Germain at io9 has a really great article up today discussing the early phases of Star Wars: The Force Awakens with J.J. Abrams. In his conversation with Abrams, we learn a little about his guiding philosophy on the “feeling” of the film being right and what Lawrence Kasdan taught him as a writer during the process:
The very first discussions we had were about feeling,” Abrams told io9 last weekend. “What did we want to feel in this film? What did we want the audience to experience and feel? I know that sounds so stupid and obvious, but it was the most important thing to me. The absolute fundamental ‘What do we want the experience to feel like?’
It really becomes clear exactly how wise Abrams was when he stepped into this franchise. The biggest criticism you will see the average Star Wars fan give something, no matter what it is, always pertains to “feeling.” They’ll say “it didn’t feel like Star Wars.” There’s a total lack of articulation there but it happens daily with books, comics, movies… whatever. The magical thing about the original Star Wars was it left you feeling really good. I don’t mean to say it wasn’t smart, but it was more primal than intellectual. Everything Abrams and Kasdan did was to serve the feelings they wanted:
exhilaration, thrills, heartbreak, joy, fear and spirituality, to name a few.
Over 2013 they got the structure of the story down and then had to fill in the gaps and solve the complex puzzle. The problem they ran into was that Arndt needed 18 months to write the story and they really only had six. So Kasdan stepped out of his role as a consultant and wrote the thing with Abrams. However, he insisted they start from scratch. Abrams had some tenants of the story he was insistent remain:
For Larry’s psyche, he wanted to sort of start fresh” and abandon the script they had been working on with Arndt, Abrams said. “And I said to him, ‘Look, we’re gonna start to reincorporate very quickly many things because I know I want this young woman to be at the center of this thing. I know I want this Stormtrooper to abandon his post.’ There are just fundamental tenets of what we had come up with [with Arndt] that were gonna stick.
Just reading this, you can see how smart they were in approaching the material. The problem they had were things like the EU though. I don’t think this next quote is going to please EU fans, but at the end of the day, Abrams is right:
It wasn’t even clear what is canon in the Expanded Universe. And I don’t think the vast majority of Star Wars fans have ever read a novel.
When discussing the writing process with Kasdan, Abrams says Kasdan taught him:
Trust the audience. Trust the characters and that the audience will feel more, in a way, the less you explain the stuff to them. And the challenge is always to make it satisfying and clear and not feel like you’re being preached to.