Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Princess Bride--Perfectly Peopled

My hubby and I were sitting up together last night, flipping through TV channels, trying to find something we'd both enjoy watching. We'd gone through almost 200 channels with no luck, and then...we hit paydirt.

Princess Bride.

Some of you who know me know I love this movie. Big Time. I own it in VCR and 3 DVD versions. As Don and I watched it for the umpteenth time, I couldn't help but wonder why men and women both love this book/movie so much. My insightful hubby made a comment that explained part of the movie's lasting appeal: it's perfectly cast. Seriously. Can you imagine anyone else playing

Westley and Buttercup,

Fezzik, Inego, or Vizzini,

or Miracle Max and his wife, Valerie?

How about Grandpa or his grandson?

See what I mean? Perfect choices.

I owe a debt of deep gratitude to whomever did the casting in that movie, because that person gave me, as a write, a valuable lesson: I need to be as purposeful in crafting the characters in my books. I need to build my characters with excellence, to ensure the characters personalities, voice, descriptions fit them to as perfect a "T" as they did in the PB movie.

So how to do that? My first step is to write a few scenes from that character's POV. To let that character speak as freely as possible. The second step is to search magazines and the internet to find my characters. Getty Images is a great place to do this. I've found a lot of my characters there. Faces that, that moment I see them, I know are my characters. And even as I study their features, I find the characters starting to breathe, to come to life, to resonate in my mind. They tell me their stories, and I discover their backgrounds, their family stories, their likes and dislikes. It's pretty cool, actually. And loads of fun.

How about you? When you're writing, how do you bring your characters to life?



Pam Halter said...

I've learned to ask them questions. Hard questions. I try to dig as deep into their being as I can. I find out about their past, their hopes, dreams and fears. What makes them laugh? Cry?

My hubby and I love the Princess Bride, too. It's about time to watch it again.

Have fun stormin' the castle!
pam <><

Ronie Kendig said...

Our family loves this movie--we sit and recite the lines.

I start with pictures, then process through their archetype to get to know their basic personality (huge in knowing how they'll respond or react).

I no longer settle for mostly-knowing them. It was enough at one time, but if I don't feel the character through-and-through while writing, I won't keep writing. I go back and dig deeper. There's one character who, I figured out, was "playing me." As long as I stayed out of his "real" business, he didn't care what I thought or wrote about him. So I dug until I made him mad. LOL

Domino said...

You nailed it. You won't find a more perfect cast for that movie. The humor is written with that sticky-sweet honey feeling that keeps you glued to the dialogue, loving every minute of it. And the romance makes you sigh.

I would love to make all my characters as memorable as the Princess Bride characters. And I think most authors feel the same way.

Heather said...

I always do an "interview" with my characters, digging into their personalities until a particular thread is completely run dry-then I start up on another thread.
And I admit to being a Princess Bride lover as well. I recently showed it to my boyfriend and he loved it too! Awesome movie!

Lena Nelson Dooley said...


Both James and I have always loved this movie, too. And you hit it right on the head. Now back to look at my characters in my WIP.

AmyBoucherPye said...

Love, love, love this movie! So much that I even bought the book - have you read it? So much fun from the master storyteller, William Goldman.

I don't write fiction but appreciate it. Great comments about crafting your characters.

newsjunkie said...

hi Karen
LOVE this movie. and you're right about the perfect casting. I'm not a writer (yet) so I don't have an answer for the rest of your question.

Nicole said...

Actually, my characters come to me and insert themselves in stories, and I see them clearly without certain features. I know their heights, their eye and hair colors, their hair styles/types, their body structures--even peripheral characters--and the way they talk. I know how they see and react to things because of who they've shown themselves to be, but when those inexplicable circumstances erupt from the fingers, they can go all willy-nilly on me. ;)

Lori Benton said...

Sounds like we have similar character discovery processes. I blogged about mine recently, about the importance of character naming, and how sometimes the right name unlocks a character for me. What a fun part of novel writing. I'm in that process now, and am finding (all over again) it's not a process that can be rushed, or else I'll risk getting partway through a novel and realizing I didn't know the character as well as I thought. Taking the time early on to be sure I know my characters should save some revision later. That's the theory I'm working under, anyway. :)

Colleen Coble said...

Oh I LOVE the Princess Bride! I've had characters who love it in my books too. LOL I was watching it in the eye doctor's office a couple of weeks ago while Dave was getting a Lasik tuneup.

I try to figure out my character's quirks. What makes them different from every other character. And discover what passions drive them.

Lynn Squire said...

This is my favorite movie too!

I print out pictures of my characters, ask tons of questions, and then try to let them be themselves. Then, when I'm driving (after dropping off or on my way to pick up the kids) I hold conversations with them. *blushing* they fill me in on a lot of good stuff - even their take on the other characters.

Ariel Allison Lawhon said...

I shall join the chorus - I LOVE that movie! My all time favorite. I've even read the book (yes, there IS a book and it has one of the all time best first lines).

I start by interviewing my characters. I give them the third degree for about two weeks before I write one scene.

Karen B. said...

Lori, Lynn, and Ariel, I so agree! My characters' names always help reveal who they are, and I also sit down and talk with my characters! Even have coffee with 'em. What's more, I print out pictures of them and tape them to my computer. So no blushing necessary.

Colleen, quirks are a great tool for understanding your characters. Leanna Ellis has that down pat in the book I just finished editing, ONCE IN A BLUE MOON. Great fun!

Everyone, I'm so enjoying all the discussion. Thanks for stopping by!

Lisa Buffaloe said...

I love Princess Bride! The cast is perfect, the lines are great, and the story is wonderful. *Happy sigh*

As for my characters, I'll search the net for photos if I don't already have them pegged as someone I already know. :)

Hillary Manton Lodge said...

I think William Goldman does two things with the book/movie really well. First, he plays with our assumptions about the characters. Each is fitted around an archetype, none quite fits.

Secondly, he knows when to get out of a scene.

Though where some of us just cut and move on, he tells us where S. Morgenstern rambles on for a bit :-)

(P.S. Have you read the edition of the book with the first chapter of "Buttercup's Baby" where he talks about Stephen King being tapped to write the film adaptation... love it!)

Rachel Hauck said...

I think they come to life when I start writing them. And rewriting them. And rewriting them again. :)

Like people, characters have to talk and act in order for me to observe them, hear them, get a feel for their heart.

Great post, Karen.

Rachel ;)

Terry Burns said...

Nobody is going to mention the great use of plot reversals?

Karen B. said...

Terry, go right ahead! Mention them!

Rebecca LuElla Miller said...

Perfect casting, yeah, great characters and plot reversals, yeah, yeah, yeah. But what makes Princess Bride so well loved (and yes, I too loved the movie and list it among my all-time favorites) is that it is a fantasy. ;-)


Bonnie said...


You keep using that word. I don't think that word means what you think it means.

No more rhyming! I mean it!
Anybody want a peanut?

I see my characters in my head. No pictures come close. Some of them show up fully formed and just tell me what's up. Other unfold through prodding. Just depends.

I would not say such things if I were YOU!