So, we’ve all been sick with various permutations of winter crud around here, which means not a lot of sleeping and almost no creating, so in order to warm the drawing hand back up (and get some cool fencing poses for future drawings) I decided to sketch some of the duel from The Princess Bride. Now, thumbnailing poses from movies is a good exercise anyway, if you can’t get out to a coffee shop or a mall and sketch the people there (which … the people at the mall or coffee shop are very unlikely to be fencing, so there’s also that), but as I drew I found something very interesting.
Now all these drawings represent about ten seconds of the duel between Inigo Montoya and the Man in Black. At the top of the page, Inigo is on the left and the MIB on the right. In the middle of the second row, they swap positions … but you can still tell who is who (and not because I scribbled in Inigo’s hair).
Inigo has a wild, squirrelly kind of fencing style; he’s always jumping around, his knees are bent, his arms are loose. The Man in Black has a much more muscular, solid stance: even when he’s stepping backwards (the first four drawings), his posture is straight up and down, very square, very controlled. If you’ve seen the Thor: the Dark World outtake with Tom Hiddleston in the Captain America uniform, compare how he kind of flails the shield around, as opposed to Chris Evans’ much more precise shield wielding in the final cut. This is not to say that one way is better than the other, but the movement displays the difference between their characters. Something as subtle as posture shows us that the Man in Black is in control of this fight; he’s strong, he’s masculine, and he’s not the slightest bit concerned. Whereas Inigo joys in battle, and thinks he is playing with his opponent (because this still before the famous “I am not left-handed!”).
What can these differences tell us about the characters, and how can we apply it to our own storytelling? I admit, it’s easier to show how a character moves in a visual medium like film, but even in a written tale you could use wilder-sounding words for Inigo: slash, fling, bound, etc, while the Man in Black might have a more controlled parry or counter. In this subtle way, you reveal your characters to the reader–because a reader can only get to know a character through the character’s actions, and how those actions are portrayed. (A savvy reader will probably not pay much attention to what you tell about the characters; I remember reading a book in which much page-space was wasted with secondary characters telling each other how amazing and awesome the main character was. The result was that I still wasn’t impressed with the main character, and I thought the secondary characters were idiots too.)
And if you’re interested in the art side, I used a Pentel Sign Pen brush pen for the drawing. It’s not much good for inking, but it is a great sketching pen, because it forces you to think of gestures instead of fiddly details. Which probably is also a useful notion to apply to writing, but I leave it to the reader to figure out how.