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Among the many "how-to" playwriting books that have appeared over the years, there have been few that attempt to analyze the mysteries of play construction. Lajos Egri's classic, "The Art of Dramatic Writing," does just that, with instruction that can be applied equally well to a short story, novel, or screenplay.
Examining a play from the inside out, Egri starts with the heart of any drama: its characters. All good dramatic writing hinges on people and their relationships, which serve to move the story forward and give it life, as well as an understanding of human motives -- why people act the way that they do. Using examples from everything from William Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet" to Henrik Ibsen's "A Doll's House," Egri shows how it is essential for the author to have a basic premise -- a thesis, demonstrated in terms of human behavior -- and to develop the dramatic conflict on the basis of that behavior.
Using Egri's ABCs of premise, character, and conflict, "The Art of Dramatic Writing" is a direct, jargon-free approach to the problem of achieving
truth in writing.
CONTENTS INTRODUCTION FOREWORD PREFACE I PREMISE II CHARACTER 1. The Bone Structure 2. Environment 3. The Dialectical Approach 4. Character Growth 5. Strength of Will in a Character 6. Plot or Character -- Which? 7. Characters Plotting Their Own Play 8. Pivotal Character 9. The Antagonist 10. Orchestration 11. Unity of Opposites III CONFLICT 1. Origin of Action 2. Cause and Effect 3. Static 4. Jumping 5. Rising 6. Movement 7. Foreshadowing Conflict 8. Point of Attack 9. Transition 10. Crisis, Climax, Resolution IV GENERAL 1. Obligatory Scene 2. Exposition 3. Dialogue 4. Experimentation 5. The Timeliness of a Play 6. Entrances and Exits 7. Why Are Some Bad Plays Successful? 8. Melodrama 9. On Genius 10. What Is Art? -- A Dialogue 11. When You Write a Play 12. How to Get Ideas 13. Writing for Television 14. Conclusion APPENDIX A. Plays Analyzed APPENDIX B. How to Market Your Play APPENDIX C. Long Runs on Broadway INDEX
Lajos Egri was born in the city of Eger, Hungary, and wrote his first three-act play at the age of ten. For more than thirty-five years he has written and directed plays in Europe and the United States. He was director of the Egri School of Writing in New York City for many years.
Moss Hart I found Lajos Egri's book enormously interesting -- one of the best I have ever read.