All About Theater

Essentials of Play Writing 1

The following ingredients are necessary for making a drama -- plot, situations, characters and dialogues; and their relative importance is shown in the order they are given.

This rule applies to both comedies and dramas. How much it may be modified to fit tragedies is not worth considering, since very few playwrights are attempting to write tragedies, a form of entertainment that is not particularly popular even in the instances hallowed by long acceptance.

The writer who creates a really good tragedy must be a poet, if not in the actual form of his work, at least in his feeling. He will not be bound by rule when the fever of composition is on him. It is best that he should write as he feels, and have his work shaped for the stage by another hand.

The ordinary dramatist ought to give more attention to the mechanics of his play than to its literary qualities. What is known as "good construction" is the great desideratum. "Construction" includes the exposition, progress and unravelling of the plot; the development of those successive stages by means of situations plaecd in the best positions and the most effective sequence; the exits and entrances of characters; the forming of the characters into groups and the dispersing thereof; and the gradual helping forward of the story by the use of hints in the dialogue and the employment of bits of action knon in stage-parlance as 'business'.

A well-constructed play may be fitly compared to a Roman mosaic. It is composed of hundreds or thousands of minute pieces, each one of which has its value in creating the general effect, while the absence of nay one would leave an ugly gap. In seeing a play we are in the same relative position as if we were watching a workman put together his mosaic. At first the importance and value of each sentence or action are as difficult to distinguish as in the case of each additional square of stone; but after a time the apparently detached and disconnected morsels growin to a complete an systematic design.

The artistically made play has not in it a word or a deed which does not help on the action. Nor is anything omitted which is needed to make the situation clear and the development reasonably logical. If such omission were made, we should feel that the workman had left out one of his cubes and seriously injured the value of the work.

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