In fiction writing, many stories are dramatic. But what does drama mean? ... (continued below)
What Is Drama?
By Bruce L. Cook
In fiction writing, many stories are dramatic. But what does drama mean?
For a writer, drama means action, and that's a correct translation of this Greek word. Further, drama covers everything from comedy to tragedy.
A dictionary definition of drama is less enticing: "an exciting, emotional, or unexpected series of events or set of circumstances." This dictionary definition does bring up a new thought. First, that drama is exciting. Second, that it involves an absence of expectation. Itís a surprise. Which leads to a definition of suspense: "a state or feeling of excited or anxious uncertainty about what may happen." These definitions dovetail nicely.
For a writer, suspense is a manuscript where the reader knows something the protagonist does not know. And, because if this, the reader worries how the protagonist can succeed without knowing the secret.
Seen another way, drama can be seen as a conflict between an utterance and its context (Pfister, 199, p. 56). Again, this is a difference between what is known and what is not known. The definition might be still more specific. But, as Essmin (1977) reminds us, any absolutes in defining drama might prove to be obstacles to invention (or creativity).
In any case, drama and suspense are key elements in writing fiction.
So next time you write fiction, think of your dramatic success and especially the secret that your reader knows while the character does not. And, above all, keep the secret from our characters.
Pfister, Manfred. The Theory and Analysis of Drama. Cambridge University Press 1991 p. 56
Essmin, Martin. The Anatomy of Drama. Macmillan, 1977.
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