Writing by Quotes – Conan the Barbarian


Conan Picture

I’ve been promising another Writing by Quotes article for quite some time. It seemed to be a popular feature and I’m glad to indulge you. Today, I’m going to be pulling quotes from the Conan books and films and explore how the quotes can also relate to writing. Wish me luck, here we go!

Conan: You have a name?
Tamara: Tamara Amalia Jorvi-Karashan. And yours?
Conan: Conan.
Tamara: [pause] Conan… that’s it?
Conan: How many names do I need?

~ Conan the Barbarian (2011)

Let’s start with a simple one. This quote was crying out to be included in this article. Simply put, it’s talking about names."Hither came Conan, the Cimmerian, black-... You’ve all seen those ridiculous fantasy names before and you’ve heard all sorts of advice as to whether you should invent surnames or titles for your characters. I say, it depends on the character you’re writing. Conan is the best example of a character with only one name: Conan. It just works so well and it’s all you need.

“You cannot escape me!” he roared. “Lead me into a trap and I’ll pile the heads of your kinsmen at your feet! Hide from me and I’ll tear apart the mountains to find you! I’ll follow you to hell!”

~ The Coming of Conan (1953)

This is the attitude you need to take towards your plot as you are writing. Plots can be devious things and they can easily catch you off-guard when you least expect it. So, if your plot leads you into a trap, pile the heads of its kinsmen at its feet! If it hides from you, tear apart the mountains to find it! In other words, follow it to hell! By the way, if you’re actually running around your house screaming the above quote at your manuscript, I think you need help. Also, my name’s not James, it’s Fred and I live at 123 Fake Street… you nutcase.

King Osric: What daring! What outrageousness! What insolence! What arrogance!… I salute you.

~ Conan the Barbarian (1982)

ConanI couldn’t resist including a quote from the Arnie movies. Some loved them, others hated them. I, personally, loved them. The quote above kind of sums up those early movies. They were doing their own thing with the character of Conan. Maybe they didn’t do it the full justice it deserved, but they certainly have to be saluted for trying. The same goes for writing a novel. Many novels are written with a certain arrogance, daring or outrageousness. People may end up hating them, but if they succeed and people buy them… well, we salute them.

Wits and swords are as straws against the wisdom of the Darkness…

~ The Phoenix on the Sword (1932)

Every story has good and evil, no matter how you dress it up and tell me it’s “grey”. More often that not, the evil in a story can seem far superior, wiser and stronger. Not even a hero’s blade or a wizard’s magic seem to be able to stand against it. However, look at that quote again. What do straws do? They suck stuff up, like a vacuum cleaner. So, when the obvious means of fighting seem useless, look a little closer and see what else you can do. If the Darkness wants to try and defeat an army of deadly straws, I think we all know it’s going to lose. You can take this lesson and apply it to your plot. If the hero’s first line of attack fails, look outside the box and see what else he can do. Surprise yourself and you surprise your reader too.

Expect another of these articles very soon…

As for tomorrow’s post on Fantasy In Motion, I have something really special lined up for you. Check back tomorrow to find out what it is!

3 thoughts on “Writing by Quotes – Conan the Barbarian

  1. ÆMarling (@AEMarling) 03-May-2012 / 19:23

    You definitely do need Conan’s confidence (and rage?) to write a novel. I often say that to begin a novel you need overwhelming hubris, and to edit it you need overwhelming humility.

    Thanks for the post.

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