Boba Fett’s Guide to Writing Cool Characters

Boba Fett's Guide To Writing Cool CharactersBoba Fett is one of the most beloved scourges of the Star Wars universe. Yet, he says only 27 words (28 if you add the Wilhelm Scream), and is on screen for a mere 6 minutes and 32 seconds.

He even gets defeated in a pathetic way by being knocked into the Sarlacc pit by a blind Han Solo. And yet, fans look past that and still love him as one of the greatest characters.

Why is this?

Sure he’s got cool Mandalorian armor and a Clint Eastwood swagger.  But that only adds to what we witnessed in the films.

2 Reasons Boba Fett Is the Coolest of Cool Characters

We love Boba Fett for two reasons:

1. A representative statement made by one particular character.

2. An action leveraged by this character against another.

Lawrence Kasdan and Leigh Brackett, the script writers of Star Wars: Empire Strikes Back, didn’t need a backstory or drawn out details to create Boba Fett—they didn’t even give him that much dialogue.  Instead they used pre-developed characters to quickly build the lore of the bounty hunter.

We’ll explore this more below so that you too can use these tools when you want to create cool characters quickly.

1. The Power of a Representative Statement

Enter Darth Vader, with his flowing cape and menacing black helmet. On the deck of the Star Destroyer stands the most vile bounty hunters in existence, awaiting Vader’s instructions. In the middle of his orders on capturing Han and Leia, Vader turns and specifically looks at one bounty hunter and says,

No disintegrations.

Boba Fett and Darth Vader in Empire Strikes Back No Disintegrations

Boba Fett cemented himself as one of the coolest of cool characters from the moment Darth Vader off-handledly introduced him.

Let that sink in.

Darth Vader is a developed character who is evil and kills without remorse so as to accomplish his mission. And yet, even he needs to single out this one bounty hunter and throttle back his destructive nature. With only two words, the writers of the script leveraged the character of Vader to imply that Boba Fett was of a whole new level of villainy and swine.

We, as the audience, do not need proof, action, or even a backstory, because we just witnessed Vader having to give special attention to one single bounty hunter with only a single turn and a statement.

Bounty Hunters Star Wars Empire Strikes Back

It’s just a ho-hum lineup of killers until Darth Vader singles Boba Fett out. That to this one representative statement, viewers suddenly know they’re dealing with some very cool characters.

As you develop your characters or introduce new ones to your book, think about previous characters you can leverage in order to quickly build upon the new ones. Instead of spending time developing backstories or placing a hero in a situation to prove their capability, use established notoriety of existing characters.

2. The Weight of a Leveraged Action

A simple act can only tell readers so much.  But when that act is leveraged against another developed character, it can mean so much more.

Han Solo, one of the most sly, scruffy-looking nerfherders in the galaxy is being chased by the Imperial fleet. In a moment of brilliance, he fools them all and attaches his ship, the Millennium Falcon, to the back of one of the Star Destroyers. There, he waits for them to release their trash so that his ship can drift away—and no one will know.

Representative Actions Star Wars Empire Strikes Back Millennium Falcon on Star Destroyer

Nobody’s a cooler character than Han Solo, captain of the Millennium Falcon. Except for… Boba Fett?

Pretty cunning, huh?

Except for one small thing…

Boba Fett not only figured it out, but laid his own trap. While Han Solo may have outsmarted the entire Imperial fleet, and even some of the most notorious bounty hunters sent to capture him, he was no match for Boba Fett.

In essence, Boba Fett proved he’s worthy opponent to and thinks like the cunning smuggler, Han Solo.

Outthinking Luke or Leia wouldn’t have been as great of a feat. Sure, they’re smart—but we don’t love them for it. Han, however, is known for smelling a trap and being on top of things even when everything has gone wrong. He’s known for being the sly one who gets away. And yet, with this one simple action, Boba Fett shows the audience he is brilliant enough to outsmart even the greatest smuggler.

When looking at actions, choose the right character to signify true character development.

