DRAMA and FICTION

We have five classes left for this semester (our last class is on Dec 11th I think).

We need to to look first at what will be in the final portfolio.

The Final Portfolio comprises four items, which should be uploaded to Blackboard>USERS>GROUPS>Final Portfolio on Dec 12th.

Your final portfolio should comprise the following 4 items:

1: One poem
2: One memoir
3: One work of fiction
4: One dramatic scene (either a comic script or a play script).

All should be revised. The following may affect your grade:

Any tense slippage in memoir or fiction (do one read through JUST for tense slippage, then do a second read through).

Any POV slippage in memoir or fiction. 

Any incorrectly formatted dialogue (this includes awkward dialogue tags and adverbs used to modify dialogue tags).

Be cautious with the word ‘as’ used as a conjunction. If you use ‘as’ as a conjunction make sure that you link simultaneous events.

(“Good bye for ever,” she said as she slammed the door and walked down the stairs–– would be incorrect.)

Overuse of adverbs.

Overuse of the participle (…ing verbs).

DRAMA-and-FICTION

There are many fundamental similarities between a work of fiction and a play.

Like a work of fiction, a play:

Tells a story of human change,

In which a character goes on a psychic journey,

Involving a power struggle between a protagonist and an antagonist.

Through a process of discovery and decision,

Connection and disconnection,

Culminating in a crisis action,

To arrive at a different situation to the one the protagonist was in at the beginning.

As with fiction it is important to choose the plot you will make from your story; the portion of the story that is to be dramatized.

Why does the action begin in this place?

At this time?

Conversely here is a chart highlighting some differences between a work of fiction and a play.

Fiction:

The writer writes what the reader reads.

Takes place in the reader’s imagination.

Takes place in private; in solitude.

All images, sensory impressions, and ideas are in words, transcribed in the brain.

Can go into characters’ thoughts.

Drama:

The script is interpreted by the director and the cast.

Takes place here, now, on the stage.

Takes place in public, communally.

Actors, props, costumes, can be seen. Dialogue and music can be heard.

All thoughts must be externalized.

Author may offer direct interpretations and analysis in the course of the story.

Can go into past action.

Can be any length; room to digress.

Can be taken up and put down at will.

After publisher’s initial cost outlay can be reproduced indefinitely.

Only characters express opinions. The author’s meaning emerges indirectly.

Past must be made part of the present.

Length more or less prescribed; must be focussed.

Continuous performance.

Theater holds a limited number of seats; production remains expensive.

 

In stage drama, the process of story is condensed and intensified. Usually something has happened before the curtain rises, called the inciting incident, which creates the situation in which the protagonist finds themselves.

Hamlet’s father has died and his mother has remarried.

The play will present this situation through exposition: The watchmen reveal that the ghost of Hamlet’s father has been walking near the castle at night––Veru soon the action began with a point of attack. The ghost speaks to Hamlet, demanding revenge against Claudius.

Now the play has set up its conflict, identified the protagonist and antagonist, and it is time for the complications to begin.

All of these traditions can be identified in story.

The inciting incident of Cinderella would be that her mother has dies and her father has remarried..

The exposition tells us that the stepmother and stepsisters mistreat her.

The point of attack begins with the invitation to the ball.

The core fact of the theater is that it takes place right now.

Fiction is usually written in past tense, and even when it is not there ia an implied perspective of looking back on action completed.

The constant effort of the fiction writer is to give the imaginative past the immediacy of the present.

In drama the effort is the opposite: to present the necessary information of the past as an integral part of the present drama.

A play has to be short.

It takes much longer to read words aloud than to read silently. The pace averages about a page a minute.

A novel may take a silent, solitary reader 5-15 hours to complete.

Plays are seldom more than 2 hours.

A movie script is usually 120 pages, hence 120 minutes of performance time.

Movies and plays are much closer in length to short stories than they are to novels.

If a play is a snack, and a movie is a full, fifteen course banquet, then will the play satisfy the viewer/audience/reader?

The point of this somewhat stretched and limited analogy is that the snack of the play is going to have to be very filling.

It will have to have greater intensity than the individual courses of the banquet of the novel.

The play will have to be a compressed brick of nutrients, perhaps a little like my own pancakes––although the play can’t be burnt on the outside and raw int he middle.

Compared to dialogue in a novel, play dialogue has to be economical and focussed. 

Reading a play in print form might make the dialogue seem flat, halting and minimal compared to a novel’s dialogue, and yet the excellence fo a script lies in the naturalness of the characters’ speeches.

What the playwright has to do is provide richness of character, situation, and action on which the director and actors can build.

When you write for the stage you lose a great deal of what you may indulge in asa novelist.

You lose the freedom to leap from place to place, from past to present to future, bust significantly you lose the freedom to go inside your viewpoint character’s mind, and tell us what they are thinking, and to integrate the action for us, telling us what to believe about them or the situation; to indulge your eloquence, and to digress on themes that may be fascinating, but do not add to the story.

The playwright has to have a great deal of faith.

The audience does not receive what the writer writes in the form that it was written, but as interpreted by the actors, director, and designers, who may know less about the subject matter than the author.

What the playwright gets in return is the live presence of sight and sound––movement, music, props, costumes, sound effects––to be used as inventively as the director can devise.

The immediacy and expressiveness of live actors.

The thrill of an organic collaboration.

 

Sight: Sets, Action, Costumes, Props.

The  drama begins the moment the audience sees the stage.

It is possible to introduce conflict before the actors enter, as in this opening direction from Simon Gray’s BUTLEY.

An office in a college of London University.
About 10 in the morning.
The office is badly decorated.
There are two desks facing each other, each with a swivel chair.
BEN’s desk, left, is a chaos of papers, books, detritus.
JOEY’s desk, right, is almost bare. Behind each desk is a bookcase. Again, BEN’s is chaotic with old essays and mimeographed sheets scattered among the books, while JOEY’s is neat. Not many books on the shelves.

As the curtain rises, BEN enters, in a plastic raincoat, which he takes off and throws into the chair. He has a lump of cotton wool on his chin, form a nasty shaving cut. He goes to his chair, sits down, looks around as if for something, shifts uncomfortably, pulls the Mac out from under him, searches through its pockets, takes out half a banana, a bit squashed, then throws the raincoat over JOEY’s desk.

He takes a bite from the banana…

The Stage Lie.

Frequently in plays what the characters say is at odds with what they wear, handle, or DO.

They speak a text, but reveal a subtext through other means.

This is the Stage Lie.

It can be revealed through action, slips of the tongue, stumbling, exaggeration––verbal clues that indicate untruthfulness in real life.

Never expect truth from the person who says, “…to tell you the truth…”

This is how BUTLEY continues:

BEN: Butley. English. Hello James, have a nice break? (a pause––he mouths a curse.) Sorry, James, can’t talk now––I’m right in the middle of a tutorial––bye.

So, this is what I would like you to do:

Using BUTLEY as kind of a template.

1: Write directions for the set that the audience see as the curtain rises. Try to introduce conflict in the set, before any characters appear.

2: One the set is set bring in a character. Have this character act in a way that makes the implied conflict worse. Have the character incongruous with the expectations of the set perhaps.

3: When the character finally begins speaking introduce a stage lie.

To tell you the truth this exercise seems so much fun that I’m going to do it myself.

Uh-oh. I just said “…to tell you the truth…”

Yikes!