Now I’m not going to explain swathes of nonsense about the little green character this week, rather I want to have a look at the role in storytelling of the teacher.

Yoda is far from the only master of sage wisdom in the Star Wars saga and indeed, even the bad guys have their entries in the faculty register clearly defined and the position of teacher is one that is regularly used to explore all kinds of relationships.

The position of the teacher is a vitally important role for all of us. Through our lives, we have to learn all manner of new things and all of the steps along the way, we rely on the input of others. We learn to drive, and we learn new languages, but before all that, we learn to speak, we learn to walk, we learn how to feed ourselves. We have to learn so much along the way, it’s no wonder that we have to rely on the input of others. The teacher, the aged master, the font of all knowledge, is a vital part of all of our lives and isn’t something that should be dismissed as trivial.

We all know a good teacher.

I’m married to one. My mum’s one. My school and college life gave me many others.

A great teacher can take any subject and breath life into it in ways that others may not even consider. Dry and dusty topics erupt in colour and sounds and draw everyone to them, filling all with a wild urgency to discover all that the subject could possibly have to offer.

But leaving behind school or college, the need for a strong teacher is still there. How many businesses have a dedicated Learning and Development department? In each job, you have to be shown what to do and we’ve all been forced to endure death by power point at the hands of someone who really isn’t built for the task.

In my career, I’ve been lucky enough to have filled this role myself and make sure that people are given the right tools to be able to do what they need to. And therein for me, lies the core of what the teacher is there to do.

Yoda did it. So did Mr. Miyagi. The teacher is the one who gives the protagonist all of the tools they need to be able to succeed. They explain things in such a way as to let the discoveries of proficiency be something that the student earns rather than just having them spoon-fed. The student is allowed to explore the materials they’ve been presented with and then apply them. Errors are used to highlight the correct outcome rather than just admonish and should the student think things are too free and easy, their teacher will be on hand to very quickly show them the error of their ways as they demonstrate just how strong they are and just how much further the student has to go. Ultimately, the student can be allowed to then achieve their own successes but also take responsibility for their failures.

A strong teacher is someone who is able to encourage and impart wisdom all the while keeping the student engaged with what they’re doing. I love the feeling of working with people in this field and watching on as they go on to successes fills me with a deep warm glow. I see everyone as being a part of my ‘team’ and I feel protective of my team. I’ll defend my team should they need defence but when it’s warranted rather than every time.

The teacher figure is the one who helps guide. A good teacher doesn’t dictate, rather they enthuse. Seemed to work out pretty well for Luke Skywalker and Daniel LaRusso.



In so many stories, the way that the action is kicked into action is in response to a dusty and long since overlooked prophecy.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Star Wars, Bright and lots of other TV shows have an element of the tale taking place which had been foretold way back when and no matter what activities unfold, it all fits into the planning which had been laid down all those years ago.

So why do we seem to lean on the prophecy idea as being such a solid point to start from?

Someone who most people will recognise is Nostradamus. So very much about the details of his life aren’t important to this point but his writings are regularly cited as being portentous of future events. Born in 1503, he wrote about activities which he felt were going to come to pass as the years marched on and there have been a great many occasions where it’s been claimed that a particular world event was indeed one of the predictions.

Now scholars have widely disregarded the writings of Nostradamus as being terrifyingly accurate but what they do show is the almost palpable desire for people to believe that somehow we could see into the future and predict what’s going to take place.

So why do we enjoy the idea of actions now having been foretold?

In religions across the world, there are holy texts which explain what will be happening at the end times and having that knowledge can be a comfort. If you know what’s coming, there’s no way that you’re going to be surprised when it arrives. Prophecy can show that a particular group has the truth of what’s coming so when something happens that can have the prophecy overlaid on it, everyone jumps to match them up.

In stories, the prophecies are surprisingly accurate in terms of the details which draw characters together but when prophecies in the real world are tested, they’re all oddly vague, with sweeping comments which could apply to any number of things. Claims of wars being foretold years ago aren’t really that reliable. War happens all of the time and has happened all of the time. There are never specific details which could pin down the prophecy to a specific conflict.

So again, why do we like the prophecy?

As a story telling tool, a prophecy shows that every character is merely a piece being moved into the correct position under the guidance of a greater hand and that all of the choices that are being made are inexorably going to lead to a predetermined end point. The people involved were always the special one, they were just taking the steps they were always going to before their importance was revealed.

Is it as simple as we all want to believe that deep down, we’re the special one in our own story, heading to the valiant conclusion?

I think I am. We’ll just have to see what the future holds.


It seems a strange thing that the underdog in any situation should be so readily supported.

This weekend saw the FA Cup on the telly box and all of the promo pieces seemed to focus on the examples of the little guy standing up and giving the big guy a bloody nose. And these aren’t the only examples of the phenomenon.

