge of a loss identity. As his former CorSec partner points out, his enemy right now is himself. Immediately following, Corran delves into study of the Force to find a lead – the beginning of a study in who he is so that he can save Mirax from the unknown threat that has her.

 

These traits, the things most people see in a character, aren't what actually defines the character. A character is the metaphor of human nature that we wrapped the illusion of life around. Some call this the Deep or True Character.  As Robert McKee, in his book STORY (p101), tells us “True character is revealed in the choices a human being makes under pressure – the greater the pressure, the truer the choice to the character's essential nature.” The more pressure the forces of antagonism attack the protagonist with, the more we get to know them.  As they interact with other characters in the story, the more we explore the nature they represent.  With the progression of the story, and their growth at the hands of the other characters in the cast, the more the represented concept evolves.

 

“That’s good; You’ve taken your first step into a larger world” - Obi Wan Kenobi

 

For this section of the analysis, we are going to be looking at the scenes surrounding the Khuiumin Survivors. By this point in I, JEDI, Corran has begun to get an idea of who he is and where he comes from. Having just left the Jedi Academy, revisited his family on Corellia, and met up with Booster, he knows what he is capable of and what resources he has to work with. What's important here is less what the character actually has and more what the character presently represents in the story's theme. He has gone from representing someone without an identity of self to someone with an identity that is seeking direction. He knows where he comes from but doesn't know where he's going yet.

 

Part of the transition into this next act deals with law and justice. We see Booster, a criminal who has helped our protagonist, played off against CorSec/Public Safety Service, a force of law who have become corrupt criminals in their authority. These scenes happen back to back. In order to find Mirax, Corran is going to need to flip his typical notions of law and justice on it's head. This theme plays out again later in the transition to the final act when we meet the Jensaarai – a Sith order who turned away from embracing the dark side.

 

The first step in this shift is him stealing the transport under an alter-ego. It's played up for humor, but all through the scene is a fan of Corran's constantly contrasting his former self with the new false identity that will be mixed up with the Invid's pirate allies. It reiterates the theme of identity and seeking to plot a course into the future.

Corran knows who he is but doesn't know where he is going. To that end, his first encounter is with those who think they know who they are but have ended up somewhere they don't belong: Pirates set against the Empire working for an Imperial warlord. Enter Rock Squadron, a fighter squadron that plays counterpart to Corran's past with the Rogues. Corran's goal with them, which even he hardly recognizes until late in the act, is to redeem and set them back on their course.

 

This group's theme comes to a head when they are pitted against Rogue Squadron, forcing Corran to into a difficult position. They overcome the problem by fighting as their rebel counterparts would in their shoes. Corran's steps to get them back on track is largely a success.

 

"This bounty hunter is my kind of scum. Fearless and inventive." - Jabba the Hutt

 

In this act is also the opponent of Remart – someone Corran states might have been him if he had fallen in with the survivors instead of the rebellion. Initially, Remart was with Rock squadron – someone who knew who they were and then got lost. As Remart moves to Bolt squadron, we see someone who has decidedly plotted a course seeking power, wealth, and pleasures. In Remart we see someone who justifies the means with the end. When Corran faces the same fork in the road by the end of the act, he chooses a remarkable different course.

 

Remart is also the character that brings an ally onto the stage: Elegos. Elegos represents someone who knows who they are and where they are going – a guide for Corran in the arenas of morality, legacy, and helping Corran decide where to go next. This character naturally plays the role of researcher and procurer for Corran, allowing our hero to make the journey in the first place. As a story element, this character picks up the role previously played by Corran's ancestors. As a trait, Elegos shares a symbolic meaning with Tionne from the previous Act: Preservation and learning of the past.

 

Finally we have the last opponent in this act of the Story. If Corran represents someone who is looking for his path, Rock Squadron those who have misstepped, and Remart who choose his path as an opportunist, then Shala the Hutt represents someone who actively seeks to control the future. Shala is both schemer and symbolic of fate. In terms of traits we see someone who structures his gang to be the one always in control of fate and is the one who plots the Jedi's demise with a trap. As the last opponent dealt with, Shala is used as a parallel to Exar Kun. Like Kun, Shala represents the desire to seize fate and force it to act on our hero's behalf. The consequences of this moral argument are played out in Shala's death.