  • Does your character outsmart someone who is known for being impervious to defeat?
  • Does your character, with a simple glance, have the ability to instantly take the breath away from a character who seems unfazed by anything?

These simple effects on particular characters can build true development with less effort and without slowing the pace with long dialogue or backstories.

Developing Cool Characters vs. Creating Cool Characters

Creating a character is easy. Developing them is hard.

When you find yourself developing new characters, think about the characters you’ve already worked so hard to develop and find ways to leverage that to develop others, whether it’s through representative statements or actions. The way they act and the things they say about others could turn your latest character into the next Boba Fett.

Wordplayers, tell me your opinion! What are your go-to methods for writing cool characters? Tell me in the comments!

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About Dave Chesson | @DaveChesson

Dave Chesson is a book marketing specialist at Kindlepreneur.com, who is currently working on his own epic sci-fi military book thanks to the bodacious teachings of K.M. Weiland. However, when he’s not sipping tea with princesses or playing Star Wars with little Jedi, he spends his time doing technical writing like comparing best email services.

Comments

  1. Awesome article, Dave. Love your blog btw.

  2. I’ve been a Star Wars fan since the beginning, and I’ve never understood the fascination with Boba Feet until this article. My go-to method has always been detailed backstory, but I’m going to go back through my current wip and incorporate this. Thanks for writing and sharing.

    • That’s awesome to hear – yeah, I’ll admit, I too was the same about Boba. But then, one day I herd a brother nerd lamenting over his 27 words and I was like “wow” that needs some digging.

      Now, I can’t help but leverage when I can. May the write force be with you!

  3. K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

    Thanks so much for sharing with us today, Dave!

  4. Great points about how Fett is introduced. Another thing that plays into Boba Fett’s mystique is just that – he’s this mysterious character. If we were told his friends call him Bob for short, and he’s hoping to save up to start a pet-washing business called Bantha Baths, he loses all that mystique. So he’s made like Eastwood’s Man with No Name.

    I just looked up Eastwood’s character on wiki, and it says that Eastwood “insisted on removing some of the dialogue in the original script, making the character more silent and thus adding to his mystery.” And that the character was based on the unnamed ronin in Yojimbo. They all have hidden pasts, all very dangerous, all have that swagger you mention, and all have a cape of sorts. We can’t keep our eyes off them.

    • Well said. Actually the guy who played Boba in the originals mimicked Clint Eastwood. They really didn’t have a direction for him, so he did what Clint did…hence all the ‘swagger’ and side hip stuff.

  5. Great article! After seeing Rogue One I’ve started thinking about developing characters with very little or no backstory, and this article is a great starting point.

  6. Awesome and brilliant! Thanks.

  7. This is a brilliant insight, Dave, thanks for sharing. It just goes to show that sometimes less is more, but the right type of “less” adds an exponential factor to the “more-ness” 🙂 This was definitely an a-ha moment that I suspect explains my fascination with many characters in both books and movies alike. Looking forward to adopting this thought process in future character development!

    • Thanks and agreed – if I were to add to the article, I’d definitely want to point out this mysticism involved in his character a little more – like Steve MC said above. Let the audience connect those dots 😉

  8. Yo, Boba Chesson. Well done all around here.

    Killer intel delivered in the proper kindlepreneur way…

    Thanks for the solid read my man.

  9. Usvaldo deLeon, Jr says:

    Boba Fett is a scumbag but he is certainly a memorable scumbag and you have hit the nail on the head as to why. It reminds me of Sexy Beast, where everyone is having a lovely dinner until it is revealed that Don is coming over. We see the tension and even fear this revelation brings and then cut to Ben Kingsley walking through the airport looking like a monomaniacal madman. Done and done, character set up by using established characters. Thanks for this article, this is a great tool for the tool chest.

  10. I wonder how you can be intriguing and realistic at the same time.

  11. I’ve always been fascinated by how some characters are immediately likable, or already seemed fleshed out the moment you meet them. This is a great example of how it’s done.

