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Art Of Dramatic Writing: Its Basis in the Creative Interpretation of Human Motives [Paperback]

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Item description for Art Of Dramatic Writing: Its Basis in the Creative Interpretation of Human Motives by Lajos Egri...

Learn the basic techniques every successful playwright knows

Among the many "how-to" playwriting books that have appeared over the years, there have been few that attempt to analyze the mysteries of play construction. Lajos Egri's classic, The Art of Dramatic Writing, does just that, with instruction that can be applied equally well to a short story, novel, or screenplay.

Examining a play from the inside out, Egri starts with the heart of any drama: its characters. All good dramatic writing hinges on people and their relationships, which serve to move the story forward and give it life, as well as an understanding of human motives -- why people act the way that they do. Using examples from everything from William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet to Henrik Ibsen's A Doll's House, Egri shows how it is essential for the author to have a basic premise -- a thesis, demonstrated in terms of human behavior -- and to develop the dramatic conflict on the basis of that behavior.

Using Egri's ABCs of premise, character, and conflict, The Art of Dramatic Writing is a direct, jargon-free approach to the problem of achieving

truth in writing.

For many years, Lajos Egri's highly opinionated but very enjoyable The Art of Dramatic Writing has been a well-guarded secret of playwrights, scriptwriters, and writers for television. Unlike many other books on playwrighting (several of which Egri criticizes during the course of this one), the author's systematic breakdown of the essentials for creating successful realistic plays and screenplays effectively demystifies the process of creative writing. Egri, who formulated his thoughts about "a well-made play" during its heyday (the 1940s and '50s), places a premium on an exhaustive analysis of characters and discussion of their psychological motivations. The writer is exhorted to find a premise to explore and to discover which characters will most effectively demonstrate this thesis, then is shown how most effectively to place them into conflict with each other. Conflict itself is also discussed, particularly how to create scenarios in which the crisis develops at a pace that feels unforced and natural. While Egri's view of the well-made play has little space for either the spare musings of Beckett and Pinter or the conscious excesses of non-narrative and other experimental writing, it nonetheless remains an essential text for writers drawn to realistic drama, and to any writer interested in the fundamental motivations of human behavior. --John Longenbaugh

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Item Specifications...

Studio: BN Publishing
Pages   135
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 0.75" Width: 7.25" Height: 9.5"
Weight:   0.55 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Feb 21, 2009
ISBN  9562915867  
ISBN13  9789562915861  

Availability  0 units.

More About Lajos Egri

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Lajos Egri (1888-1967) was born in Hungary and founded the Egri School of Writing in New York City in the 1930s. In addition to writing books, he spent his life writing and directing plays in both the United States and Europe, as well as writing screenplays for the film industry.

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Arts & Photography > Performing Arts > Theater > General
2Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction > Drama
3Books > Subjects > Reference > Publishing & Books > General
4Books > Subjects > Reference > Publishing & Books
5Books > Subjects > Reference > Writing > General
6Books > Subjects > Reference > Writing

Reviews - What do customers think about Art Of Dramatic Writing: Its Basis in the Creative Interpretation of Human Motives?

Received  Sep 16, 2007
Got book for Stepson, he hasn't complained about it, so I guess it was good.
Excellent, Excellent, Excellent!!  Aug 9, 2007
This novel is the perfect place to start for beginners. Although it references mostly plays and screenwriting, the guidelines set forth by Egri can be applied to any type of writing. Be sure to take plenty of notes!
The master piece that competes with Howard Lawsons' work  May 18, 2007
This book is a classic.

One of the things that makes this book a classic is its simplicity. The book start exploring how you as a dramatic writer can use Premise as the guiding sign through out the whole process of writing a story.

Once you have a premise you can work on creating your characters (using the premise to do that). To do this you'll have to know your character's physiology, sociology, pshychology, etc.

Once you have your characters you can work on creating the story using the principle of contradiction, thesis, antithesis and synthesis. You'll have to use clashing forces... (again, you use the premise as explained at the beginning of the book).

Then the author covers some of the most important elements in writing dramatic material of quality.

In my case I found the chapter of "Jumping" quite enlightening. Once you read this chapter you'll understand why many, many stories just don't work. The characters jump and then... they fall to their death... and to the apaty of the audience.

