Theater is the physical location where an event or a scene unfolds. It’s the container, the box. Each scene can have a different scenario and may even mutate or evolve over the course of the story. There may be many different scenarios in the same setting. If we were to take a photograph of the characters, it would be the section in the background. It’s usually restricted and limited to the immediate vicinity of the characters. A static scenario serves as an introduction and then a few new references can be made. On the contrary, it becomes a resource to demonstrate that characters are in motion, describing the interaction with elements of a changing scenario.
The scenario is where you should follow the phrase of “show, don’t tell”. This means to expose the reader to a scene that engages the senses by means of the letters. You are transporting them to a specific time and inserting them right in the middle of that place. It’s about creating a three-dimensional site instead of just giving a summary of what is visible.
The literature genres, mentioned in my previous post, are usually combined with specific worlds or stages in order to create the following.
Genres based on place / time or “rules” of the world
- Allows the existence of the supernatural. Stephen King’s Carrie, William Peter Blatty’s The Exorcist.
- Fantasy: parallel worlds in which magic and intelligent beings of other species exist and live along humans. Example: J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling.
- Science Fiction: an exploration of the future of humanity and other possible worlds in the universe. The Foundation (series) by Isaac Asimov, Dan Simmons’ Hyperion and The Fall of Hyperion.
- Vampires: Bram Stoker’s Dracula.
It is possible then to mix the goal of stopping a threat with a science fiction stage, the way it is done in many works of the genre.
When mixing romantic stories with a world in which vampires exist, books like Stephanie Meyer’s Eclipse are created.
To search, read and write
If we want to write it is important to identify the kind of books we enjoy reading, read more of those, learn more about the genre and finally write stories with our own personal touch.
Entertaining literature usually gives the main character a clear goal (catching the responsible for committing a crime, per instance) which is expected to be accomplished by the end. The main character faces adversities but overcomes them, which is satisfying to read. And even if we suspect that the main character will triumph over the challenges and the final test, this does not decrease the excitement of the story because as we relate to him we want him to be successful and we suffer whenever he faces danger. Besides, the mystery of not knowing what his destiny will bring is replaced by the intrigue of knowing how he will win: how will he defeat the seemingly unbeatable villain? How will he decode the seemingly undecipherable mystery? How will he enter the seemingly impregnable fortress?
For this the reason in commercial literature it is desirable for “things to happen”, for the story to move forward towards the accomplishment of the main character’s goal. New events produce mystery and suspense or solve those that were created before. Because of this, the description, the reflection on subjects that do not belong to the plot and the introspection are not so relevant in this kind of literature because they move us away from the emotions we aim to produce through the events in the story. Instead they are important for literature in general because they allow it to accomplish its purpose of inquiring and producing an artistic portrait of human condition.
In contrast with the other types of poetry, melic poetry uses a rich prosody with various musical rhythms.
The metric of melic poetry is unique because it consists of a combination of the quantity and the number of syllables, not in the repetition of the feet.
Melic poetry is divided in two distinct categories:
C.1 Aeolian melic poetry: is a more personal kind of poetry. It is a type of monadic lyric – that is, it is sung by a single person, while the music is played on a baritone (a music instrument derived from the ancient zither, related to the modern guitar).
The most famous Aeolic melic poets are Alcaeus, Sappho and Anacreon, the latter being known for his drinking songs and hymns.
C.2 Doric poetry: mainly built around patriotic topics (songs for the glory of war heroes, songs dedicated to the winners of Olympic games etc.)
This type of poetry was interpreted by choirs and occasionally was accompanied by music and dance. It has its origins in Sparta, from where it spread to other parts of Greece.
The most renowned representatives of this genres are Alcman, Stesichorus and Pindar, famous for their epinikia – poems and songs praising the winners of Olympic games.
The elegy and the iambus were developed in Antiquity. The classical era (5th century A.D.) was dominated by choral poetry, whose main representative was Pindar.
With the demise of the great authors of choral poetry, lyrical poetry virtually disappeared.
During the Hellenistic Age (3rd century A.D.) lyric poetry had already been reduced to the mere imitation of antique genres. It wasn’t the people’s poetry anymore, but it had become a cultivated, academic genre, limited to elite authors.
The most predominant names of this era are Callimachus, author of epigrams and elegies, and Theocritus, composer of the famous Idylls – short poems on pastoral love topics. The works of Theocritus had a great influence on the Spanish literature during the Renaissance, as seen in Garcilaso de la Vega’s Eclogues.
Theatrical text has very distinctive features as it is not a valid text by itself, unlike poetry and novel. It is thought and written as a text for theatrical performance, regardless of it being effectively represented or not. The author vanishes completely, giving up his own voice in favor of its characters, which will be played by actors dressed up in costumes, in a set with lighting, background music, special effects, etc. (following directions as imagined by the author). These aspects are not always considered in dramatic analysis, which many times is constricted to a literary analysis, of the text, without considering other factors that, despite not being strictly literary, are implicit (sometimes explicit) in the text.
The following steps should be followed when performing an analysis of dramatic text:
A.- External structure.
B.- Internal structure.
C.- Literary language
A.- EXTERNAL STRUCTURE.
It consists in separating the textual elements (the words spoken on stage) from the non-textual (these are called stage directions). The stage directions are usually written (between parentheses in italics). It is not always like that. Lights of Bohemia has the stage directions in separate paragraphs, in italics; this play’s stage directions are the most peculiar of them all.
The stage description is usually done at the beginning of each play, frame, act or scene, depending on it changes constantly or remains the same. A special font is not generally used though many editions of dramatic works use italics. Because the text shows before the beginning of dialogue, recognizing it is not problematic.
B.- INTERNAL STRUCTURE
More than an internal structure it is about analyzing those elements that are formally relevant in a dramatic text. They are as follows.
Their objective is to guide the staging of the play. Because of this they should be objective, pointing out the essential elements for the development of the scene. Sometimes, playwrights are so concerned that they almost become stage designers. The precision and attention to detail of some of them (Buero Vallejo, Mihura) contrast with the easiness of others (Lorca, Benavente). At this point the varying level of consideration of stage elements between playwrights can be noticed. Nevertheless, this objectivity is achieved in many stage directions in their respective works.
But it is also very true that the goal and character in many of them is surpassed. They become literary stage directions in which not only those stage notes are present but others, typical of any literary text, are added. Frequently in these situations some of them are forgotten for the benefit of others and vice versa. We should assign stage value to these stage directions based on the possibility or not of representing them. And, immediately afterwards, pointing out their literary values for which applying the characteristics of literary language would be necessary, especially those belonging to narrative description (To see, click here). This approach can be applied to Lights of Bohemia. Its stage directions not only have stage value (usually forgotten) but an undisputable literary value; they go both ways: on one hand they are examples of the finest modern descriptive prose; on the other, they open a new way of expression for grotesque. This would mean, perhaps, the possibility of walking that double way from a scenical point of view.
Between both ends there are stage directions that express subjectivity or at least a certain point of view of the playwright. Some stage directions in Three Top Hats catch the humorous, absurd, and childish character of the play. “El sueño de la razón” shows stage directions that include lexical or grammatical archaisms that would be typical of dialogue.