    • J.M Barlow says:

      These are the only traits of Bobba Fett that we care about anyways, so once they are matter-of-fact, that’s all that matters. He’s cunning and badass.

      Also, Luke’s (foster parents?) were burnt… by stormtroopers? Or that guy who was told not to disintegrate? Conspiracies!

    • If Darth Vader says “that’s a bad dude over there,” then I’m good 😉 @J.M Barlow – hahaha, I saw that theory and I’m inclined to agree.

  12. Tiffany Dickinson says:

    Great article. Succinct and to the point – like Boba’s (and Darth’s) lines. Lol. That “No disintegrations.” line tells it all. Thanks!

    • Thanks Tiffany! Yeah, when I was writing this, I kept thinking “what if Darth Vader said something else like something generic.” How much less would this be if he’d just said “And I want them alive” and looked at Boba? Or something more ho hum like “Don’t kill them.” But “No disintegrations” hahaha…that’s very over the top.

  13. J.M Barlow says:

    Great article. You’re absolutely right about this. If anyone else said ‘no disintegrations’, it wouldnt mean so much. Vader saying it means so much more. Outsmarting the smart one, same thing.

    I’m ðefinitely going to keep this in minð.

    …what is my keyboarð ðoing? Why ðið it just start ðoing this!

  14. I watched a Variety Studios Actors on Actors segment yesterday, a conversation between Tom Hanks and Viola Davis and (while the whole conversation was interesting) she really said something that caught my attention. Her “husband” (played by Denzel Washington) was having an affair with another woman and, Tom Hanks makes the comment ‘which you never see by the way’, her comment was ‘but she still has power, she’s still a real character’. Because though she isn’t seen, her presence is felt (brought to life by how the two primaries/developed characters react/interact)

    As you said, had Vader not stopped, singled Boba out from the others and pointedly warning him (and, in effect, indicating that only he ,Vader, could rein him in) he’d have been just one among many.

    It’s not just his swagger, as you said, but how the other characters react to him… and Vader conveyed a lot.

    • Or better yet, if Vader hadn’t said something so over the top like “no disintegrations” it just wouldn’t have had the same effect. I’m not even sure he’d be rememberable.

      Great point on the Tom Hanks and Viola Davis!

  15. Sometimes the best way to introduce a cool character is to hardly tell you anything about him or her. Sometimes less is truly much more. This is something I’m still trying to figure out how to do right with some of my supporting characters. Sometimes, one or two lines from someone else is enough. At the same time, if this cool character is a protagonist who’s a major character in the plot, eventually you need to balance it out with some sort of detail on their personality. That’s a tough balance to play out.

    But yeah, Boba Fett is amazing in Empire Strikes Back.

  16. And here I thought Boba Fett was only popular due to the part he played in the Star Wars Holiday Special.

    • Haha..funny you mention that. Originally George Lucas wanted to make Boba Fett a MUCH bigger character. He started marketing Boba Fett through that special and leading up to Empire Strikes Back, most actually thought he was going to be a lead character. But alas, better writers prevailed 😉

  17. Thanks for the great article. I read one from Orson Scott Card about how the way people react to a character and their expectations can be a powerful tool for characterization, but the tiny amount of words/time needed makes your example even more compelling.

  18. I know it’ll get me kicked out of the Star Wars cool club, but I never understood the love everyone has for Boba Fett. Maybe it’s because I saw Return of the Jedi before Empire Strikes bad as a kid? But whatever the reason, I like your post here on how you can develop that type of “cool” character that everyone loves.

    As for me, I don’t know if I’m very good at creating cool characters. I do think I can create realistic, relatable characters though, and what’s important there is to give them enough of a character arc to make the reader care.

    But my feelings about Boba Fett put aside, I love it every time you base a post around a Star Wars reference 🙂

    • No…I hear ya – he goes down like a chump right? But I am a big fan of the Mandalorians and their story (thanks to Clone Wars and now some of Rebels).

