inspiration, Reading, Reviews

From a Certain Point of View

TLDR: Everyone has a story that is already in progress.

Too often, writers establish a world in which everyone is putzing around doing nothing until the hero arrives and sets the events of the story in motion. Too often, the minor characters are simplistically set up in service of the hero. Too easily we look at another driver on the way to work and fail to see them as a person with a story in progress that is as important to them as our story is to us.

I just finished reading From a Certain Point of View, an anthology of Star Wars short stories. The premise is similar to that of older short story collections such as Tales of the Mos Eisley Cantina. The reader is presented with the perspectives of mostly background characters, people we glimpse interacting with the heroes for seconds at most.

The stories, of course, vary in quality, but it’s probably my favorite Star Wars book of all time. Many of the stories are funny, some are somber, others are light, but interesting. The variety is what I like about it. Star Wars has always been variety: action, humor, awe, even horror (the dark side cave on Dagobah).

If Point of View has a theme, it’s that every person has a story to tell and they are in the middle of that story. This has always been a strength of Star Wars. We don’t meet Leia as she’s stealing or even receiving the stolen Death Star plans. We meet her in motion, on the run, literally in the middle of a space battle. We don’t meet Han waiting around for a cargo run. We meet him with a bounty already on his head, pursued by bounty hunters.

Point of View goes above and beyond this idea of “to each a story in motion”. It’s not just stories of great deeds and big action. Many of the stories are mundane or bureaucratic. Although some usually-faceless stormtroopers are humanized in a sympathetic light, many characters are clearly villainous, but their struggles are still recognizable and relatable. Even Tarkin has to put his pants on one leg at a time (story not actually featured, but you get the idea).

From a Certain Point of View is a janky, fast slow, exciting mundane, mess of utterly delightful stories. Writers can read it and remember that every character is a work in progress with origin and destination and self-importance too. Everyone can read it and look a little more carefully at strangers in traffic or in the grocery store or on the side walk and remember that their experience is just as real and vital as your own.


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