Friday, September 23, 2016

Best of the Archives: What "The Princess Bride" Teaches Authors No Matter How Many Times You've Watched the Movie!

The main portion of this post was published February 9, 2012...

"Mawwiage. That bwessed awwangement!"

If you haven't watched The Princess Bride, check out this scene Then come back here. Pretty please.

What should be a pompous, royal affair is a circus sideshow that makes you laugh out loud, rooting for our sweet Wesley to come to Buttercup's rescue. Who knew that all our hero really needed was a Holocaust Cloak? And a wheelbarrow?


It's the amazing device we use to evoke emotions in a scene by our play of words and the strength of our characters.

We imply a certain meaning behind the word.

Readers infer from what we've implied.

Okay, enough with the stinkin' English lesson. I love using connotation in character building because once you create a character in a reader's mind, the reader expects that character to behave well... in character. Duh. And using or mis-using words is just plain fun.

Jack angled his gaze left. "Listen, Sweetheart, I don't recall inviting you to this conversation."

Bogart's use of the word "sweetheart" is world renowned.
Do you think Jack's REALLY talking to his sweetheart? I'm gonna' go out on a limb and say "no". How about this:

"Oh. Yeah. She's a real sweetheart." Maeve  drawled the words for effect. "And my hair gets naturally highlighted by the sun about every six weeks, give or take."


"That was a sweetheart deal, Rocky!"


"He's a sweetheart." Mary set the table with gentle finesse. "That man hasn't hurt a soul in his life."

And that might be the only real "sweetheart" we've seen so far.  So how do you do this effectively?

STAY IN CHARACTER.  And if every character you write sounds the same, then you've got to s-t-r-e-t-c-h yourself.

Poor sweet Wesley being stretched in "THE MACHINE" in The Princess Bride... He ends up mostly dead.  Mostly dead is nearly alive. Just so you know. Really, just spare yourself my lame attempts to teach you and go watch the movie. You'll love it. I promise. And you'll become a better writer by osmosis. And Valentine's Day is coming up and nothing is more romantic and fun than The Princess Bride.

"I'd die to be able to wear the sweetheart neckline Tiffany's sporting tonight." Stella encompassed the close circle of women and leaned in as she continued, "Or I could just find out the name of her plastic surgeon."

So many ways to use a single word like "sweetheart" and that's only the tip of a very big iceberg. 

As you edit your work, examining/scrutinizing/studying each phrase for length, connotation and f-l-o-w is a huge help to becoming the concise, tight writer you want to be. At least I think that's what you want to be (unless you don't need editing, in which case I'm going to excuse myself and go eat three pies, one cake and a bowl of ice cream, hoping to feel better about myself because edits are my middle name. After "Ruthy" and right before "never get it right the first time Logan".) 

In The Princess Bride, Buttercup is always herself. Sweet, endearing, beautiful and tough enough to stand up to Prince Humperdink. Every word she utters enforces that image.

Humperdink is a dastardly rich prince who cares nothing for Buttercup and everything for fame and power, a total egotistical jerk. But behind his evil air, you sense the heart of a craven coward, a man who cringes before pain like the sniveling liar he is. And that just makes you HAPPY when he meets his match.

Wesley... a simple farm boy, he's in love with Buttercup but must seek his fortune on the treacherous seas of the Dread Pirate Roberts.... Believed dead, we realize that Wesley lives... and comes for Buttercup only to find her heartbroken and ENGAGED TO THE SNIDELY WHIPLASH PRINCE!

Inigo Montoya.... 

Now, you might not see it this way, (you'd be wrong, but it would be rude of me to point that out here) but I believe Inigo Montoya is the glue that brought all the starring roles together. He is a man (Mandy oh-what-a-stinkin'-cutie Patinkin) who must avenge his father's death. He has searched and studied for over two decades, searching for the six-fingered man...  And now he just might find him, with Wesley's help. If they can get Wesley over being "Mostly Dead". And that's a trick.

And of course, there's Fezzik played by Andre the Giant. 

Fezzik's role isn't just to intimidate. He's the "Hoss Cartwright" of the bunch, the sweet gentle giant who doesn't know his own strength, but is loyal to a fault. His self-confidence is shaky and that's led him into trouble in the past, but now he's teamed up with the amazing Wesley and Inigo Montoya. And a holocaust cloak. And a can of matches.

Drat. I dare say no more.

So here's the deal. You gotta love this movie , OR promise to watch it before you die. That's not too much to ask, right? Comments are closed so we can all spend our time writing and editing today... But we can chat this weekend! 

And when you're writing (that's right, this is supposed to have something to do with craft, right, because we're a sweet, sharing bunch of Christian gals who love to share our foibles to help you avoid the same mistakes....) umm....  Write carefully. 

And edit. Make sure the action/voice/words match the character's persona, every step of the way.

There you go. 

With comments closed, come on over to facebook and like my link to this post on my facebook page... and I'll throw your name into the basket for a copy of "Home on the Range"... Win it before you can buy it! (it's really the cat's dish, but I wash it out REAL GOOD before I throw  your names in. Only cool people have actual baskets.) 

Nick Stafford's the good son, the one who stayed home, the one who worked the land, the fields, and the cattle dynasty... if he's so good, why is his life thoroughly messed up? And as a single parent, with two struggling girls, can he put things back together enough to truly make his "Home on the Range"?

I'd love to have you read it and review it on Goodreads or any book distributor when it comes out, if you've got time... And if not, no worries. 

Ruth Logan Herne is having a hoot with this new bend in the road, she still has trouble believing that anyone would really pay money to read what she wrote, but since they do, she'd like them to continue that trend.  You can visit her at, The Yankee Belle Cafe  or at