Saturday, December 6, 2008

Aristotle figured out the storytelling 2,300 years ago

An article in the March issue of The Writer magazine lays out what Aristotle thought about storytelling about 2,300 years ago. The article, written by William Kowalski, points out that the Greeks didn't have the novel, but they did have theater. From that, Aristotle decided to outline what he thought made a compelling story:

  • All stories are made up of five elements: setting, character, plot, dialogue and thought (intentions/motivations).

  • Plot is everything.

  • Characters come second.

  • Keep the audience interested by making reversals.

  • Use discoveries to move the plot.

  • The perfect plot is simple, not complex.
Kowalski adds some excellent commentary to each of these points, including this one:

By the way, was it smooth sailing once our ancient student of writing achieved the goal of all literary hopefuls -- publication, or in the case of dramatists, production? Not quite. "Because there have been poets before him strong in the several species of tragedy, the critics now expect the (writer) to suprass each of his predecessors," Aristotle intones.

In other words, 25 centuries ago, authors were already awaiting their reviews with butterflies in their stomachs. Some things never change.

(The Writer magazine article is not available online.)

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