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The Art of Dramatic Writing
by Lajos Egri
ISBN 0671213326 / 9780671213329 / 0-671-21332-6
Publisher Simon & Schuster
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For many years, Lajos Egri's highly opinionated but very enjoyable The Art of Dramatic Writing has been a well-guarded secret of playwrights, scriptwriters, and writers for television. Unlike many other books on playwrighting (several of which Egri criticizes during the course of this one), the author's systematic breakdown of the essentials for creating successful realistic plays and screenplays effectively demystifies the process of creative writing. Egri, who formulated his thoughts about "a well-made play" during its heyday (the 1940s and '50s), places a premium on an exhaustive analysis of characters and discussion of their psychological motivations. The writer is exhorted to find a premise to explore and to discover which characters will most effectively demonstrate this thesis, then is shown how most effectively to place them into conflict with each other. Conflict itself is also discussed, particularly how to create scenarios in which the crisis develops at a pace that feels unforced and natural. While Egri's view of the well-made play has little space for either the spare musings of Beckett and Pinter or the conscious excesses of non-narrative and other experimental writing, it nonetheless remains an essential text for writers drawn to realistic drama, and to any writer interested in the fundamental motivations of human behavior. --John Longenbaugh [via]