 

Corran rejects this once again, opting to take the path of opportunity like Remart but with remarkably different motivations and goals in mind. Instead of following Remart directly however, Corran plays his hand towards love of Mirax and choosing to achieve victory by throwing as few lethal blows as possible. He is true to himself. A hand that pays off when Luke and Ooryl show up as we transition into the next Act. Let's look at this final victory a little bit closer for it posits a false opponent in Corran's path: himself. This final act of killing himself is never carried out because Corran already knows who he is. That battle has been won. What's important regarding this element of the story is Corran's methodology. In broad terms, he trusts in the Force to provide his direction. As established, the Force represents his sense of self in this story. So when we say he trusts in the Force to provide his direction, what we mean is that after traveling through a world full of inverted truths he knows he won't stumble. He can trust himself to not cross that moral line in the sand. He started this act knowing who he was but not where he was heading; By the end, he knows both.

 

An important theme running throughout this act is the question of if the end justifies the means. Remart clearly belies so. Corran is certainly tempted with it. The most obvious use of this theme is with Tavira attacking him through his attraction but it's far from the only approach Corran is challenged. Remart, due to his brutality to both squadron mates and enemies, got the fast track to Tavira's side. Corran, who initially was ready to do the same to fit in before Nive corrected him on the culture of the squadron, ends up taking a path of compassion towards both. It is through Remart's representation of this argument that we see Corran grow the most in his quest for a direction.

 

“You don’t know the power of the Dark Side” - Darth Vader

 

What a character represents may not carry over from one story to the next. In their quest to limit character development but still tell a good story, comic book writers solved this problem with how they employed their colorful villains. These characters would attack certain aspects of the hero to draw that part of the hero into focus. Rare was it to see one attacking other aspects.

 

A quick example. In the popular Batman mythos, rival billionaire Penguin is utilized to attack the facet of Bruce Wayne – Batman's secret identity. Two-face, who started as a lawyer, is utilized to contrast batman's vigilante work to justice. The Riddler challenges Batman's detective side. Scarecrow mirrors the fear Batman strikes back into the heroes. Ra’s al Ghul, master of the Lazarus Pits, has garnered the immortality Batman needs to make a difference. Because that immortality of legacy is also something Batman desires, a satellite character of Ra’s al Ghul is a love interest. The Falcone crime bosses are the Wayne family of the underworld. Freeze attacks Batman by seeking to also preserve the memory of his family. Catwoman is used to showcase the enjoyment and hidden passion for the life in Gotham's shadows, which is why she is also a love interest. You can dig through many Batman comics, tv shows spanning decades, and movies – You'll find these characters routinely are utilized along these attack vectors. It's no accident but intentional design of character and story structure. Batman shows up in all these stories but represents a different element of human nature in each. This is made possible because of the cast of characters chosen for that story. Characters in any story are there for the sole purpose of drawing out specific parts of the hero the story is about.

Corran, when we first set out on this journey with him, is a fighter pilot and doesn't know how to use the Force intentionally – or even regularly. As a fighter pilot, he is not the best at individual combat either but he is knowledgeable in that arena. In the Force, he's at a loss when it comes to what is considered the basic ability to move small stones around. We have two dynamics here: physical and spiritual.

 

The central opponent in the Act that takes place on Yavin is Exar Kun, the Dark Man we don't know anything about and whom is a mystery. The first satellite character Kun attacks Corran with is Gantoris, who challenges Corran physically. When Corran defeats Gantoris in a sparring match, Kun has his underling killed. It would be fair to point out that Corran, like Gantoris, has a master in Luke Skywalker. There is a mirror structure going on, but we'll cover this relationship more when we discuss subplots.

 

The next attack on Corran is spiritual. Kyp Durron is flat out far superior then Corran when it comes to using the Force. More than just that, he challenges Corran's sense of law and justice. Kyp is 'defeated' when Corran makes peace with his connection to the Force and what he is capable of. While the notion of law and justice isn't resolved until much later in the book, the notion that being a jedi is a public service to the galaxy is arguably introduced within this act.

 

Immediately following, Corran faces off against Exar Kun. Kun challenges Corran with an attack that is both physical and spiritual- literally. Our hero emerges victorious because he has learned the art of misdirection through his study of the Force and is willing to sacrifice his physical well being to win a fight without throwing a strike.

