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Amid the hundreds of "how-to" books that have appeared in recent years, there have been very few which attempted to analyze the mysteries of play-construction. This book does that -- and its principles are so valid that they apply equally well to the short story, novel and screenplay.

Lajos Egri examines a play from the inside out, starting with the heart of any drama: its characters. For it is people -- their private natures and their inter-relationships -- that move a story and give it life. All good dramatic writing depends upon an understanding of human motives. Why do people act as they do? What forces transform a coward into a hero, a hero into a coward? What is it that Romeo does early in Shakespeare's play that makes his later suicide seem inevitable? Why must Nora leave her husband at the end of A Doll's House?

These are a few of the fascinating problems which Egri analyzes. He shows how it is essential for the author to have a basic premise -- a thesis, demonstrated in terms of human behavior -- and to develop his dramatic conflict on the basis of that behavior. Premise, character, conflict: this is Egri's ABC. His book is a direct, jargon-free approach to the problem of achieving truth in a literary creation.

Topics: Writing, Screenwriting, Writers, How-To Guides, Guides, Prescriptive, and Essays

Published: Touchstone on Feb 15, 1972
ISBN: 9781439123799
List price: $13.99
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seed of drama = conflict



[ this was the textbook at both ucla & sc when spielberg, copolla, lucas, etc. were at film school ]read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Egri writes clearly and presents his case for the fundamentals of drama, using examples from then-contemporary plays. He argues that good drama has a premise and strong characters in inevitable conflict with each other with believable emotional transitions. He contradicts Aristotle, who claimed in the ´Poetics´ that plot precedes character. This work sounds convincing, and has stayed in print for a long time. Certainly it contains some sound principles. However I´m not entirely convinced. The tone is a little bit arrogant at times, from the use of the unexplained plural or royal ´we´', to the little dialogue sections of the book where the author responds authoritatively to an anonymous questioner. I´m not a fan of the dialogue form in general, though I suppose a book about dramatic writing may be an appropriate place for it. And it may be just my ignorance or cultural backwardness, but I´d only ever seen or heard of a handful of the plays Egri refers to in this work -- either the ones he approved of or otherwise. Fortunately he provides a synopsis of several of the plays as an appendix.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Egri describes premise, character, and conflict as the essential elements - and the heart - of any play. He espouses an approach to play-writing “based on the natural law of dialectics” rather than instinct.Using several examples, Egri analyzes what makes plays “good” or “bad.” There’s a lot of good material here toward writing a truthful, character-driven play that’s honest to its characters, actors, and the audience.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Having studied playwriting dialectics in college years ago, I found this "classic guide" to be a wonderful reminder of the basic tenets of storytelling. Many popular books on the subject written today tend to focus on screenwriting, and have an unfortunate tendency to speculate about what will and will not please industry insiders. Contrary to such books, Lajos Egri offers substantial bits of timeless advice (e.g., believe what you write and don't for a minute concern yourself about what industry insiders might think). The main through-line of the book, however, is a deeply held belief that premise and character fuel conflict and are indispensable to good writing. On these and other points, Egri is astonishingly clear and precise; which is a welcome departure from the airy ambiguities that degrade most discussions on the mechanics of art. This is a guide that works.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Explores motive as the driver of character and so of the plotread more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
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Reviews

seed of drama = conflict



[ this was the textbook at both ucla & sc when spielberg, copolla, lucas, etc. were at film school ]
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Egri writes clearly and presents his case for the fundamentals of drama, using examples from then-contemporary plays. He argues that good drama has a premise and strong characters in inevitable conflict with each other with believable emotional transitions. He contradicts Aristotle, who claimed in the ´Poetics´ that plot precedes character. This work sounds convincing, and has stayed in print for a long time. Certainly it contains some sound principles. However I´m not entirely convinced. The tone is a little bit arrogant at times, from the use of the unexplained plural or royal ´we´', to the little dialogue sections of the book where the author responds authoritatively to an anonymous questioner. I´m not a fan of the dialogue form in general, though I suppose a book about dramatic writing may be an appropriate place for it. And it may be just my ignorance or cultural backwardness, but I´d only ever seen or heard of a handful of the plays Egri refers to in this work -- either the ones he approved of or otherwise. Fortunately he provides a synopsis of several of the plays as an appendix.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Egri describes premise, character, and conflict as the essential elements - and the heart - of any play. He espouses an approach to play-writing “based on the natural law of dialectics” rather than instinct.Using several examples, Egri analyzes what makes plays “good” or “bad.” There’s a lot of good material here toward writing a truthful, character-driven play that’s honest to its characters, actors, and the audience.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Having studied playwriting dialectics in college years ago, I found this "classic guide" to be a wonderful reminder of the basic tenets of storytelling. Many popular books on the subject written today tend to focus on screenwriting, and have an unfortunate tendency to speculate about what will and will not please industry insiders. Contrary to such books, Lajos Egri offers substantial bits of timeless advice (e.g., believe what you write and don't for a minute concern yourself about what industry insiders might think). The main through-line of the book, however, is a deeply held belief that premise and character fuel conflict and are indispensable to good writing. On these and other points, Egri is astonishingly clear and precise; which is a welcome departure from the airy ambiguities that degrade most discussions on the mechanics of art. This is a guide that works.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Explores motive as the driver of character and so of the plot
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
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