Think of every book or film which deals with a valiant protagonist taking on, and ultimately overcoming, an oppressive regime and the underdog is front and centre. Luke Skywalker, Winston Smith, Offred, Tron. These are all people who are mere cogs in the great machine that is the society they exist within yet they strike out against that society, against the clear injustice they see all around them, and in their different stories, are able to at the very least slap out at the oppressors, through to the complete overthrow of a regime.

This isn’t a new idea either.

The rebel uprising of Spartacus and his band of freed slaves has been told over and over again including being immortalised as both film and TV show and that, not only took place, but happened over two thousand years ago and most have heard about the story of David versus Goliath.

So why do we all seem to want to cheer on the little guy?

Are we all just a contrary lot who want to see the favourite get tripped up? Is it that we can’t accept the truth, like Jim Carrey? Or is it something else?

Now in sporting terms, fans will back their team when all the analysis shows they have no chance because it’s their team. It’s a tribal identity which goes far beyond big ‘un v little ‘un, but for the neutrals, our heads understand that on side is the heavy favourites but we just cling to the ‘what if’. Ninety nine times out of a hundred, the result will end up going the way you’d expect but on the very rare occasion, that one time, the system is turned on it’s head and the giant killing action is completed.

In storytelling, we love the idea that just a single voice, from the bottom of the power pyramid, can wield enough power to topple the mightiest dictator because, maybe, just maybe, should we have to, we could do the same. We want to see ourselves as the principled hero who’s going to stand up for what they believe in despite the overwhelming odds stacked against us. This doesn’t have to mean that we all want to be lightsaber twirling Jedi or that we all harbour desires to grow up to be an almost messianic saviour character in a broken world of the future, rather it can signify that deep down, we all recognise the need for that level of principle in a world which often punishes those ideals.

Who’s seen actions at school or work which have seen the relative bad guy win?

We all face choices to speak out or stay quiet every day and we all know what we should be saying on every occasion. But looking around the world and through history, it’s far too easy to pinpoint examples where speaking out would result in a swift and brutal response. There have been regimes which have stamped on even the slightest hint of dissent and ‘wrongthink’ could be punishable by death yet in these environments there are still the few who are willing to stand up for what they believe.

It’s our collective desires to be the good guy, the one doing the right thing that is so important. We see characters standing up for what’s right and that’s what we all want to see in ourselves, despite the risks. The bravery to stand up against a much stronger foe despite the imbalance of power.

Long live the underdog.


I had to do it didn’t I?

With the chance to blog on this most sacred of days to so many, it would be remiss of me to overlook the chance to at least mention ‘STAR WARS DAY’.

I was an earth shattering, 1 year old when the original film came out. As you may expect, I didn’t see the film in the cinema the first time round and truth be told, I can’t say that I was that fussed. I was more than happy dribbling on stuff and eating anything and everything I could get my hands on (some would suggest nothing has really changed).

The crunch came, for me, when Star Wars was shown on TV in the early 80’s. The TV spots were running, advertising the upcoming event, and as you’d expect for a young impressionable five year old, I couldn’t believe my eyes. All of my friends at school were the same. Each and every one of us was jabbering away (jabbering – get it??) under the effects of the narcotic images. We all saw the adverts and every day in the playground was filled with talk about the upcoming event.

Finally the day arrived and each of us sped off home, knowing that tonight was the night.

But for me it wasn’t.

I had a bed time and the film was going to finish way beyond that bed time. I moaned. My parents were resolute. Not even Star Wars could circumvent bed time. I was crest fallen. They were going to record it for me (VHS – cutting edge as was) but I just knew that for the whole of the following day at school, I was going to be surrounded by so many who’d seen that which was still just a myth for me. I’d have to spend the whole day avoiding spoilers. I didn’t even know what a spoiler was at that point but I just couldn’t risk having the watching of that film lessened by some nasty little spod telling me all of everything that goes on.

The seconds crawled by and eventually, home time.

As you can imagine, the tape was in and playing before I was even out of my coat. I do have a dim memory of my mum trying to delay the watching as long as she could so I could at least eat but I didn’t care if I ever ate again.

From then on, I was hooked. I had the perfect relationship with that film. I could watch it time after time without feeling bored. I still can. Every time my parents went out and the babysitter came round, on went the film. Easy way to keep me quiet for two hours. The horror of that first day at school was replaced by a deep smugness. All those who’d stayed up late to watch it couldn’t hold onto the film (videos weren’t that common back in the day) but I had it at home to watch whenever I wanted.

For me, that film opened my eyes to all manner of possibilities. Stories and dreams tumbled through my head and showed clearly that adventures of this kind, space travel and futuristic technology (even if it was a long time ago) could happen in the same way as things today. The used future made it more accessible and all of the characters just worked.

As an adult I’ve been lucky enough to meet the mighty Dave Prowse, Darth Vader himself, on more than one occasion. I even went to a Christmas do at his brothers gym way back when. I’ll readily admit that I turned into a giggling child when I met Dave. It was Darth Vader!!!! Add to this a fair sprinkling of other actors from the films and my Star Wars fandom is showing no sign of waning.