It is through the actions of these characters who oppose Corran that we bring the true nature of our hero to the surface. And by extension of the subplot running through the novel, who the new Jedi Order are as an organization. Kun's attack on Corran's character ends with him going off to explore his past, namely with CorSec and Booster (exploring that lingering thread of law and justice to move us into the next act).

 

It is the structure of the story that develops the pace, tension, and moves the audience forward as characters build conflict with each other.  The storyteller, Stackpole, carefully arranged and manipulated the events that unfold.  These events are not random but purposeful.  Like a good director, a good writer will make the sound stage, the special effects, the actors, and the script blend together until we are as engaged with the story as we are to reality - if not more so.

 

Pacing and tension in a story are built up through beats that go between two contrasting positions - usually something positive to negative or negative to positive.  It is the play of the audience and a character’s expectations being subverted by the reality of the story.  The character’s reaction to this growing tension reveals more and more about who the character is.

 

Corran’s journey begins with the lost of his immediate family.  The positive of agreeing to have a child with his wife Mirax shifts to become a negative as she goes missing.  From the negativity comes the hope that Luke Skywalker’s new jedi academy might have answers for him.  From that positive, Corran quickly finds out he has a rival at the academy and struggles connecting with the Force.  He lifts himself out of this negative place by defeats Gantoris in a sparring session.  Then the Dark Man kills Gantoris.  Corran puts his detective skills to us, the academy gets a new student in Kyp, and they begin to delve deeper into the Force.  From this high, Corran discovers he lacks the ability to channel telekinetic powers like his peers - putting him at a severe disadvantage.  From this low, he gains a glimpse of Mirax, learns how to turn his weakness into a strength, and takes steps to unraveling the mystery of the Dark Man.  As we can observe, this back and forth builds as the story moves forward and more contrasting elements are introduced to the story.  These contrasting dimensions will resolve themselves throughout the story as the pressure on each one reaches a critical point and the hero is forced to act and choose.

 

As the hero grows, they change.  Their choices have consequences - not just within their characterization, but their deep character.  When Gantoris attacks Luke, Corran wants him to be punished.  Corran finds out Gantoris has been when Gantoris suffers a horrible death at the hands of Exar Kun.  Corran treats it as a CorSec agent would.  When Kyp steals the Sun Crusher and attacks Carida with it, Corran wants him to be punished for his crime.  This time, we see Corran track the blame to Exar Kun, but still wants Kype punished.  Part of Corran’s deep character, that part of him that is still CorSec, has yet to understand the Jedi position on the matter.  It’s when Corran comes into contact with the Survivors that this begins to change.  This happens when they begin to change their behavior under his leadership.  It is through Elegos that we see servitude to a greater good be played out - even if it’s done as a ruse.  We see Nive being haunted by his past deeds and other members of Rock Squadron deciding to leave their criminal life behind.  By the time we move into the final act against the Jensaarai, Corran is primed to offer them redemption instead of seeking to punish them.  His deep character has changed due to the revelations he has struggled with and the choices he makes in the story.

 

Not all of these choices are in the present, or made by Corran, but those that aren’t are still allowed to shape our protagonist.  Nejaa, assisting his step-grandfather with CorSec, is an example of this in action.  That lesson provides Corran with the blueprints to merge his CorSec framework with Jedi philosophy when on Khuiumin.  The revelation might not be Corran’s directly, but he shares in the journey through his ancestor’s memory.  Through this satellite character, Corran’s deep character is once again changed.  This is shown through the change in the characterization as Corran comes out of the process with a newly constructed lightsaber.

 

“Search your feelings! You know it be true!” - Darth Vader

 

Now that we've seen the deeper parts of a character, let's take a look at how a character comes to life. No one wants a flat character.  We like them well-rounded. We throw around the term three-dimensional character quite a bit but what does it mean? Most will give you a vague answer or start telling you about all the ‘cool’ powers they have. Unfortunately, this does not make a character interesting.  Those things we established where but only part of a character's illusion; The costume we dress them in for their time on the stage.  Truth is, a character isn't interesting because of what eccentric quirks they have.  Such quirks, if they do not support the theme represented, can even subtract from the character they are given to.

