One of my all-time favorite movies is The Princess Bride. It’s utterly perfect in so many ways. You laugh, you cry, you jump, you feel like true love is alive. It really has it all.
If you haven’t seen this movie, go watch it first.
It also got me thinking about the great communication and writing lessons tucked inside.
Westley is at the center of many great examples throughout the movie!
As writers, some of our pieces appeal strongly to a certain group of our followers and not at all to others. For instance, in writing this right now, I’m neglecting everyone who has not seen this movie, but I’m really connecting to those that love it as much as I do.
If I write a sports-related piece, only half of my audience is going to enjoy it. Not everyone likes sports and that is perfectly okay. But if my goal is to get people to go download my sports- inspired content cheat sheet, then they are my audience for the day.
Back to Westley. Oh, my sweet, Westley.
In the beginning, he’s quiet and docile. He loves Buttercup but realizes it will take time for this strong woman to show her vulnerable side and profess her love, so he waits and his words are simple and exactly what she needs to hear, “As you wish…”
When we write, we need to understand what our audience needs to hear. Do they need to connect with pain points, do they need positive reinforcement or support, do they need motivation and inspiration? Give them what they wish.
We don’t see it happening, but we know Westley must have really impressed the Dread Pirate Roberts because he didn’t kill him. In fact, he chose him to continue his secret life. I imagine Westley used his charm and knowledge of saying what only needed to be said to escape certain death.
A great lesson when writing. Less is more. Fluff doesn’t add anything but length. Keep your points clear, concise and memorable.
When Westley finally emerges and we find him facing the three men who kidnapped Buttercup, he again knows exactly how to talk to each of them.
When facing Inigo, even though they are battling with swords, they quickly find mutual respect. They chat throughout the whole duel, even complimenting one another on their skills.
This goes to show that even if your audience thinks differently than you do, you can build mutual respect by sharing knowledge that impacts. Maybe not everyone will get your humor, but everyone might resonate with the message of love or support you share in your writing. Who likes your writing might really surprise you.
Westley also intrigues Inigo and Inigo wants to know who he is. Westley doesn’t tell him, which is another good lesson. Always leave your audience wanting more when you write. If you have a 6-part series on sales and you publish it all in one article, there isn’t much more to share. Spread the content out over time. Mystery is a good thing. Leave that mask on a little bit longer.
Next up, he faces Fezzik, the giant. What can we learn from this? Never believe your writing isn’t good enough to stand amongst the giants of writing. Westley couldn’t beat the giant on strength alone, but he did beat him with persistence. He knew he could put the giant to sleep if he held on long enough and if you hold on long enough, you will start getting noticed, too. This isn’t an easy career. But it’s the most amazing one and if writing is in your soul, then you must write.
When facing Vizzini, he knows he’s dealing with a big ego. He also knows he has a powerful tool, an immunity to iocane powder, that he can use to battle Vizzini, who thinks he is much smarter than everyone else.
Our lesson here is practice makes perfect. Westley spent a year building up an immunity to the powder so he could poison both glasses. When we hone our craft, write every day, we become immune to the negativity and doubt that arises within. The doubt that ultimately kills our writing and instead, we flourish and thrive off that poison.
Lastly, even though I could go on forever with this…Buttercup realizes that the masked man is her Westley, only after she hears his signature phrase, “Aaaaaaaaaaas youuuuuuuu wiiiiiiiish,” as he barrels down the hill.
You need a signature writing style, brand, personality, etc. It’s already inside of you and once that mask comes off there is no stopping you. Not even by a Rodent of Unusual Size.
Go into that Fire Swamp of the unknown, battle your personal Prince Humperdincks’ along the way and come out at the end with the realization that your story is a beautiful one that deserves to be told.