This is the “Force” that separates Star Wars from Starship Troopers, and Raiders of the Lost Ark from Tomb Raiders.
When an author builds a foundation using mythological or religious symbols, the story has the possibility of connecting with the deepest parts of our unconscious.
While the basic genres and plot points can be similar between a cultural phenomenon and the equivalent of cultural cotton candy, the underlying themes in the classics raise the deepest questions about human nature, even if the audience can’t verbalize them.
Is it any wonder that George Lucas internalized his long relationship with Joseph Campbell (author of “Hero of a Thousand Faces,” and the originator of the concept of the hero’s journey) before writing the Star Wars trilogy?
If we look at the movies critically, the poorly crafts outer space muppets are ridiculous, comical at best, and racists stereotypes at worst. Most of the acting is wooden or campy. And the plot holes are as big as a Death Star, and far easier to locate than that thermal exhaust port that was somehow created by an engineering flaw as chimney flues represent a technology far more advanced than jumping to light speed.
And yet, my generation was completely blown away by the movie, but not because of the special effects and new camera technology developed for the film. The trilogy continued to be magical when I introduced my sons to Luke, Leia, Han, Chewy, Obie Wan and Yoda.
Symbolism is one of the main reasons that A Song of Ice and Fire separated itself from other fantasy books and hooked a generation of younger readers. The same thing applies to the Harry Potter stories and so many other young adult books that have had massive success.
With regard to the other strategies, seeing them broken down and analyzed was incredibly helpful.
In the fictional stories I’ve written, I’ve been aware of character names and mythical and religious symbols. And as a graphic designer, I’ve always been aware of color.
But I never thought down to the level of geography, temperature and animals.
That is an important element to add to my thought process in creating a fictional world.
Thanks for a great article.