 

It is through contradictions that we create interesting, multi-dimensional characters. Not just any contradictions however, characters must be internally consistent if they are to be believable, but contradictions within deep character – those metaphors they represent - or with the part of the illusion of their characterization. A conflicting desire and weakness within the character for example. Corran Horn is trying to secure his future with Mirax, but at the same time, he doesn't know the truth about where he comes from. Both of these are played out within his deep character that deals with the central theme of his identity. He also undertakes this journey using a number of false identities but never as Corran Horn himself. That is a contrast between his deep character journey and his external characterization.

 

The main protagonist is the most interesting character because they have the most dimensions in the story.  Key word is “most” as there is a direct causation between these two values.  The famed character, Hamlet, is arguably one of the most dimensional characters in storytelling history.  Such a character is very much alive and compelling to the audience in large part because of the number of dimensions he has.  This is what keeps the spotlight on the hero.

 

This works for some very simple reasons.  The range of human experiences are experienced through two key frameworks: the emotional to the intellectual or the intellectual to the emotional.  In the former, we experience the effect on the human psyche and then analyse it.  We grow from it and learn.  In the later, we form a worldview about a subject which is subjected to the emotional reality afterwards.  We’re usually caught reeling in the moment.  Both shape our understanding and give meaning to events.  It’s how we grow.  Story, in all it’s forms, gives us an artificial means to invoke these aesthetic emotions.  As one of George R. R. Martin’s character’s once famously said, “A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies; The man who never reads lives only one.”  So when you have a seeming contradiction in the true nature of the character, the friction is going to be experienced in one of those two frameworks.  We want to see it resolved, and we’re curious how that will happen and what’s learned from it.  

 

This applies to friction that is going on inside the deep character, contrasting elements at play with their outer persona, or with other characters.  The intellectual Odysseus and the emotional and brave Achilles are mythological examples of this dichotomy acting upon one another on the character scale.  While we rarely having characters like Venus or Mars that personify forces of human nature in modern storytelling, what works on the large scale applies to the smaller, internal stage of characters (and vice versa).  At their heart, our most memorable characters are still metaphors for reality.

 

As pressure builds up around a character, it will force a resolution regarding their haunting contradictions.  The character must make a choice in how that is resolved which in turn reveals their true nature.  This difficult choice creates a meaningful experience, either emotionally or intellectually, for the character and the audience to share.  What happens then informs the opposite. A meaningful emotional event leads to thoughts provoked. A mind blowing revelation leads to soul searching.  The more dimensions any character has: the more dramatic resolutions we are promised, the more meaningful experiences we share with the character, and the more their true selves are revealed to us.  This is how and why we connect to the characters in a story and our protagonist is the most dimensional of them.

 

We see a number of dimensions from Corran.  First and foremost comes from his background in CorSec.  He values law and order, and yet, he spends part of the book as a criminal pirate.  The justice he sought as an officer of the law conflicts with the jedi virtue of redemption.  And of course there is the question regarding the means to achieve this justice.  There is a contrast in his desire to find his wife (and their future) when he doesn’t know his own buried past. For someone seeking the truth, he always shrouds himself in secret identities.  His swings back and forth between his two legacies, Horn and Halcyon, each struggling for dominance over him.  There is even a dimensionality that plays into a theme carried over from the JEDI ACADEMY trilogy too.  In JEDI ACADEMY, a character like Tionne represented the dichotomy of ‘there is no ignorance, there is knowledge’ and struggles to separate the two.  Corran has taken the aspect of ‘there is no death, there is the Force’, conflicting the nature of death (and by extension, self-sacrifice) and the Force within him.

 

 

What drives Corran is Mirax. Above all, his desire is her.  This desire brings him into conflict with the forces of antagonism in the story.  The Jensaarai, who kidnap Mirax, want to lure Halcyon (whom Corran has not become yet) out to kill him.  Exar Kun desires to have his power reestablished.  He can only due this by corrupting Luke’s Jedi students and using Corran to bring the Jensaarai back under his control.  Tavira desires power and wealth - and Corran’s secret identity for herself.

 

A character is more then just drive and motivation though. They don’t need to be aware of it, but all characters have a need to change. Above all, this need affects those around them. There are external consequences to others while a character has not yet changed in the way they need to.  For Corran, this need to know himself and become Halcyon, has a lasting impact on everyone he runs into - not just Mirax.  Some characters also have an additional need that is internal.  It only affects them, but still demands change nonetheless.

