Do’s and Don’t’s for the Playwright

Feb 27, 2013 by

playwrightDo’s and Don’t’s for the Playwright by Fanny Cannon originally published in 1922 is a great little reference book for playwrights. It may be almost a hundred years old, but it still has some very great suggestions and guidance for those who wish to write plays.

Here are few paragraphs  to give you an idea of the type of guidance you will receive from this book:

“The first important thing in writing the play, any play, is the story. Not all stories are suited to the play form. Selection is therefore necessary. Plays represent the dynamic phases of life, whether tragic or humorous. Events must be of such a nature as to reconcile us to their occurrence in the short period of the performance. Also the story must deal with one complete episode or plot, with its beginning, its middle, and its end. Everything in the play, every character, every situation, must deal with the development of one main idea. This is the oft-mentioned Unity of Action.

At this point it might be well to refer to “The Unities” as set forth by Aristotle in his famous laws for writers. The three so-called Unities are the Unity of Time, of Place, and of Action. In the old Greek drama these were more or less rigidly adhered to. Today in the play and the short story, the Unity of Action remains as strict a rule as ever. The other two Unities are somewhat more elastic; nevertheless, the more nearly they are followed the stronger and more closely knit will be the resulting work. The Unity of Time insists that the episode must occur within one day ; the Unity of Place, that it must occur in one place, frequently in one room. From the foregoing it will appear that the play form is at its best when compact. The story you have selected should be of one plot, capable of being fully told in the play form as compactly as possible, and of dramatic or humorous importance.”


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