The new film is on the horizon and is looking good so far. When it’s released, I will be in line with my wife to meet up with old friends. Characters who we haven’t seen in years will be back with a load of new faces.

So here we all find ourselves. Feeling the wonder of our shared obsessions and just loving the terrain in the land of make believe. Stories of all kinds fire our imaginations and on this day we just have to be happy that all the powers of storytelling just keep on giving.

Happy STAR WARS DAY one and all.


The concept, not the TV show.

We are all confronted by the enduring image of the hero within whatever storytelling we’re exposed to. One of the most powerful stories that I came across during my formative years was Star Wars and this story looked at the clarity of the white hats and the black hats in the clearest possible way.

Luke Skywalker wore white and Darth Vader wore black.

In stories throughout history the protagonists are often shown to be relative caricatures of real people, all twirling moustaches for the baddies and lantern jawed surety for the goodies, and we’re utterly clear on where the boundaries are drawn for what that person will do.

But Star Wars gave me my first glimpse of something that was more than just the black or white. It was my first experience of mighty sacrifice that wasn’t seen as that mighty, and the prevalence, in a world of clear black and white, of the grey character.

I’ll start with the grey character as it’s the easy one.

Han Solo is the quintessential grey. Does the right thing but does it in a bad way. Does the wrong thing but does it for the right reason. What a hero he is.
Growing up we’re all told that we have to behave, follow the rules, tell the truth and any number of other commands that are placed on us from parents, society etc. We are brought up in clearly defined parameters which deal in this dichotomy. You have to be good or you’re bad. White hat or black hat.
The grey was mind-bending.

How could the grey do the bad things? That meant he was a baddie. But how could he make the right choice if he was a baddie? What kind of witchcraft is this?

As we all know, the real world is far from being clear cut and each and every one of us lives in the mucky bit of the continuum between the poles. It’s that struggle to do what’s right that’s vital to us all, meaning we can empathize with the grey. The grey breaks the rules, just not the really big ones. All in all, we want to be that grey.


Can we be relied upon to do what’s right? Even if we could lose out or be placed in harms way by doing it?

For me, the grey isn’t what I wanted to focus on when discussing heroes. I wanted to look at the ultimate sacrifice which is so powerful and resonates so strongly throughout the rest of the trilogy, indeed being somewhat repeated in Return of the Jedi.

I’m not referring to the death of Obi-wan Kenobi, heartfelt as it was. I’m talking about the death of the leader of the squadron of X-wings which attack the Death Star.

Here is a man who, when faced with the realization that he isn’t going to survive, tells those coming to his aid not to bother, no point risking anyone for a lost cause, but also meets his demise with a huge cheering smile. It’s only later on in life that I realized that there was a difference between the grey hero, the sacrificial gesture of the sage hero and the actions of the relative nobody.

The grey hero is a level of wishful thinking. We all want to be that hero, living life on the edge, playing by our own rules and all the other clichés as well. Han Solo became popular due to so many reasons but, as kids, everyone wanted to be Han Solo when we all played at Star Wars in the playground. Thinking of Obi-wan, the death of one of the main characters in any story is accompanied with the swelling score, the soaring vocabulary or the crushing music which tugs at the heart strings and makes the tears flow freely as we witness the most purely selfless act.

But was it truly selfless?

For me, the death of Red Leader in Star Wars is more powerful than that of the aged Jedi.

This was someone who was going down swinging. His crippled ship having done all the damage it could, finally bows to the inevitable and gives a final slap in the face as it crashes, the pilot truly giving everything. It’s easy to say Obi-wan was deep in a calm euphoria when he was struck down but think about the two deaths.
Would Obi-wan have been quite so serene if he hadn’t known that he was able to maintain some form of existence following his death? Would he have been just as ready to close his eyes if he’d been acting without the net? Possibly but possibly not.

On the other hand, the roaring pilot doesn’t have any way of continuing. He’s plunging to his death fully aware that there isn’t any hope for him. He’s gone. He will never see anything else. No more family or friends. Everything that was ever him is about to be lost. And he’s cheering his way out.

To me, that is much more heroic.

That is the act of true heroism.

I understand that in terms of the two deaths, it could be easy to see them from the other side of the glass, through a reversal of the power dynamic, as being martyr deaths of different kinds of zealot and I understand that I’ve spoken about power previously on here, but that just shows how important the writer is in creating the hero.

In the real world the hero’s aren’t always the ones we see with the rousing score and sobs all round. The real ones are so often never heard about. When I try to put together heroes that fit into the story I want to tell, I try to make sure they all contain that hint of the grey, that little twinkle of possibility to turn anywhere, but also that small kernel of knowledge that they are strong enough to make the hardest choices when they have to.

Hopefully this is more resonant as something heroic to the reader rather than just relying on the colour of the hat.