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Mendès, Catulle, 56
Zangwill, Israel, The Writing of Plays, 2
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 !
1. 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 ment of the imagined play. That form may of Jews and Gentiles ; I have seen sights be one which utilizes the various means of and situations which it is not given to most metre or of prose to achieve its end, but men to encounter, and all these have sunk always the image, the whole image, and into my soul and heart and left their print. nothing but the image, is what I seek to emThe average business man could go through body. It follows that every new idea for a the experiences that I have gone through play will involve a new technique — a fresh settle the problems in so far as he could striving to project the image truthfully. and go on his way and think no more of the For this reason, I can make no generalizamatter. But with a literary man it is differ- tion as to my methods, for they are - I ent. With him such things are bound to think and hope — in constant process of produce a lasting effect which sooner or later growth, through study of life and of the must manifest itself in his writings.
requisites of stagecraft. My impressions were all clearly defined To imagine something dramatic worthy to and from those impressions I evolved a plot say, and to say it with truth to that imageencompassing the subject. That was how such is my only creed in the writing of “The Melting Pot" came to be written. I plays. shut my eyes one night, and there before me Clyde Fitch : I write plays of such varysaw in one vivid flash the whole play, just ing characters that it would hardly be posas it should be on the stage. I saw people sible for me to say that I have any hard and fighting, striving, working out their salva- fast rules for going to work, but the start of tion, groping in the dark — and there I had all my plays is with the one basic idea. Take my play! That's the way all my plays come “Girls," for instance; there the idea I to me ; one flash of an instant, then the started with was the life of the bachelor girl whole thing is clear and is three-quarters of the type which is so common to-day. I done.
took that idea, thought over it, and considDifficulties of detail are bound to arise in ered it until I had a plot which would porthe working out of any theme ; but where tray the idea truthfully and at the same time you have the real, deep purpose of your play appeal to the public, then went to work. firmly in mind, these are easily adjusted, and That's the method I follow in all cases : get merely make the final achievement all the the idea first and think over its possibilities, more worth while.
then go to work. You ask my purpose in writing plays. I As I said, the first consideration is to porwrite them to make people feel, and, feeling, tray the idea in a truthful and convincing arise to responsibilities.
manner. My characters I fit to my idea. How many words I write a day, and all Sometimes I find them doing things which that, I don't know. I write constantly, con- are not in accordance with the idea, but stantly ; without let-up from the time I con- which are contrary to their dispositions as I ceive my plot until I have my play finished. have conceived them. When either of those Different plays take different times in the things happens, I know that either my idea working out.
or my characters cannot be true to life, and Percy Mackaye : My object in being a then I have to start all over again. dramatist is to express ideas which seem to I do not take my characters directly from me worth while to express. When I start life. Several times. I have had people come to write a play, therefore, I start with an to me and say : “Mr. Fitch, I see you put idea — an idea which is the play in embryo. So-and-So in such-and-such a play.” Well, The problem of writing the play, then, be- they're wrong – I never in my life put any comes one of eliminating from the essential one individual into any play. My characters idea all extraneous ideas, of expressing it in are all the result of observation, though. such dramatic form as shall project the play's Characters interest me tremendously. I image from my mind into the constructive can't walk two blocks along the street withlimitations of stagecraft with least impair- out meeting several people who excite my curiosity. But as for taking any one and posite types, which are the result of obserputting him bodily into a play - no, I don't vation, and these, as a rule, prove to be the do it. My characters are taken from life most convincing to an audience. Sometimes, only in that they are composite types and though, we take people directly from life. embody a dozen people whom I have met The Englishman in "The Man from Home” and talked with.
is an example of that ; Mr. Wilson and I About the actual time spent in writing, I met him in Rome and reproduced him as we don't know. With me that's the easiest part found him, yet in all the press notices I of it all ; it's a matter in which I'm governed have read of the play that character has been entirely by circumstances and my own pronounced over-drawn and exaggerated. moods. I never think of touching pen to Since Mr. Wilson and I always talk over paper until I know exactly what I'm going and write our plays together, the people in to write and have thought over my play for them seldom “balk” — not nearly so much at least a year.
as in fiction. Our working hours would Booth Tarkington : All my plays have probably average five a day, though we been written in collaboration with Mr. Wil- sometimes work much longer than that. We son, and that has made the work much first write a brief scenario, then a longer easier ; two minds are always better than scenario, and then dictate the whole play to one. My plays have all been ordered by a stenographer. In that way the dialogue managers for some particular star before takes on a live, natural ring. After that we they have been written, so for me - and re-write the whole piece at least twice, and when I say for me, I also mean for Mr. Wil- finally divide up different acts between us for son — the thing of paramount importance a last polishing-off. The length of time we has been the character of the leading per- have consumed in writing our plays has vasonage in the drama.
ried from four to twelve weeks. “The Man I have first studied the peculiarities of the from Home," I believe, took about eight. man for whom I was writing the piece, and Eugene Walter : How I write my plays found out just what best suited him. I did and how I conceive my plays is absolutely not necessarily give him the same sort of immaterial. I could n't tell you it I wanted part that he had been used to playing, but I to. There are certain social problems which gave him one that he could do well. Then I have got to be met and counted with, and I drew the other characters in contrast to him, write with these in mind. My plots just so that he would be made to stand out strik- come to me, that's all, and I write them beingly.
cause I have to — because the times demand In “The Man from Home,” for instance, them. You'll find all the young playwrights I made the hero a young Indianian of demo- who are doing things will tell you the same cratic spirit, and, in order to throw his per- thing. They don't know how they write ; sonality into bold relief, I grouped about they write because they have to. him a number of Europeanized Americans, The American stage has been abused long and set the scene in Italy. I do not mean enough, and we're now approaching a new to say that I neglect the minor parts, for if epoch. in the drama of the world. In the old they are not convincingly drawn, you might Grecian days the stage supplied the place just as well let your star play with a set of occupied by our newspapers of to-day, and dummies, but I make them all subsidiary to ever since that time the stage has been a the main character. Once having my set of great big factor in the moulding of public characters well in mind, I set out to weave opinion. For the last fifteen or twenty an interesting plot into which they will fit years that influence has been used to debase, That part is easy, for, of course, Mr. Wilson not to uplift. The harm that has been done and I work it out together, as we do all else by these cheap musical comedies, which apconnected with the play.
peal only to that which is lowest in man, is Usually the characters introduced are com- almost immeasurable. For that a certain