a month has passed since beginning a new draft in a new form of a story i’ve flailed over since January 2012. what has failed as a short story, as a novella, appears very much to be succeeding as a play. i took a playwriting class in college, i’ve been working at a major regional theatre for a year, and reading great play after great play from the likes of Shepard, Kane, Albee, Mamet, Chekhov, Pinter, O’Neill, so on and so on, and i just wonder, why did i not take this form more seriously in 2008? at the very least, this immersive exposure to drama will absolutely change the way i approach and create prose fiction*. at most, maybe i’ve found the correct format for the voice (and to a hopefully unconscious extent, style) i’ve spent the last eight years cultivating through trial and error, success and failure, imitation and departure. there’s relief in discovering the correct form of self-torment.
*if i ever end up teaching fiction writing (my first love) anywhere, at any level, my students will read as many plays as they do short stories/novels/criticism. you wanna learn how to write great dialogue? read great playwrights.
Was reading an old review of Cormac McCarthy’s play THE SUNSET LIMITED & reviewer called it “hardly traditional theatre,” as it was “driven by dialogue rather than action.” Unconventional for a play to be driven by dialogue? THE ONLY THING THAT EVER MATTERS IN A PLAY IS THE GODDAMN DIALOGUE.
Addendum: I recognize that a play consists of myriad moving parts: set, acting, direction, costume design; there’s even the whole business side of it, but when we get down to brass tacks: it’s people standing on a stage saying words. It’s always about the words. Call me Snoot McSnob, but that’s how I feel.