No Longer Than

In a few days I’m going to self publish the short story “De.mocra.cy,” and writing the afterword for it brought me back to an interesting revelation I had after editing it. I hate limitations in writing, and will do everything to work around, nullify, or flat out ignore them.

This may seem oppositional to the idea that limits are good for writing, though it isn’t entirely. The limitations which I hate are artificial ones—ones which exist beyond the world of the story. In this post I hope to clarify that distinction, explain what drove me to this realization, and tangentially promote that upcoming short story. Although maybe this will actually make the story seem less appealing, who knows.

Before I talk about my experience with that piece though, I’ll go all the way back to my experience in the fourth and fifth grade. Because at that time, I already knew that I hated limits. I wasn’t much of a writer then—at least, I didn’t write regularly, though I did enjoy it a lot. I was always happy to have creative writing assignments in school, because I loved imagining strange worlds and interesting characters. What I didn’t love was that these assignments had to be a maximum of five pages double-spaced (I think—it may have actually been shorter.) That’s about a thousand words, which is about two thirds the length of this post. And while that’s a fine amount of work for most nine- to ten-year-olds, for me it was awful. I always found myself pushing up against the max length, and ending the stories abruptly. That length is just not congruent with the way my imagination works. Over the past six years I’ve written twenty-six short stories, and only one of them was under that length.

But that’s not so bad. A few bizarre, goofy short stories truncated—it’s no big loss, and it was no big frustration to me. What was worse was the max length for plays in high school.Read More »

Learning from Shakespeare’s Histories

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Falstaff and his Page by Adolf Schrödte

In preparation for writing a historical play (not based on real history, but a play with banners and kings and armies) I’ve been reading a few of Shakespeare’s histories—namely, Richard IIHenry IV part 1Henry IV part 2Henry V, and Julius Caesar.

Now, I’m not taking any classes on Shakespeare, nor have I ever taken any classes exclusively focused on Shakespeare. This post doesn’t come from a well-informed scholarly background, or from someone intimately familiar with the discourse surrounding Shakespeare. I’m just some guy who likes reading and writing and watching plays. With that said, this is what I’ve learned.Read More »

That’d Make a Great Play

I think you can turn any idea into a play, and any idea into a piece of prose. However, there are some ideas that just suit one form or the other better, and since I enjoy writing both, I never try to make an idea that’s best for a short story into a play, or visa versa. I can’t really say what makes an idea excellent material for prose, because there’s so much flexibility in style and scope with prose fiction—however, plays are much more limited. So it really is special when I have an idea for a story, or find inspiration in some piece of news, and think, Man, that’d make a great play. So, when I’m considering how to develop an idea, these are the biggest characteristics that make me think it’d be a good candidate for a work of theatre.

Restricted Setting

This is probably the most obvious one. Because theaters have limited budgets, and limited stage space, most plays take place in one or a few locations. Of course there are exceptions, like every Shakespeare play, but most plays feature just one or two settings. This is something that sets prose and plays apart. There is a clear limitation on the story which is communicated to the audience. The characters can’t get around one another—they can’t solve their problems somewhere else. Everything is going to have to go down on stage, and that creates tension. Even if a prose story is all set in one place, there’s no feeling of suspense over the knowledge that it’s going to be finished in that space—because it isn’t necessarily going to be finished in that space. There are no inherent limits to the form, so the characters can go anywhere they want to, and it takes more work for the author to establish restrictions. With plays, the restrictions are instantly clear.Read More »