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I don't care for the fact that they don't like my plays over in England. They're dead, passé, archaic over there. This is the country where the big problems of the world. have got to be worked out this country right here, where we've got Jew, Irishman, Frenchman, German, Italian, Russian, and black man all fighting for existence. And in the solving of these problems the stage is going to play a very great part.
Every play that I've written has been written with a deep, underlying purpose in mind. I don't know whether or not the public has recognized that purpose I hope they have but at all events it has been there just the same. In that respect there are a whole lot of other young playwrights just like me. We're just the pioneers in the field, though. But after we're gone and for'gotten - as we will be there will spring up men who will perpetuate the work and will be great.
And so, as I said at first, I don't know how I write my plays. I write them because the times demand them - because I have to. Charles Klein: If I am writing a melodrama or a play frankly for the purpose of theatric effect, I make the characters subsidiary to the working out of situation; but in the presentation of a social problem - in a picture of conditions - the characters control the situation; sometimes a character suggests an idea, sometimes the idea the character. It depends on the initial impulse, and this in turn depends on the exigency or necessity of the requirements.
A condition of social life to-day presents a problem. The problem suggests the means for working itself out, and the characters most likely to bring out the pro and con of the problem are selected. The situation then follows the story, which by this time is suggested by the characters; in its final analysis
it is an association of ideas the more abstract and metaphysical, the less important the situations become; the ideas are conveyed in dialogue briefly - plot formulates itself in obedience to types.
I generally, always, if possible, have in mind some definite effect I hope to produce on the mind of the reader, unless there is a sensational scenic feature where there is no reason for the writing apart from its immediate influence on the spectator's feelings, certainly not on his reasoning faculties.
Indirectly I take my characters from real life. One forms an idea from a particular and generality in a type for instance, Ready Money Rider in "The Lion and the Mouse" might be one particular millionaire ; it was intended to be a composite. Anton Von Barwig, in "The Music Master," was an old musician I knew in London.
I write every day from eight till onenever afterward — nor before. I write, whether I have inclination or not - but work I must 700 or 800 words a day, to which are added 1,000 more in alteration and addition to those of the previous day. Of course obstacles arise. Of course characters balk; and when they do you can depend on the writer balking, too.
There is no law forcing these conditions — they happen or they don't happen; it depends on the inner necessity. If the ground is well laid, things go smoothly, if notnot. The motif of a play or its formulative stage is largely dependent on the unceasing concentration of the author. He wants an idea it comes to him, how or why I know not; but here is the idea, and this depends largely on inspiration - or it ought to. To clothe it depends on technique, the author's good taste in selection, characterization, construction, etc.; in fact, the work of playwriting is so largely interdependent that I really don't know where one fault leaves off and the other begins.
I think it's a great mistake for an author to write just what he thinks the public wants, for they don't know what they want (they want whatever is good), and if one's work is too largely influenced by the momentary taste of the public, he is apt to be influenced to such an extent by the latest success that he may be accused of lack of originality.
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P. O. Box 1905.
VOL. XXI. JANUARY, 1909. No. I.
Short, practical articles on topics connected with literary work are always wanted for THE WRITER. Readers of the magazine are invited to join in making it a medium of mutual help, and to contribute to it any ideas that may occur to them. The pages of THE WRITER are always open for any one who has anything helpful and practical to say. Articles should be closely condensed; the ideal length is about 1,000 words.
The need of accuracy in punctuation is illustrated again by the discovery that, be
cause of the absence of a comma, the Massachusetts automobile law, instead of fixing a penalty for reckless driving, imposes punishment on those guilty of automobiling on roads "laid out recklessly or while under the influence of liquor." The law begins: Whoever operates an automobile or a motor cycle on any public way or private way laid out under authority of law recklessly or while under the influence of liquor, or so as to endanger the lives or safety of the public," etc. Only a few years ago the absence of a semi-colon in a Massachusetts law closed all the hotel bars in the state every week-day night at II o'clock.
The need of using the hyphen in compound adjectives is illustrated by the misprinted phrase "a cement mixing trough," and also by the statement of a famous hunter that he was never really happy until he "had killed a man eating tiger."
A critic in the London Saturday Review, after declaring that the late William Ernest Henley was not a great writer, either in prose or in verse, goes on to say:
"His well-known quatrains, Out of the night that. covers me,' admirable as a piece of epigram, fall short of poetry by their very directness. Their excellence, in fact, is purely a prose excellence, the rhyme and metre notwithstanding. Only the greatest poets can invest with magic a piece of ethical statement. Compare the quatrains with Wordsworth's The World is too much with us,' and their prosaic quality is at once evident. There is all the difference in the world between the passion of an instinctive poet and the utterance, however terse and strong, of the talented writer. We commend these lines perhaps the most familiar of Henley's verses -to the close consideration of all who admire them as poetry, for they make a fair test of his merit in this direction."