 

As we have established, characters are a metaphor of some part of human nature wrapped up in the illusion of believability. This true character is revealed by the choices they make under pressure - the greater the pressure, the truer the choice to the character's essential nature. These characters are often defined by who they interact with; In other words, who they are not - each time we compare (interact, fight, love, threaten, help, etc depending on the scene) a character with the hero, we distinguish the hero in new ways and explore the metaphor they represent. Every character in a story is simply there to play the role of revealing the protagonist's nature - individual entities, even when playing the hero, they are not. If the audience hasn't learned the character's true nature by the end of the story, you didn't put enough pressure on them to reveal their true nature.

 

Exar Kun is the first opponent Corran faces that we’ll be looking at. He attacks Corran’s body and spirit, the central pillar of any identity. Initially, the challenge comes from Gantoris through a physical approach.  The scenes involve Corran and his runs, sparring practice, and other physical activities. Once Corran has proved he can hold his own and isn’t vulnerable, Exar Kun shifts his attacks.  Following Gantoris, Kun attacks Corran through Kyp through a spiritual approach.  Kyp is better than Corran with the Force, able to do more, able to hold Luke’s attention away from the other students, and offers Corran no friendship.  In addition, while investigating the Dark Man - who himself is a spirit - it strains Corran’s relationships with the other students.  It further isolates him. Once Corran comes into his Force ability, realizing his unique family connection to the Force isn’t a flaw, Corran comes face to face with Exar Kun’s spirit himself.  In this final confrontation, our hero is attacked both physically and through the Force - finally overcoming the dark spirit.  We learn a great deal about Corran and his self-sacrificial nature, about his great ability to misdirect and persuade, and about who he sees himself as.

 

The next opponent is Tavira and by extension, the various Survivor groups. Corran is attacked subtly at first through his past.  As the forces of antagonism build, we can see it as an attack on Corran’s sense of morality.  Booster, CorSec, going undercover to join Rock Squadron. Remart attacks him both directly and indirectly in terms of ethics.  When there are no laws, what defines right and wrong?  Does might make right?  As Remart falls, Corran is assaulted anew with a challenge regarding what direction to proceed to get to Mirax.  Do the ends justify the means?  Here, he is attacked by Tavira herself and by her pirate captains.

 

Once Corran is the last of the pirate captains, we’re introduced to a new opponent: the Jensaarai. These challenge Corran physically, with lightsabers and numbers.  They push him spiritually, utilizing cloaking techniques in the Force Corran can’t counter and see through his greatest Force ability.  They attack him ethically by being the product of sith teachings of Exar Kun, and yet not evil like Exar Kun was.  And finally, they can strike at his family as both a Halcyon and with Mirax.

 

The final confrontation is climatic because the Jensaarai are able to challenge Horn on many different fronts and apply a great deal of pressure on him so we can see who he really is.  The notion that such a climactic encounter needs to have massive starships, super weapons, and other elements of spectacle is an illusion (ha! Yea...I’ll see myself out).  A popular misconception.  What makes any resolution great is the intensity that is placed on the deep character.  In that spark the audience gets the meaning and emotional substance out of their investment in the story.  In the case of I, JEDI, that resolution is the reason for the book’s title and the central lesson of Luke’s Jedi Order: the value of offering redemption.

 

“Because there is good in him, I've felt it. He won't turn me over to the Emperor. I can save him; I can turn him back to the good side. I have to try.” - Luke Skywalker

 

If a protagonist’s weaknesses determine the paths of approach for antagonists, then a protagonist’s strengths determines how their own approach to solve the obstacles in their path.  Character strengths come from the deep character and from the character’s traits.

 

A deep character strength of Corran is his virtue of justice.  Of many of the characters in the Jedi Academy, Corran is one of the few who has not been tempted by the dark side of the Force.  No matter what illusions are spun around him by himself, his step-father, or his father-in-law, Corran always has this internal moral compass.  This strength is contrasted with a desire to deal in punishment for crimes from the same source.  Character strengths of this nature can be turned into weaknesses.

 

On the other side of the spectrum, his skill as a pilot is a strength from his characterization. It is the environment where he is the most comfortable.  Unlike strengths that originate from his deep inner nature, characterization strengths highlight other characteristics.  His ability to think and react quickly, strategically assess situations, and take charge of small groups is showcased in this strength.  It is in utilizing these traits that Corran is able to influence Rock Squadron in order to overcome the obstacle they represent.

