Star Wars: The Force Awakens smashed the American record for largest opening weekend movie box office, with more than $247 million in ticket sales, surpassing Jurassic World.

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The astounding start for The Force Awakens is testament to nostalgia and the power of great stories. In honor of the seventh installment in the saga, here are seven lessons about great storytelling we’ve learned from Star Wars.

  1. A simple story. Stars Wars is really a western, set a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. It features simple, traditional themes of good versus evil and parent-child conflict. Throw in a hint of a love interest and you have an easy-to-understand narrative.
  2. Interesting, well-drawn characters. Star Wars is packed with fascinating characters. There are protagonists to root for, flawed antagonists to root against and complementary characters to make the story come alive.
  3. Attention to detail. People notice little things. They can be the difference between a mediocre story and a great one. Details increase credibility and interest.
  4. A beginning, middle and end. Star Wars has a distinct story arc:  A catchy beginning that captures the imagination and quickly draws  viewers into the story; a middle that establishes relationships and creates conflict; and an ending where the conflict is resolved, questions are answered and satisfaction is achieved (even if the ending is not a happy one).
  5. Creative elements. Surprises and memorable flourishes – costuming, staging and special effects – speak to us. Descriptive words and pictures, clever phrases and active voice generate excitement.
  6. A logical sequence of events. Stories are better when the action is focused in a confined space – not too broad. Pauses and simple text allow for understanding of complex ideas. Short, declarative sentences quicken the pace and build momentum to the conclusion.
  7. Impact. Great stories end with a strong words and pictures that make an emotional connection and deliver on the initial promise of the story.

Effective storytelling is a skill – and an art.  Doing it well will put you light years ahead of the competition.