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Posts Tagged ‘the princess bride’

The Viking Prince loves robots. Loves them. It kinda doesn’t matter what the story is about, so long as there are robots in it: Pacific Rim, Big Hero 6, Earth’s Mightiest Heroes (which has both Ultron and Vision, plus assorted bad guys’ mechas), Voltron, Transformers, I’m not kidding. So when the movie Earth to Echo, featuring an adorable little robot from outer space, showed up on Netflix, of course we had to watch it.

echo_picThe movie was decent. In it, the kids have to help the little robot, who crash-landed on our planet, evade shady government agents and get back to its ship so that it can go home. Of course this requires all manner of crazy, definitely not parentally-approved, shenanigans, including but not limited to riding their bikes into the desert at night, stealing the shady government agents’ truck, and getting into a car chase with said truck. (The kids, I should add, are about 13.)

All of which got me thinking about the virtue of prudence.

Now, Prudence is not how most people imagine her: a fussy-faced old maid with her iron hair pulled back in a tight bun and her grey dress buttoned up to her pointy chin, scowling and shaking her bony finger at you whenever you think about doing something fun. Yes, she wants you to eat your vegetables (carrots are good for your eyes!) and brush your teeth (cavities are no fun, and dentist visits are expensive), but if you need to steal (borrow! with every intention of giving it back!) a truck to save the space robot from the shady government agents, then by God grab the keys.

In Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis defines prudence this way:

Prudence means practical common sense, taking the trouble to think out what you are doing and what is likely to come of it. Nowadays most people hardly think of Prudence as one of the ‘virtues’. In fact, because Christ said we could only get into His world by being like children, many Christians have the idea that, provided you are ‘good’, it does not matter being a fool. But that is a misunderstanding. In the first place, most children show plenty of ‘prudence’ about doing the things they are really interested in, and think them out quite sensibly. In the second place, as St Paul points out, Christ never meant that we were to remain children in intelligence: on the contrary. He told us to be not only ‘as harmless as doves’, but also ‘as wise as serpents’. He wants a child’s heart, but a grown-up’s head. He wants us to be simple, single- minded, affectionate, and teachable, as good children are; but He also wants every bit of intelligence we have to be alert at its job, and in first-class fighting trim….

Right action at the right time, that’s Prudence.

Of course that means if the apparently-crazy-by-worldly-standards path, the slim-chance-but-also-the-only-chance path, is the best path, then you must take it. Prudence doesn’t mean hanging back and not taking risks.

Jumping off a cliff to escape angry natives? Prudent!

Jumping off a cliff to escape angry natives? Prudent!

Dressing your giant in a holocaust cloak and lighting him on fire to intimidate the guards? Totally prudent!

Dressing your giant in a holocaust cloak and lighting him on fire to intimidate the guards? Totally prudent!

A diminutive psychic ninja locking herself in with space zombies in order to save her crew?  The prudent-est!

A diminutive psychic ninja locking herself in with space zombies in order to save her crew? The prudent-est!

Or, take another view.

I knew a dude whose philosophy of life was basically this: do what makes the best story.

Now, we could spend a lot of time hammering out the details of this philosophy, the ethics and morality and what makes a story “good”, but the basic premise is actually a pretty good starting point. Our lives are stories we are given to write. We’re handed the basic setup: home, family, place of birth, social status, and so on. But from there it’s up to us.

And what does make the best story? Think of your favorite tales, the ones that speak to your soul, the ones you return to again and again. Do they contain marvels, adventures, strange sights and interesting characters, risk-taking and romance, courage and daring deeds? Or do they contain … I don’t know. Lots of television watching, commuting, maybe a 401K and a well-diversified stock portfolio.* (And if the latter, what are you doing at this blog?)

All the virtues are interconnected; prudence requires courage: the courage to stand up for one’s convictions, to jump off a cliff if necessary, even just the courage to say hello to that attractive someone and see what happens next. The kids in Earth to Echo displayed magnificent prudence (and courage, and love, and other virtues too), doing what was right and necessary to save their newfound alien friend. And maybe kids are better at prudence, true prudence, because life has not yet battered over-caution and self-preservation-above-all-else into their souls? Part of that whole “be like little children” thing.

We are given only one life, one story to live–all the more reason to take risks, to be bold, to make it a tale of romance and brotherhood and battling against evil, doing the right thing even when it is hard and dangerous and terrifying.

You know, prudently. 😀


*Not knocking a well-diversified stock portfolio, BTW. Just hinting that if your stock portfolio is the focus of your story, you might want to diversify your life a bit too.

**P.S. I just want you to know I had to watch bits of The Princess Bride, Star Trek: Into Darkness and Serenity to get the screencaptures I wanted for this post. The things I do for you people! 😀

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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.

Unless he has a-studied his Agrippa!  Which I have!

Unless he has a-studied his Agrippa! Which I have!

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.

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