      Yeah, I’m writing in the Sci Fi military genre…it’s hard to create military grunts that aren’t too over the top but are still pretty space marine like.

  19. Kate Johnston says:

    Great article. I think the key word is “cool” because no one is cool if we know too much about him, right? I never thought before about why he had such the effect on fans–even my 12-year-old son, who obviously didn’t grow up with the original Star Wars films, picks Boba Fett as one of his favorites. I think you’ve analyzed the reasons for his popularity well!

  20. You have not made a “The Do’s and Don’ts of Storytelling According to Marvel” article for the Doctor Strange movie.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

      Not yet! I didn’t get a chance to see it in the theater. But I’ll be watching in on VOD as soon as I can after its release date of February 14th. You can look for a post sometime in the next couple of weeks after that.

  21. I love this, thanks for sharing Dave! Those are some simple yet effective tips for getting some cool peeps into a story without a ton of development and backstory. Seems to me like they developed Fett’s backstory after the fact, as writers might do when they bring back similar characters in a series.

  22. Of course my first draft started out with telling all the backstory. One I went back and deleted that I let myself visualize the scene. As it was at the beginning I didn’t have the established characters to play off (although I have opportunities for that later on) but I attempted to establish the leading characters in as little description as possible, just viewing them in their normal world.

    It starts off with the protagonist, a painfully shy 19 year old male college student, and his parents when they receive a call that his aunt, her new husband, and his cousins would be visiting. In one page, containing just under 300 words of mostly dialogue, you can see that Dad is cranky and stubborn but Mom’s the one who wears the pants. Both of them show condescension. When there son tries to join the conversation you can see his pedantic tendencies, but he’s only briefly engaged and then disregarded by his parents.

    The last line of that opening scene has:
    Dad looked me over and shook his head. “Well, if you want to see them this time you better go get presentable. Throw on a pair of pants for starters, and then shave or something?”

    It may be summer vacation, but the protag is still running around the house in the middle of the day unshaven and in his boxers. Smart but unmotivated, much to Dad’s displeasure.

  23. Another fabulous article, Dave!! And I’m glad you were here to introduce me to Ms. K.M. Weiland! Subscribing to her blog now.

    I love this character development technique and actually learned it from Terry Goodkind in his Sword of Truth series. Not only does he leverage established characters to give credibility to new characters, he also uses his main character, Richard and his ignorance of the magic world around him, to educate the readers about the world.

    Something magical happens and Richard asks questions. The characters do a bit of a face-palm and say, “Oh, that’s right. You’ve never been around this stuff.” It’s a great way to keep readers immersed in the story without long author monologue or unrealistic dialogue.

    You’ve read those bouts of silly conversations with people who have a history together and were both at the same event, right?

    “Mom, do you remember the time when I embarrassed myself at my high school graduation?”

    The mother laughs. “Oh, yeah! When you fell off the stage and into the lap of the principal?”

    “Right!” The daughter guffaws. “And then when I tried to stand, I ended up punching him in the groin!”

    The conversation is completely for the benefit of the reader. As an editor, I saw a LOT of this.

    By the way, you had me at Boba Fett on your tweet about this article. I zoomed over here to see how you were using a Star Wars reference and was pleasantly surprised I learned something about my favorite franchise AND writing. *Arial faints from the bliss of harmony through the force*

  24. Hi Katie: I really liked and appreciated your Post. I am just beginning to learn about Character Creation and Development. I learned much from your words and will be reading your books. Thanks. Take care.

  25. I use my own or my family-member’s quirks for my characters. I helps them to come alive and remain memorable. …also I have a crazy family!

  26. MARKJACKANDJESSIEARESPECIAL says:

    Wow before I read this I really didn’t see what was so cool about boba. But SURE AS HECK I KNOW HOW COOL HE IS!!😎 I’m wrighting a thriller novel btw and this really helped!! THANK YOU SO MUCH!!

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