Here is the plain statement that true poetry cannot be direct. There would seem to be room for discussion on this point.
Milton affirmed that the "simple and sincere" manner must pervade all good writing, whether poetry or prose. The same idea is contained in the saying of Vauvenargues" In order to know if a thought
is new, one has only to express it quite simply." Nietzsche says: "The misfortune of lucid writers is that people think them superficial, and consequently take no trouble in reading them; while the chance for obscure writers is that the reader has to labor hard in order to understand them, and credits them with contributing the pleasure that he derives from his own diligence."
Andrew Lang wishes the world to understand that he is industrious and not above detail work, however little he may like it. It is better, he thinks, to be a novelist than an historian. The latter, he says, "may make money enough to pay his typist and consider his labors!" Mr. Lang adds:
"I speak feelingly indeed, sorely having written an historical book of about the length of a common novel. There are some fifteen hundred references to anthorities,' as my printer ingeniously misprinted the word. First, I put them into the manuscript as they occurred, and then twice compared every mortal one of them with the volumes and pages to which they referred. Then they were all typed separately, and were again verified for the third time. Then they were printed and verified for the fourth time, in print, which yields six thousand cases of looking up a passage. After all, it is certain that some numerals will be wrong, and then the critic will come and raise an outcry."
Mr. Clemens's move in creating the Mark Twain Corporation, with a view to securing to his family and heirs the profits of publishing his books after the copyrights on them have expired, has aroused general interest. The New York Times doubts the efficacy of the scheme. "As the law stands," it says, "we cannot see that the Mark Twain Corporation will serve the designed purpose of giving to Mr. Clemens and his heirs and their heirs perpetual and exclusive power to draw profit from his books. It is not easy to say why they should not have it, but somehow there seems to be a general feeling in all countries that the author is in some way or degree different from other producers, and while it is admitted nowadays that he should be paid for his work, if it be worth buying, with the admission goes an assumption that
the payments should be only for a limited time. After that, by a close approach to common agreement, his exclusive rights expire, and anybody who thinks his books will sell has the privilege of printing them. For years past the tendency in civilized countries has been slowly to extend the author's monopoly, and thereby to increase his emoluments. It may be, therefore, that an unlimited copyright will come at some time in the future, but at present it seems rather like an idle dream, and Mr. Clemens doubtless knows that in his new corporation he will leave to his heirs little more than a basis for lawsuits, which they can hardly hope to win."
The New York Sun tends to take the ground that limited copyright is justifiable. "In the case of the Mark Twain incorporation," it says, a legal experiment is contemplated. The explanation has been offered that when the pen name 'is the property of a perpetual corporation, Mr. Clemens's heirs will be in a position to enjoin perpetually the publication of all of the Mark Twain books not authorized by the Mark Twain Company.' If this could be done, should we not witness a general assumption of pen names by authors who cared not a straw for immortality, and would not authors and their heirs enjoy an absolute monopoly in spite of the copyright law? We fancy that it would not be long before the legislature intervened."
