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Up until now, we have focused on the development of a character: a backstory, a monologue, and characterization that reveals a character's goals and motivations. The monologue can be a tool to provide these techniques in a play, but, as we have seen, can also be a play. Using multiple narrative a single actor can portray a series of characters, or several actors can take turns performing a host of characters under a unifying theme.
Today, let's chat a bit about plot.
Most plays begin with an EVENT
: a unique and significant
moment in a character's life (or characters lives). In plays all scenes
should be thought of as "events".
can be almost anything: an unusual incident, a special occasion, a sudden visit, or any kind of crisis.
An event that starts off the play is called the inciting incident:
the point of attack, the turning point in the life of one or more of
your characters. Some playwrights call this moment the "disturbance".
Whatever term you choose, you want to start off your story with a strong
reason for the events in the play to occur. As the play continues
(particularly in plays with more than one scene) more events may occur
in a story. The inciting incident is the first one.
usually confronts the inciting incident from a position of weaker power
or disadvantage. Starting with a protagonist who has all his stuff
together, who can easily defeat or solve a problem, makes for a boring
The beginning of a play ends when the protagonist(s) make(s) a major decision
This major decision should set him or her or them on a collision course
with forces that will oppose and perhaps destroy him/her (aka: antagonist
). This should be a decision
. A decision to act, a decision that causes the antagonist to confront the protagonist, etc. A major decision
makes a protagonist active in the plot.
The inciting incident and the major decision help to create the MAJOR DRAMATIC QUESTION
MDQ. The MDQ is, as stated earlier, the question that keeps an audience
interested in the plot of your play. The MDQ is also attached to your
overall theme. For example: MDQ: will action (and therefore revenge) be
possible for Hamlet? Will Brick disclose his true feelings for Skipper
& will Maggie find a man to truly love her? Will Willy Loman go
mad or succeed in committing suicide? Will Blanche DuBois depend on the
kindness of strangers? Will Romeo & Juliet be able to be
together despite their families' feuding?
The middle of a play is fraught
with a series of obstacles (rising action). During the middle, you need
to pay attention to the 3 C's: conflict, crisis,
. These 3 C's will lead to the dark moment of your play (more on that later).
can be person vs. person (often true in plays), person vs. self (also
common), person vs. society (common as well if done correctly), and
person vs. nature (God, etc.) (not as great, but some plays do this one
perfectly.) The more interesting the conflict the more interesting the
play. Crises and complications cause the conflict to be more
interesting. The crisis
is a critical moment--a place in time for the protagonist to act, make a decision--that usually has consequences. Complications
are problems (usually unforeseen) that arise to thwart or challenge the protagonist.
TASK: Using the index cards, select a partner and create a rough plot for a play. On each index card indicate the following:
1. PREMISE: in a sentence what is this play about?
2. Identify your protagonist
(s). Who is this play mainly about? Choose one of your WHO's from your Module One journal listings.
3. EVENT: create an inciting incident for your play.
4. EVENT: Major decision. In 1-2 sentences, describe the protagonist's major decision.
5. What is your play's MDQ?
6. EVENT: Conflict
7. EVENT: Complication
8. EVENT: Crisis
9. EVENT: Resolution. Create a possible ending for your plot.
10. Make any changes to cards 1-4 that you wish. Put a title for your play on card #1. Put your name on your cards and hand in for class credit.
After this exercise, please either read and complete your homework and/or work on your eLearning lessons.
HOMEWORK: Read the chapter "Structure: Part One: Story & Plot"; Please bring Prometheus Bound
to our next class.