 

Finally, some character strengths can come from both - usually these are symbolic characterization.  Corran’s ability with the Force is one such character strength.  The power to create illusions are two-fold.  On the one hand, it is a trait that can be utilized like piloting to create approached to problem solving. It supplements his ability to go undercover and conjure solutions that don’t require striking his foe.  On the other, it is a manifestation of the virtue of identity and self sacrifice.  His exploration of who he is powers the many illusions.  Likewise, his telekinesis can only manifest by putting himself in danger first.

 

Characters reveal elements of who they are in many ways.  Dialogue, often misconstrued as shallow accents, is one such facet of characterization.  This is particularly important in stories that utilize first-person storytellers.  Do they communicate with concrete imagery or abstract?  Corran, formerly with CorSec and currently on-leave from the New Republic military, frames his thoughts and ideas through the lens of concrete detective work and weapon analogies. As a highly knowledgeable character, Corran is able to name many of the nouns and verbs he introduces the audience to - but not all.  These gaps in his knowledge, namely regarding the Sith and the dark side, injects mystery into the dialog he has with the audience.  Characters that lack knowledge tend to be much more vague in their nouns.

Not all characters are individuals.  Sometimes two or more can be treated as the same deep character.  In the case of I, JEDI, we see another technique: Organizations.  These form a subplot - a plot that mirrors and adds depth to the central exploration of the thematic argument of identity.  We see the Jedi students struggle with the questions of who they are.  They are opposed by the Jensaarai - a Sith organization - that has likewise struggled to reconcile their beliefs with their behavior of self defense.  Like the Jedi students at this time, they are not yet fully trained.  Where the Jedi find their identity in redemption, the Jensaarai found theirs in defense, and later in the jedi-offered redemption.

 

Both groups of Force users serve other organizations, in much the same ways.  The Jedi serve the New Republic; The Jensaarai serve Tavira’s Imperial forces.  At the time of the novel, the New Republic is still trying to establish itself and relies on many of its old tactics from it’s time as a Rebellion.  Tavira on the other hand has been forced to stretch her limited resources through coordination.  In the most pitched battle between these two forces, they are described as evenly matched.  The New Republic sought to restore peace.  Tavira desired power and wealth - before her sources of power turned on her one by one.

 

Two groups do, however, know who they are and are more interested in finding their direction in the galaxy.  These are the Survivors and Booster.  The Survivors are a criminal group of space pirates that are called on as needed by Tavira to provide support.  Above all, they look out for eachother.  Similarly, Booster uses his ship, the Errant Venture, to aid the New Republic and Corran.  Booster is also Mirax’s father - it is no surprise then that above all, he looks after his family.  He wants her back, even if that means working with Corran and following his lead.  The Survivors want to be able to find their own destiny, and eventually do when justice comes to Khuiumin.

 

As we follow Corran through the story, we emphasize with him and his choices.  We understand him and grow with him as contrasting elements force him to make certain choices.  He accepts training in the Force to protect his loved one - to build on the intricate legacy of his ancestors.  His training was influenced by the ancient Sith, Exar Kun, ultimately rejecting them for a more moral path of his own making. He then falls in with the Invids, helping their criminal organization as a pathway to secure a future for the one he loves.  We see hints of the Jensaarai throughout the story, but we really only meet them in the final act.  In that moment, we are giving a revelation: we emphasize with them.  This is made possible because every choice that lead them to where we find them are the same choices we emphasized when Corran made them himself.  We realize, along with Corran, that we already understand.  Every revelation and resolution made throughout the story applies to them.  We don’t get a lot of time with the Jensaarai but we don’t need much for that impact to be felt.  Stackpole utilizes this story structure to give empathy towards the main opponent weight.  We want to pull these opponents away from the forces that made them the villains in the first place comes. And in that moment, we are taught the most important lesson of what it means to be a Jedi within Luke Skywalker’s new Jedi Order.





 

 

To see more from Valerie, click here!

-Lets see some ID, exploring character in I, JEDI

-Behind Mist and Magic, Worldbuilding in THE COURTSHIP OF PRINCESS LEIA

-So beautifully plotted, narrative structure in the THRAWN trilogy (Coming Soon)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



 

 

Thanks everyone for joining me on this journey through I, JEDI and exploring the essence of character.  Next time we will be covering the stages a story takes places on and delve into the worldbuilding of COURTSHIP OF PRINCESS LEIA!

 

 

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