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A MONTHLY MAGAZINE TO INTEREST AND HELP ALL LITERARY WORKERS.
BOSTON, JANUARY, 1909.
ENTERED AT THE BOSTON POST-OFFICE AS SECOND-CLASS MAIL MATTER.
Nowadays, with almost every magazine in
The broker, the actor, even the corner
eye simply because he does not know his
And this is costly. Leaving out the ques-
Every writer should make it a point to see
It is not enough to know that Harper's,
Copyright, 1909, by WILLIAM H. HILLS. All rights reserved.
son hope to find an acceptance with a magazine he does not know simply because he has been told that the magazine in question uses short fiction? The story, and often it is a good enough tale of its kind, meets failure principally because its author does not know the markets.
And very often, after having his fond hopes dashed to the ground, the aspiring author will go off in a corner by himself and talk of "pull with editors." This is all foolishness. It is not yet three years ago since I sold the Smart Set my first story, and before that I had not had published so much as a "poem " in a college paper. Since then I have sold to thirty different publications, and to their editors my name must have meant literally nothing at all. There is no such thing as "pull with editors"; that much I will declare until I am hoarse.
If a writer will but think, when his brain child is returned to him with the politelyworded rejection slip, which in most cases tells nothing, that the fault lies not so much with the story as with the market to which he has offered it, if he will but study his markets anew, select a magazine whose stories ring with the same rhythm as does his own, if he will do this, then, unless I am very much mistaken, a letter of acceptance will more than repay him for the time spent in selecting his market.
Misfit manuscripts are not happy accidents at best, and a Smart Set tale wandering into the Argosy office is very much a case of a fish out of water. The result is inevitable, but a man who studied his markets would never make so stupid a mistake. Both publications use very excellent stuff of their kind, but the two magazines are not twin brothers.
Indeed, it seems to me, and it must surely appear the same to all thoughtful authors, that enough cannot be said about marketing manuscripts. It should be gone over again and again, until every person who writes or who ever hopes to write will see the importance of studying the various magazines, and noting wherein they differ. For individuality is the secret of a successful magazine.
There are so many, many really good stories that even now are wandering over the face of the earth, outcasts and ashamed, when an anchorage could be found for them did their authors spend but half the time in looking up a market that they did in naming the heroine. Chance may bring you an acceptance once, twice, but unless you know your markets, and until then, you can never hope to make a place for yourself in literature. Plot, method, character, all of these are essential to successful writing, but equally as great, if indeed not greater, is to know your market ! W. Carey Wonderly. BALTIMORE, Md.
THE WRITING OF PLAYS.
Prominent playwrights were asked by the New York Times some pertinent questions about writing plays. They were asked about the source of their inspiration; their object, if they had any; their method of working out their themes; the source of their plots; the selection of "types"; the obstacles encountered; the hours of work; the time spent in producing the finished product; and many other suggestive points the public is curious over. Following are their own descriptions of their methods : —
Israel Zangwill: How do I write my plays? Really, it is hard to tell. Still, considering the matter from a psychological standpoint, it presents some interesting phases. The play I am bringing out now is the result of three years' observation and study. I am president of the Jewish Territorial Organization and the Jewish Immigration Regulation Department. It is with the work of those societies that I have been latterly concerned.
Naturally, in the pursuance of this work,
I have been brought in contact with all sorts of Jews and Gentiles; I have seen sights and situations which it is not given to most men to encounter, and all these have sunk into my soul and heart and left their print. The average business man could go through the experiences that I have gone through, settle the problems in so far as he could, and go on his way and think no more of the matter. But with a literary man it is different. With him such things are bound to produce a lasting effect which sooner or later must manifest itself in his writings.
My impressions were all clearly defined, and from those impressions I evolved a plot encompassing the subject. That was how "The Melting Pot" came to be written. shut my eyes one night, and there before me saw in one vivid flash the whole play, just as it should be on the stage. I saw people fighting, striving, working out their salvation, groping in the dark-and there I had my play! That's the way all my plays come to me; one flash of an instant, then the whole thing is clear and is three-quarters done.
