The Princess Bride Character Goals

This is the last of a three part series on Motivation, Goals and Conflict, as told from the view of the characters from the book and movie, “The Princess Bride.”  I hope you’ve enjoyed a different twist on the three major components of character development and plot.

Conflict is the “why not” of your story

It is the dragon (external), the physical force preventing your character from reaching his goal.  It is the demon (internal), emotions your character must face, the force within, his Achilles heel.  (Thanks to Julie Garwood for the dragon/demon comparison.)

Conflict has to be internal and external in order for your character to grow.

Internal conflict brings the character’s biggest fears into the light.  His strongest defense, the thing he thinks is his greatest strength, may be his fatal flaw.

  • Inigo is the highest ranked swordsman in the world, but is downed by a Florinese blade.
  • Westley’s greatest strength is his love for Buttercup, but when he thinks of her to block the pain from the Machine, it isn’t enough.

Conflict must escalate throughout the story and make things progressively worse.

  • Westley must persuade the Dread Pirate Roberts not to kill him every day.
  • The Man in Black climbs the Cliffs of Insanity in pursuit of Buttercup.
  • The Man in Black fights Inigo and Fizzik and outsmarts Vizzini.
  • Westley is turned over to Count Rugen and is tortured.
  • Westley dies.

There are five points of major conflict in a story

  1. The inciting incident, the major hook that forces the characters into action.
  2. The first turning point, where a deeper motivation is revealed.
  3. The midpoint, or point of no return.
  4. The second turning point, where the character’s core motivation is revealed.
  5. The climax, the biggest conflict of all, the darkest moment.  a) Westley dies b) Inigo is stabbed and realizes he might not avenge his father’s death c) Buttercup realizes Westley is not coming to rescue her.

The Climax is the point when the protagonist and antagonist inevitably meet for their final confrontation, when only one emerges as the winner.

  • Westley and Prince Humperdinck have a battle of wits in Buttercup’s bedchamber.
  • Inigo and Count Rugen have a battle of blades in the billiard room.

The Resolution is the conclusion of all conflicts.  It’s the return to a new ordinary world and gives the reader his ultimate payoff.

  • Buttercup, Westley, Fezzik and Inigo ride toward the Florin Channel.  (Ignore the book’s false ending of Buttercup’s Baby.)

Conflict is necessary for your character.  Without it, your reader doesn’t become engaged, loses interest in the characters and wanders away, never to return.  And isn’t that a shame?

Make awful things happen to your characters.  Make them realize their biggest fears.  Then do it again and again until you don’t know how to get them out of trouble.  If you don’t know (you’ll figure it out in time) your reader won’t, and they’ll be there until the last page.

Last pages sell the next book.

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