Inconceivable! that an analysis of William Goldman and Rob Reiner’s masterpiece The Princess Bride lingered for so long. How many of us watched the film on VHS over and over again memorizing every line? Writers familiar with Dramatica know that compulsory repeated viewings indicate a strong narrative structure. Wouldn’t this suggest The Princess Bride as a strong candidate for analysis?
Writer and eventual Dramatica Story Expert Mike Lucas thought so. Mike felt he had the requisite experience needed to analyze the film and had advice for those looking to do the same:
- Watch it 10-15 times as a kid.
- Have your sisters watch it EVERY SINGLE DAY for an entire summer, until the VHS tape dies. While you are in earshot, absorbing the narrative subconsciously.
- Wait 20 years or so to let it really gel.
- Now the story is so much a part of you, you can determine its storyform with ease!
Mike might be onto something…he completed this official Dramatica analysis of The Princess Bride in one week! Typically, I afford students in the Dramatica Mentorship Program at least two months to finish the first pass of a comprehensive analysis—I couldn’t believe my eyes when Mike contacted me a week later with this full analysis.
We’re not just talking your basic storyform here—Mike went through and defined elaborate examples for each and every story point. A truly remarkable effort.
Comedy Wrapped Up in the Encoding
The most compelling takeaway, from a Dramatica point of view, is how many of the story points ended up woven into the narrative and how many of them were encoded in a funny or sarcastic way. It’s almost as if Goldman and Reiner had a copy of Dramatica before it was released to the public.
“Inconceivable!? Funny you should say that: turns out inconceivable, or Conceiving, is the Overall Story Concern:
- The point of Humperdink’s plot is to get the people of Florin to conceive that Guilder is their enemy.
- The grandfather wants the boy to conceive of the romantic “kissing” parts of the story as worth reading.
- Inigo’s plan for vengeance is to ensure Count Rugen (aka the Six-Fingered Man) gets the idea that he was wrong to kill his father.
- Vizzini encounters conflict in the area of thinking things are “Inconceivable!”: INIGO: You keep using that word—I do not think it means what you think it means.
Even the Overall Story Problem, often hard to find one or two examples of, pops up everywhere:
In the overall story of The Princess Bride, problems occur when people evaluate their situation or circumstances. Usually it’s because their evaluations are wrong, but sometimes even accurate evaluations cause trouble.
- The boy evaluates the book based on its title and romance moments, thinking he won’t like it. Even after he starts liking it, he still holds onto his evaluation about the “kissing” being lame, until the end.
- The people of Florin rate Prince Humperdink too highly because of the radiant beauty and goodness of his princess bride, allowing that to colour their assessment of him.
- Vizzini constantly analyses the man in black’s pursuit poorly. First he’s just a fisherman in eel infested waters, then he will be stopped by the Cliffs of Insanity, then he will be thrown off with the rope, then he will be stopped by his fighters, then he will not stand a chance in the duel of wits …
- Buttercup assesses Westley’s chances of surviving as poor, and evaluates (poorly) that he will stand a better chance if she makes a deal and surrenders.
- The Machine is used to evaluate how much pain people can stand. Westley makes a poor evaluation that he can withstand it.
- Westley’s accurate examination / analysis of Count Rugen’s hand gets him hit over the head.
- Humperdink’s excellent tracking (a type of evaluation) causes trouble for Buttercup and Westley
- Humperdink’s correct assessment that Westley cannot move appears to spell the end for the rescue attempt….
Reiner and Goldman may have had some super secret access to Dramatica, or…it could just be that great writers intuitively understand the idea of a story being an analogy to a single human mind trying to solve a problem.
Note too how Lucas managed to find evidence of the storyform in both the inner story of the Princess Bride and in the outer story with the interaction between the Kid and the Grandfather. This is probably a no-brainer to most, yet the idea that both the Kid and Buttercup share the same Main Character Problem and that both the Grandfather and Westley share the same Influence Character Problem…well, it’s pretty inconceivable!
Mike’s analysis can be found on the official Dramatica analysis of The Princess Bride page.