3 Types of Promises

A 63-second masterclass in storytelling promises from George Lucas

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There’s a 63-second scene in Star Wars: A New Hope that I can’t get out of my head. The dialogue, the acting, the music are all great but what really makes the scene special is how it sets up the rest of the movie.

This is actually George Lucas’ favorite scene from Star Wars. He said, “It’s the moment that’s the most like me in terms of my view of what I do. I’m sort of always standing out there, looking at the sunset, thinking about where I’m going to go from here.”

Now, you may be wondering, what makes this scene so important?

In Brandon Sanderson’s 17 hours of brilliant storytelling lectures on YouTube, he talks about the 3 Promises you want to make at the beginning of your story:

  • Plot

  • Tone

  • Character

This scene nails each. Let’s dig in:


There are 100s of possible plot archetypes your story could follow. Generally, you want to give your audience a good idea of which one they’re in for early on.

The reason Plot Archetypes are so helpful is because readers (and consumers of anything, in any industry) are always looking for things that are “similar” to what they already like—but “different” enough that they seem fresh and new.

When Luke stares at those twin suns, we feel his itch for adventure. We know he's meant for more than moisture farming on Tatooine.

This is the "Call to Adventure" in its purest form, straight out of the Hero's Journey playbook. It's the calm before the storm, the tease of the thrills to come.

Somehow, you know that Luke’s going to leave the farm and head out into the stars. That is a Plot Promise.


Serious. Silly. Philosophical. Introspective. Intense. Ridiculous. Terrifying. Whimsical.

Tone is all about the vibe, the feel, the emotional atmosphere of your story. Like with Plot, you want to give your audience a clear sense of what they're in for right from the get-go.

In this scene, we've got a visual that's absolutely breathtaking — the twin suns setting over the desert horizon. It's a sight that fills us with awe, that sense of being small in the face of something vast and beautiful.

But at the same time, John Williams' music plays in the background, adding a layer of melancholy, of longing, of something bittersweet. That music says, "This is going to be an adventure, but it won't be without its troubles."

And that's the genius of this scene's Tone Promise.

It sets us up for a story that's going to be epic in scope. But it also prepares us for the quieter, more introspective moments, the ones that tug at our heart and make these characters feel so real and relatable despite the setting.

And here's the key: that Tone stays consistent throughout the movie. Sure, there are moments of levity, of pure fun and excitement. But that undercurrent of emotional depth, of the bittersweet and the profound? It's always there, tying everything together.


Take a quick look at this shortened dialogue between Luke’s aunt and uncle:

Aunt — “Luke’s just not a farmer, Owen. He has too much of his father in him.”

Uncle — “That’s what I’m afraid of.”

At this point in the story, we don't know much about Luke's father at all. In fact, the only thing we know is what Luke himself knows: that his father is dead.

This is actually a really important point in terms of the Character Promise. Because what we see in Luke is a young man who is, in a sense, fatherless. He's being raised by his aunt and uncle, and he has no real connection to his biological father.

This sets up a crucial part of Luke's character. Throughout the story, we see him searching for father figures, for mentors who can guide him on his path. First Obi-Wan, then Yoda. And of course, there's the ultimate revelation that (spoiler alert!) Darth Vader is his father.

This one tiny scene foreshadows Luke’s entire character arc.

Quick Summary

You make a Promise to the audience about what's to come. In turn, they look forward to seeing that happen.

But it also works the other way. If you make the wrong promise, your audience won’t leave satisfied no matter how well you tell the rest of the story. So, if your story's not quite landing how you want it to, examine your Promises.

I like to ask myself three questions:

  1. What Promises have I made?

  2. What Promises do I want to make?

  3. How do I bridge the gap between those two?

Have an awesome weekend,


Trivia — A Sentence I Wish I Wrote

My extremely hot take is this book was overrated. However. I loved this line. What novel does it come from? Click on your answer.

I had the epiphany that laughter was light, and light was laughter, and that this was the secret of the universe.

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