On the other hand, Mr. Clemens's literary agent, Ralph W. Ashcroft, thinks that the corporation scheme will work. Mr. Ashcroft says:
"Mr. Clemens has been troubled for a year by the knowledge that the copyright of his works would soon expire, and that strangers instead of his own kin would reap the financial benefit from his literary works. He has been in consultation with Mr. Hobbs and myself practically every week. We finally hit on the plan of incorporating the Mark Twain name itself. We believe that when this name is the prop. erty of a perpetual corporation, Mr. Clemens's heirs will be in a position to enjoin perpetually all publi cation of the Mark Twain books not authorized by
News and Notes, 15, 31, 47, 62, 80, 94, 110, 128, 143, 159, 174, 187
Newspaper English, 20, 28, 78, 92, 126 "Newspaper English"
Edited, 8, 39, 53, 107, 135,
Newspaper Writers, Suggestions for, 123
Novel, A Great, Dissected, Barton, 129
O and Oh, Use and Punctuation of, 30
Oppenheim, E. Phillips, 56
Parker, A. E., A Study of Editors, 97
Payment "After Publication," 137
Personal Gossip About Authors, 10, 24, 41, 54, 90, 108,
120, 136, 153, 166, 183
Pier, Florida, 40
Pigeon-Hole Snare, The, 12
Pitzer, R. C., 40
Play and the Novel Contrasted, The, 59
Play-writing, Zangwill, Mackaye, Fitch, Tarkington,
Walter, Klein, 2
Play-writing and Writing Novels, 127
Play-writing, Hints About, 124
Play-writing, Making a Scenario, 106
Play-writing, Profits of, 141
Playwrights, A Queer Competition for, 134
Playwrights, The Untried, 158
Plot, The Story of a, 61
Plot of a Sardou Play, The, 26
Poetic Diction and Prose, On, 140
Poetry, Clarity in, 29
Poetry, Must True
Be Obscure? 6
Poetry, The Possibilities of, 27
Poetry, What Is ? 44
Poet's Work, The, 126
Prices Paid for Manuscripts, 184
Profits of Writers, 59, 60, 124, 141
Pulitzer, Joseph, Editorials of, 172
Punctuation, Importance of, 6
Punctuation, Origin of, 30
Ramsdell, Leila R., The Significance of Books, 99
Reade, Charles, 167
Reid, Elizabeth, 153
Rewards of Authors, 59, 60, 88, 124, 141, 171, 182, 184
Ridsdale, Percival Sheldon, 53
Riley, James Whitcomb, 57
Roberts, Lloyd, 108
Rudyard, Charlotte Louise, 119
Sardou Play, Plot of a, 26
Sawyer, Walter Leon, 9
School for Novelists, A, Hope, 81
Smith, Mark, Selling the Short Story, 82
Stage Rights in Magazine Stories, 21
Stedman, Edmund Clarence, 43
Stevenson, Robert Louis, 57
Stoddard, Charles Warren, 168
Story, How Started, 29
Stott, Roscoe Gilmore, 54
Style, Edward Everett Hale's, 123
Style, Eleanor Abbott's, 61
Style, Getting a Good Literary, 45
Tarkington, Booth, 168
Tarkington, Booth, The Writing of Plays, 4
Taylor, Emerson, 10
Tennyson, Alfred, 137, 155, 168
Thought, Forms of, Myers, 35
Towndrow, Grace Eleanore, 153
Triolets, How to Write, 39
Typewriter, The, and Autographs, 106
Typewriter, Keeping It Clean, Hughes, 19 Typewriting, A Lesson in, Lauriston, 86 Verse, The Record Price for, 126
Vogel, Arthur E., Editorial Talk, 102
Walter, Eugene, The Writing of Plays, 4
Warner, Charles Dudley, 11
Wesley, John, Conquering His Cipher, 172
A MONTHLY MAGAZINE TO INTEREST AND HELP ALL LITERARY WORKERS.
BOSTON, JANUARY, 1909.
Nowadays, with almost every magazine in the country using short stories, at least one or two in a single issue, it would seem that the aspiring author would have a comparatively easy time of it in marketing his wares. And he would have, did he but study his market a little more closely.
The broker, the actor, even the corner grocer gives time and attention to the market wherein he would earn a livelihood, but the author for the most part contents himself with writing a story and then sending it off, haphazard, to his "favorite magazine," or to some journal he knows only by repute. And nine times out of ten he fails to hit the bull's
eye simply because he does not know his market.
And this is costly. Leaving out the question of postage both ways and envelopes two each time a manuscript is sent out the continual returning of a story or article again and again by magazine after magazine will tell in time upon the stoutest heart. The story which you once hailed with enthusiasm becomes weak and commonplace, a thing unsalable, and you begin to wonder whether you have any real talent, after all. This is the most natural feeling in the world, but very often the story would have found a home long ago had its author but taken the proper care to learn where it would receive a ready welcome. Manuscripts sent out in haphazard fashion seldom come to any good. In fact, after a time their parent comes to regard them as being very poor stuff indeed.
Every writer should make it a point to see at least a certain number of magazines each month. All of these cannot be read thoroughly or dissected page by page, but a glance at the table of contents, a knowledge of the names of contributors will help out wonderfully. In this way the general motif of the publication can be gained, and a little further study will show you that while all of them use short stories, the short stories themselves in the different magazines are as different and as wide apart as the poles themselves.
It is not enough to know that Harper's, the Smart Set, the Argosy, and the Red Book use short stories. They do but what a wonderful difference between them! A Smart Set story would never do for the Argosy, and a Red Book story would be equally out of place in Harper's. And yet each story is good in its own way, the difference resting in the secret that they are of a different type. Therefore, how can a per
Copyright, 1909, by WILLIAM H. HILLS. All rights reserved.