“All storytelling”? That’s a bold statement. But it’s true: where would Star Wars be without their space magic (the Force), or without their swords (lightsabers) or guns (blasters)? Where would Tolkien be if he never used the archetypical medieval-mythical setting for his Lord of the Rings?
To start off, the whole point of a story is to build certain sympathies with the reader. To build sympathies, you must operate off what you have in common with the reader. If you tried to describe the Force to a non-Star Wars fan as “an energy field created by all living things that surrounds us, pernitrates us, and binds the galaxy together”, they would have no semblance of understanding.
On the other hand, if you described it in simpler, easier form of portrayal, you might try: “like magic, only in space” or “a mysterious religious superpower that allows Jedi to lift rocks and trick people”. By using these descriptions, you are adequately describing the Force, because the Force is essentially “space magic”.
All Lucas did here was take a certain aspect of real life, like Eastern Mysticism in China, and put his own spin on it. The Force was exactly that: Lucas’ reimagining of magic and otherworldly forces set in space.
This is not the first (nor only) time magic has been reimagined. J.K. Rowling, James Riley, not to mention Lewis and Tolkien all had separate ideas of magic. Some had clearly set rules, others did not. Some had set names and took prominent roles in the story, and others had background roles and were taken for granted.
Either way, the idea of “magic” has been toyed with by authors by some time. But not just that idea. Over the years, HUNDREDS of entities in reality have been models for ideas in stories. It’s a common storytelling trick. It adds ideas that you can call your own, although all you did was take one idea from nature and put your own spin on it.
How can this help you? Well, you can take really anything. Let’s say, your living room lamp. A simple lamp, you say. Ah, but that’s the fun of it. How UNsimple can you make this lamp? How many ideas of your own can you add to this lamp to make it so UNlamplike that it becomes something that you created?
First off, let’s say that this particular lamp has a strange twist: whenever the light shines on a liar, they cast no shadow. (I just made that up) Neat, huh? Let’s say that there are hundreds of these lamps, used everywhere. Everyone in this particular city has one. So whenever someone is suspected of being a liar, they are hauled before the “truth lamp” (a better name should be devised) and are forced to tell the lie in front of it.
That’s just one of the infinite possibilities you can stick on one thing. A computer (Think droids and sci-fi robots) a pen (Percy Jackson) a book, a pair of headphones, a watch, an anything. Let your imagination truly run wild on this one. Choose a spin that sounds cool to you on a object that you find interesting.
I mentioned that there should be another name for your “truth lamp”. This matter deserves a small note: all ideas of yours need to be officially coined. If you have a “truth lamp” or something like it, give it a cool name and then stick with it. “Blaster” “Stormtrooper” “the Force” “Aircar” “Holonet” are all words for things that Lucas invented. However, their real-world counterparts are right before our eyes. To distinguish that which you made from the real world, give it a memorable name.
Creation Challenge: Pick a random object about your house. In under a minute, force yourself to name random traits and personalities about this object. Say what makes it special and why, and who uses it. Then, pick a memorable name. Then, slot it into the story you’re writing.
Good luck, and happy writing!