A Dissection of Han and Leia

A Writer's Dissection of the Characters Han and LeiaThis is a SUPER-QUICK post for Star Wars Day (May the 4th be with you), written on a whim.

I just list some cornerstones and pillars of Han and Leia’s personalities.

And I stick to the movies.

Keep in mind, these are just the things I see, which are probably incomplete. I’d love it if you added to the list in the comments.


Han sees himself as an unreliable scoundrel, a loner. But he’s actually a rather selfless guy. (Don’t worry, I’ll explain.)


Not getting the money to pay off Jabba, commitment, and being hurt emotionally

The external fear is Jabba, and the internal fear is commitment. Fear of commitment is rooted in the fear of being hurt. He commits fully when he does commit. Look at his relationship with Chewie.


Perfectionistic, impatient, cocky, belligerent, and ruthless

He’s a perfectionist when it comes to the Millennium Falcon, yelling at Chewie for not getting things right the first time.

Han shot Greedo. Period.

He also tends to use his blaster as his default reaction. Com conversation going badly? Shoot it.


A mysterious past

We get hints of his past throughout the series, but never more than hints. Smuggler. Gambler. That aura of mystery only makes him more interesting.


Smart-mouthed and likes to tease

“Your Worshipfulness.”

“Still, she’s got a lot of spirit. I don’t know, whaddya think? You think a princess and a guy like me…”

“Boring conversation anyway. LUKE, WE’RE GONNA HAVE COMPANY!”

“And I thought they smelled bad on the outside.”


Take-action, brave, skilled, and selfless

His selflessness is first shown when he covers all the others going into the garbage shoot, going last. He grows into it a bit more when he comes back to save Luke just in time during the battle of the Yavin IV. It comes out fully when he takes the Tauntaun out to find Luke in spite of the plummeting temperatures.


Money, freedom, something to fight for, people who deserve his commitment

He wants money so he can have freedom, he wants freedom because he believes he won’t find something to fight for or people worth committing to.


Leia has a couple aspects that play double-duty. Her self-concept is pretty dead-on, but she’s not in complete control of how those aspects affect her behavior.


 Letting people down

She wouldn’t give up the Rebel base when interrogated on the Death Star, she wouldn’t leave until everyone else had been evacuated on Hoth. I don’t think it’s a major motivator, but it plays a role.


 Temper, acid-mouthed, stubbornness, pride

“Governor Tarkin, I should have expected to find you holding Vader’s leash. I recognized your foul stench when I was brought on board. ”

“This is some rescue! You came in here, but didn’t you have a plan for getting out?”


 Liking Han (end of the first movie, first half of the second), and the location of the Rebel base

She doesn’t do a good job of hiding her feeling, but she tries, hiding behind the “we” of the Rebellion. She does a great job of hiding the location of the base.



She REALLY lets Han get to her.

If you can think of a better quirk, let me know in the comments.


 Not afraid to ask for help (a flexible strength!), stubborn, brave, resourceful

Her flexible strength is the most interesting of them. She’s perfectly willing to ask for help… unless it’s from Han.

“Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi. You’re my only hope.”


 To bring peace to the galaxy

This is her main motivation. She is the protagonist of the Rebellion storyline, like Luke is the protagonist of the Jedi storyline, and Han is the protagonist of the Jabba/Lando storyline.

Sally (Fourth) and Create

Now you’ve seen most of the cornerstones and pillars in action.

Both Han and Leia have aspects that change depending on the situation. They adjust realistically. You have to remember that as you’re writing your characters.

And you can’t expect every trait to correspond perfectly with one of the aspects I name.

Don’t limit yourself to trait choices that easily fit this framework. Get creative. The framework is only there so you can make sure there are plenty of story-relevant dimensions to your character.

Like I said, this is a super-quick (read: last minute) post. I’m not covering inner conflict, character theme, or character dynamics.

Plus, we want to save something for next year, don’t we?


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About MJ Bush

Developmental Editor.
Founder of Writingeekery with 10,000 monthly readers.
I help writers like you master the craft.


  1. Love your dissection. You couldn’t have said it any better.

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  2. Thank you for a fantastic post!

    I’m a long-time fan of the “Star Wars” movies for their incredible characterization. “Episode III: Revenge of the Sith” is a beyond excellent example of the extent to which a protagonist’s potential for good can shift to make him the scariest monster of the whole series (Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader).

    Re: quirks for Leia … She does have an odd attraction to the “bad boy” of the Episode IV-VI series, particularly odd insofar as she’s royalty and really ought to know better than to tangle with Han. I’m not sure if that’s quirk or endearing about her!

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  3. This was cool, not to mention fun to read for a Star Wars fan (like myself). Nice tribute to May the 4th. Like your style MJ.

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