Sunday, December 13, 2009

Primal Emotions

Over at the Mad Genius Club-Writers' Division, I did a post the other week about favourite movies and everyone started quoting The Princess Bride.

Not only is is fun and cool, with terrifically quirky characters, but the dialogue is so good, people can quote it from memory. That is an achievement, any writer would envy. It has even crept into the everyday. If I ask my husband to take out the rubbish, he says 'As you wish.'

What made The Princess Bride so memorable, apart from all of the above?

Well, as Fezzik the Giant and Inigo Montoya tell the Miracle Man, he must help them because Westley is motivated by 'True Love'. A primal emotion.

What drove Inigo to train with the sword every day from the age of 11? Revenge. He had to avenge his father's murder. A primal emotion.

What makes a book or movie memorable its ability to reach into us and make an emotional connection. What do we all share? Primal emotions.

There's a little caveman (or woman) in all of us.

As a writer, if you can tap into that primal emotion, you will connect with your readers. That is why Romance is the biggest selling genre, outselling all other popular fiction fiction paperback genres combined. (Quoting from Romance Writers of Australia).

For The Princess Bride fans here is one of my favourite scenes and possibly the best revenge scene ever written.

Memorable quotes from The Princess Bride

Inigo Montoya: Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.
[Inigo advances on Rugen, but stumbles into the table with sudden pain. Rugen attacks, but Inigo parries and rises to his feet again]
Inigo Montoya: Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.
[Rugen attacks again, Inigo parries more fiercely, gaining strength]
Inigo Montoya: Hello! My name is Inigo Montoya! You killed my father! Prepare to die!
Count Rugen: Stop saying that!
[Rugen attacks, twice. Inigo avoids and wounds Rugen in both shoulders, the same spots where he wounded Inigo. Inigo attacks, bellowing:]
[Inigo corners Count Rugen, knocks his sword aside, and slashes his cheek, giving him a scar just like Inigo's]
Inigo Montoya: Offer me money.
Count Rugen: Yes!
Inigo Montoya: Power, too, promise me that.
[He slashes his other cheek]
Count Rugen: All that I have and more. Please...
Inigo Montoya: Offer me anything I ask for.
Count Rugen: Anything you want...
[Rugen knocks Inigo's sword aside and lunges. But Inigo traps his arm and aims his sword at Rugen's stomach]
Inigo Montoya: I want my father back, you son of a bitch!
[He runs Count Rugen through and shoves him back against the table. Rugen falls to the floor, dead]

Whew. I feel better just having read that. And I'm a pacificist!

Okay, what scene from books or movies have been so memorable, that you can still recall them today and maybe quote a line or two?


Anonymous said...

Gross Point Blank is one of my all time favourite films. An assassin going to his ten year highschool reunion and trying to find redemption. There's a lot of good one liners, but I love the 'this is me breathing' moment because it encapsulates both the character being smoothered by what he is as well as breaking free of what he is...

Marty: Oatman? Don't hang up. Listen, I didn't kill anyone - except some guy tried to kill me, so if I see that guy again, I'm definitely gonna kill him, but I'm not going to kill anybody else. I'm on my way to the reunion now with Debi, but I'm just a little nervous, and I'd like to do a phoner.
Dr. Oatman: O.K., repeat after me. "I am at home with the me. I am rooted in the me who is on this adventure."
Marty: I am at home with the me, I am rooted in the me who is on this adventure.
Dr. Oatman: Good. Now take a deep breath, and realize that this is me breathing.
Marty: Wait, I'm confused. Do you want me to say it or do you want me to realize it?
Dr. Oatman: What?
Marty: About the breathing.
Dr. Oatman: Say it.
Marty: This is me breathing.
Dr. Oatman: Good, now keep doing that for about twenty minutes.
Marty: Listen, I got to go.
Dr. Oatman: O.K. Keep it up. Don't kill anybody.
Marty: Right!
[Hangs up. Pulls out a gun, checks the clip, puts the clip back in and stares at the gun.]
Marty: This is me breathing.

GPB is more about Marty trying to reconnect with his primal emotions. He's trying to work out when he became an emotionless killer and at the same time, maybe, possibly find true love.

Love the Princess Bride, too. One instance of the movie being more memorable than the book, I think.

Cheers, Lisa.

Flinthart said...

Good choice, Comrade Hayward. GPB is one of the few films worthy of being mentioned in the same paragraph as The Princess Bride.

Primal emotions... yeah. They make pretty good motivators, don't they? They're common denominators. Everybody's got 'em. An intellectually driven character, on the other hand, can be a problem for readers.

Makes you wonder about the succes of Sherlock Holmes, doesn't it?

Rita de Heer said...

I don't know if joyful amazement is a primal emotion, but the scene in A Quest for Fire where the main character discovers that fire can be made rather than having to be found, is one of my favourites; the second, in the same film, is of MC feeding a mammoth played by a live, dressed-up elephant (before the days of computer graphics)a superb illustration of how courage is doing something despite you're almost legless with fear. No lines that I remember, not even names. All of it spoken in unintelligible, made up languages.

Rowena Cory Daniells said...

Lisa, Gross Point Blank has such a good premise for a movie.

Rowena Cory Daniells said...


Sherlock is successful because we find intellect fascianting.

Rowena Cory Daniells said...


Joy and wonder are primal emotions. Why else would we crave beautiful things?

Why else would music inspire us? It bypasses all logic and goes straight to the emotional core of the brain.