What is it that I like about this book? Well, I read it... time passes... come back to it again... time passes... and I come back again to read it!

Where as most books make you feel like writing is extremely difficult, this one always makes me feel like I'm in command and that great story telling is within my grasp.

The "Rosetta Stone" of creative writing.  May 7, 2007
I've read several books about screenwriting to aid me in my capacity as a story consultant, and this book far surpasses them all. You'll hear the age-old question of what's more important to story: action or character? What I got from this book is that the question is - in the end - moot. You need both - well drawn characters to the sell the action, and compelling action to reveal character. The process is tricky, but Egri lays it out with such precision and wit, you'll wonder how you ever got along without his insights. Even though this book was written over half a century ago, it applies now more than ever - especially for the cinema where writers are increasingly relying more on formula and less on the construction of truly memorable, believable characters. Originality must begin with a thorough understanding of who your characters are, how and why they come together, and what ultimate premise their interactions serve to reveal. Egri explains this process with depth and panache. If you want to improve your narrative and give the world fresh new characters that tell "your story" this is THE place to start!
Eminently Clear and Immediately Memorable  Dec 12, 2006
I've easily read more than 100 books on creating fiction (my focus is primarily short stories and novels), and I've done so because I'm always interested in learning what others have to say about the craft that I might find ways to improve my own.

I disagree with the reviewer who pishaws Egri's recommendation to create character biographies, saying that the "audience will never see them". The fact is, every short story, novel, play, movie is like an iceberg: what the audience reads/sees is only 10% of the whole. The rest is hidden. If a writer hasn't done her homework on a story's setting, background or, more importantly, on her characters' backgrounds, it will show, and in the worst way possible. Even if a writer is of the sort who develops her characters as she creates the story, there is still much about those characters which doesn't make it into the tale. It's rather like when you tell a cousin about a friend of yours. You don't give your cousin all the details, only those details which are relevant to giving your cousin an accurate, yet true, representation of your friend, but you can only accomplish this if you know your friend very well. The same is -- HAS TO BE! -- true of your story characters: you MUST know them very well (more than what you reveal) if you are to represent them to your audience accurately and truthfully (but not exhaustively), and that's precisely Egri's point.

Regarding Egri and his agreements/disagreements with Aristotle, his disagreement with regard to a story's beginning has more to do with modern readers' interpretations of what constitutes a beginning. Every story must have a beginning, even if it doesn't appear on the page, on the screen, or on the stage. All the consituent parts of a story, even if they aren't put plainly before the audience, must be implied in what is. (Algis Budrys' WRITING TO THE POINT demonstrates this quite well.) Egri's disagreement with regard to Aristotle's views on plot/character, however, are, I believe, on the mark. In this case, however, the disagreement has more to do with historical/cultural/religious context. Aristotle's putting plot primary is due largely to the prevalent beliefs of his time, just as our putting character primary is due to the prevalent beliefs of ours. This, too, is a point which Egri recognizes.

After reading Egri's book, my writing will never be the same again, I'll never read another novel or short story the same way again, and I'll never see a movie or play in the same way again, either. I dare say that I'll appreciate a good novel/short story/movie/play even more with the tools that Egri provides in this book, and will now be able to elucidate far more clearly than before why I didn't like a particular novel/short story/movie/play. In like manner, I now believe that I'm better equipped, after reading Egri's book, to recognize what is wrong with any story that I've written and will, therefore, be better able to fix the problem.

After reading all the books I've read on story/character creation, I'd have to say that Egri's book is easily the best book I've ever read on the subject. While other authors of such books may have said much the same thing, Egri presents the same material in a way that makes it eminently clear and immediately memorable.

POSTSCRIPT: In defense of novels (since that is my preferred medium), unlike what was stated in one review on Egri's book, pacing is just as important in a novel as it is in a stage play. If you have one high-paced scene after another in a novel, your reader will be breathless before she's half-done with the book. Conversely, if your pacing is constantly slow, you're very likely to lose reader interest. There are all sorts of tricks to controlling pacing in a novel, from word, sentence, and paragraph length, and even down to specific word choice. There are other ways to control pacing, as well, but I shan't get into that here. It's a shame that very few books have covered this aspect of novel creation.

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