Difficulties of detail are bound to arise in the working out of any theme; but where you have the real, deep purpose of your play firmly in mind, these are easily adjusted, and merely make the final achievement all the more worth while.
You ask my purpose in writing plays. I write them to make people feel, and, feeling, arise to responsibilities.
How many words I write a day, and all that, I don't know. I write constantly, constantly; without let-up from the time I conceive my plot until I have my play finished. Different plays take different times in the working out.
ment of the imagined play. That form may be one which utilizes the various means of metre or of prose to achieve its end, but always the image, the whole image, and nothing but the image, is what I seek to embody. It follows that every new idea for a play will involve a new technique - a fresh striving to project the image truthfully.
For this reason, I can make no generalization as to my methods, for they are - I think and hope in constant process of growth, through study of life and of the requisites of stagecraft.
To imagine something dramatic worthy to say, and to say it with truth to that image — such is my only creed in the writing of plays.
Clyde Fitch I write plays of such varying characters that it would hardly be possible for me to say that I have any hard and fast rules for going to work, but the start of all my plays is with the one basic idea. Take 'Girls," for instance; there the idea I started with was the life of the bachelor girl of the type which is so common to-day. I took that idea, thought over it, and considered it until I had a plot which would portray the idea truthfully and at the same time appeal to the public, then went to work. That's the method I follow in all cases get the idea first and think over its possibilities, then go to work.
As I said, the first consideration is to portray the idea in a truthful and convincing manner. My characters I fit to my idea. Sometimes I find them doing things which are not in accordance with the idea, but which are contrary to their dispositions as I have conceived them. When either of those things happens, I know that either my idea or my characters cannot be true to life, and then I have to start all over again.
I do not take my characters directly from life. Several times. I have had people come to me and say: "Mr. Fitch, I see you put So-and-So in such-and-such a play." Well, they're wrong - I never in my life put any one individual into any play. My characters are all the result of observation, though. Characters interest me tremendously. I can't walk two blocks along the street without meeting several people who excite my
curiosity. But as for taking any one and putting him bodily into a play — no, I don't do it. My characters are taken from life only in that they are composite types and embody a dozen people whom I have met and talked with.
About the actual time spent in writing, I don't know. With me that's the easiest part of it all; it's a matter in which I'm governed my entirely by circumstances and moods. I never think of touching pen to paper until I know exactly what I'm going to write and have thought over my play for at least a year.
Booth Tarkington: All my plays have been written in collaboration with Mr. Wilson, and that has made the work much easier; two minds are always better than one. My plays have all been ordered by managers for some particular star before they have been written, so for me- and when I say for me, I also mean for Mr. Wil- the thing of paramount importance has been the character of the leading personage in the drama.
I have first studied the peculiarities of the man for whom I was writing the piece, and found out just what best suited him. I did not necessarily give him the same sort of part that he had been used to playing, but I gave him one that he could do well. Then I drew the other characters in contrast to him, so that he would be made to stand out strikingly.
In "The Man from Home," for instance,
Usually the characters introduced are com
posite types, which are the result of obser-
is an example of that; Mr. Wilson and I
Since Mr. Wilson and I always talk over
Eugene Walter: How I write my plays and how I conceive my plays is absolutely immaterial. I could n't tell you it I wanted to. There are certain social problems which have got to be met and counted with, and I write with these in mind. My plots just come to me, that's all, and I write them bebecause the times demand cause I have to them. You'll find all the young playwrights who are doing things will tell you the same thing. They don't know how they write; they write because they have to.
The American stage has been abused long enough, and we're now approaching a new epoch. in the drama of the world. In the old Grecian days the stage supplied the place occupied by our newspapers of to-day, and ever since that time the stage has been a great big factor in the moulding of public For the last fifteen or twenty opinion. years that influence has been used to debase, not to uplift. The harm that has been done by these cheap musical comedies, which appeal only to that which is lowest in man, is almost immeasurable. For that a certain