There’s no other story quite like The Princess Bride.
Fantasy novels are so often focused on the action, the universe-saving battles and the brooding warriors who fight them, but The Princess Bride is in a league of it’s own as a proper fantasy/comedy book. With characters, dialogue, and conflict all drenched in sarcasm and wit, William Goldman’s novel (later adapted into the well beloved movie) represents just about everything you’d want from an adult fiction fairy tale.
How can a writer twist such a classic story of boy meets girl into a rip-roaring and laugh-tastic, yet meaningful fantasy adventure? If you’re interested in going down the comedic route for your Inkshares fantasy submission, take note of a few of Goldman’s Ten Commandments on Writing that he featured in his tell-all, Adventures in the Screen Trade.
Thou Shalt Not Make Life Easy for the Protagonist
What makes your favorite book so interesting to you isn’t the number of pages, color of the protagonist’s hair, or the time of day the story begins. It’s the conflict. The problem that your main characters are fighting against. In a comedy piece set in a fantasy landscape, this can be the most difficult part of the story to tackle. With the inclusion of action sequences and evil doers, throwing around one-liners and running jokes can take away from the seriousness of the conflict. You can combat this problem by keeping the character’s conflict at the heart of the story, and presenting how they deal with and react to the conflict in a humorous way.
Thou Shalt Put a Subtext Under Every Text
As a writer looking to create comedic undertone in your story, subtext is key. When we meet Valerie and Miracle Max, and we hear Max repeatedly call his wife a witch, we don’t really know if he’s calling her a crude name or is simply stating her profession. The meaning behind Max doing so is to hide the fact that Valerie isn’t actually a witch, but as every Miracle Man needs a witch on hand for good business, create the illusion that his wife fills that role (with her permission, of course). As in any genre, it’s only funny if the audience cares, and by having meaning behind your words you can convince readers to do just that.
Thou Shalt Not Give Exposition for Exposition’s Sake
At the beginning of the book, we learn a lot about Buttercup and her family life, and this exposition is needed to backup the actions of her character as the story continues on. But, as in all humor, if your lead up to the joke is too long, the laugh will be lost. The reader needs to care, but doesn’t need to know every single detail to appreciate the story and the joke. There’s a fine line between too much and just enough. A particularly smart quote from the novel comes from the perspective of Inigo towards Fezzick as they approach the Zoo of Death, “Someone would have to keep his wits, and he had assumed automatically that since Fezzik had so few, he would find retaining them not all that difficult.” A little insensitive and a lot funny, this line builds off of what we know about Fezzik through prior exposition, but without deferring from the joke itself.
William Goldman’s crisp wit is prominent on every page, and in practically every line. From the conversations between characters, to the asides he includes from his frame story or from S. Morgenstern’s (the book’s “author”) perspective, readers experience real, legitimate laughter throughout their time with this book.
The plot may be comparable to others in it’s genre, but the characters and their personal journeys truly create a depth to the story that can be felt through the page or the screen. Vizzini isn’t just another princess kidnapper, he’s an egotistical little lump of a man with villainous glory on his mind day in and day out. Inigo is a majestic swordsmith with a troubling past, and all he wants in this world is to avenge the death of his iconic father. And Buttercup, well, Buttercup is better when she’s portrayed by Robin Wright. It’s a truth.
Tell us all about your Inkshares contest submission in the comments below! Are you adding a little comedic relief to your story after studying The Princess Bride? Find me on Twitter, and let’s talk about R.O.U.S.’s and the Dread Pirate Roberts. Anybody want a peanut?
Image Credits: Act III Communications/20th Century Fox