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The Purpose Of Fiction
Fiction a Means of Telling Truth.—Before we set out upon a study of the materials and methods of fiction, we must be certain that we appreciate the purpose of the art and understand its relation to the other arts and sciences. The purpose of fiction is to embody certain truths of human life in a series of imagined facts.
Realism And Romance
Consequently we find in practice two contrasted schools of novelists, which we distinguish by the titles Realistic and Romantic.
The Nature Of Narrative
For the conveniences of study, however, it is well to examine the elements of narrative one by one; and we shall therefore devote three separate chapters to a technical consideration of plot, and characters, and setting.
Writing Fiction - Plot
Unity in Narrative.—Of course the prime structural necessity in narrative, as indeed in every method of discourse, is unity.
Writing Fiction - Characters
Characters Should Be Worth Knowing.—Before we proceed to study the technical methods of delineating characters, we must ask ourselves what constitutes a character worth delineating.
Writing Fiction - Setting
The Second Stage.—In the second stage, the back-ground is brought into an artistic, or decorative, relation with the figures in the foreground. This phase is exhibited by Italian painting at its period of maturity.
The Point Of View In Narrative
We have now examined in detail the elements of narrative, and must next consider the various points of view from which they may be seen and, in consequence, be represented.
Emphasis In Narrative
The features of any object that we contemplate may with intelligent judgment be divided into two classes, according as they are inherently essential, or else merely contributory, to the existence of that object as an individual entity.
The Epic, The Drama, And The Novel
Throughout the present volume, the word fiction has been used with a very broad significance, to include every type of literary composition whose purpose is to embody certain truths of human life in a series of imagined facts.
The Novel, The Novelette, And The Short Story
Turning our attention from the epic and the drama, and confining it to the general type of fiction which in the last chapter was loosely named novelistic, we shall find it possible to distinguish somewhat sharply, on the basis of both material and method, between three several forms,-the novel, the novelette, and the short-story.
The Structure Of The Short Story
Since the aim of a short-story is to produce a single narrative effect with the greatest economy of means that is consistent with the utmost emphasis, it follows that, given any single narrative effect—any theme, in other words, for a short-story—there can be only one best way to construct the story based upon it.
The Factor Of Style
The element of style, which has just been touched upon in reference to the short-story, must now be considered in its broader aspect as a factor of fiction in general.
The Play And Its Writer
Story and people are two fundamental elements of a play. They depend upon each other—in fact, the delicacy and the harmony of their interrelations present the main problem of the dramatist.
The Theme
Directions for writing plays usually commence with the choice of a theme, and properly so. For, theoretically, a drama is supposed to be the development of an abstract truth, which is its germ, which may be summed up in a sentence or two, and which is thought out in advance of any actual composition.
The Elements
Assuming that the dramatist has chosen his theme, he has next to devise a plot, or story-framework, and characters that will be adequate to its expression. The characters will reveal the story by means of dialogue, in addition to appearance, physical action, and pantomime.
The Plot And Some Of Its Fundamentals
The plot of a play attracts the attention largely through the element of suspense, or the curiosity to know what is going to happen next. Primarily, however, plots are interesting because they deal with people, the most alluring subject humanity can contemplate.
Some Further Plot Fundamentals
Formerly few dramas lacked a central figure about whom, as the story unfolded, the other dramatis persona revolved. At present there is a growing tendency to emphasize a small group of significant characters, rather than merely one of them.
Outlining The Complication
The crux of the plot is what the word implies--a cross. It may be like a crossroads, with its consequent choice of ways, or it may be the crossing of wills in individuals, or the unintentional crossing of one's purposes by some innocent person, or the rising of an evil deed out of one's past to cross his ambitions, or any one of a countless number of such complications.
The Exposition
An American novelist is quoted as asserting that there are two types of modern play: one in which the hero and heroine marry, and all their troubles are over; and the other in which they marry, and all their troubles begin.
The Management Of Preparation In The Plot
At the same time that the dramatist is informing his audience of events that have happened in the past, he should be making ready for the things that are to occur in the future. This is the art of preparation, emphasized by Dumas fils, as the art of the theatre.
Suspense And Surprise
The element upon which interest in the drama chiefly depends is that of suspense. Suspense is largely an anxious curiosity—emotional, of course—to know what is going to result from certain given causes and what in turn will happen as the consequence of these results.
Climax And The Ending
The highest point or climax of a typical drama marks the division of the two processes out of which the plot of a play is made. These processes are frequently described as the complication—the weaving together of the various threads of interest—and the resolution—the untangling of the threads again.
Devices And Conventions
Perhaps the chief relic of the sub-plot may be found in the element of relief. As everybody knows, characters such as comic servants, quaint old people, and juvenile lovers, have long been employed to furnish a humorous or a sentimental contrast to the main action, particularly when it has been deeply serious.
The Characters
Since characters in plays are supposed to be drawn from real life, the playwright's success will obviously depend, first, on his powers of observation; and, second, on his ability to portray what he observes.
Dramatis Personae And Life
Scores of critics have reassured us as to the fact that the playwright is naturally limited, in his depiction of humanity, to the self-revelatory manners, words, and deeds of his characters, together with their reactions upon their fellows and their environment.
Plot And Character Harmony
Plot-and-character harmony, let it be repeated, is both the chief problem of the dramatist and the first essential of a good play. Even in sheer melodrama, if it is to be worth while, the personages must not for the sake of the story be forced into glaring inconsistency.
The Dialogue
After action, pantomime and dialogue are the chief means by which the personages in a drama reveal themselves and tell the story in which they are involved.
Kinds Of Plays
What is chiefly desirable in the theatre is not so much plays of ideas as plays with ideas. As men like Huxley have frequently reiterated, the emotional and the intellectual processes are not separate and distinct.
The One Act Play
The one-act play is to the play of three, four, or five acts much as the short-story is to the novel. And, as there are novelists who fail at short-story writing, and vice versa, so there are dramatists qualified to deal in full-evenings' entertainments who are helpless in the realm of the playlet, and the reverse.
Scenario Making And Mechanical Process
There is a relation between the one-act play and the scenario, if only a quantitative one. The scenario is in reality a condensed version of the longer play, partaking of the tabloid features of the playlet.
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