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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.
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.
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 entirely by circumstances and my Own 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, I made the hero a young Indianian of democratic spirit, and, in order to throw his personality into bold relief, I grouped about him a number of Europeanized Americans, and set the scene in Italy. I do not mean to say that I neglect the minor parts, for if they are not convincingly drawn, you might just as well let your star play with a set of dummies, but I make them all subsidiary to the main character. Once having my set of characters well in mind, I set out to weave an interesting plot into which they will fit. That part is easy, for, of course, Mr. Wilson and I work it out together, as we do all else connected with the play.
Usually the characters introduced are com
posite types, which are the result of observation, and these, as a rule, prove to be the most convincing to an audience. Sometimes, though, we take people directly from life. The Englishman in "The Man from Home" is an example of that; Mr. Wilson and I met him in Rome and reproduced him as we found him, yet in all the press notices I have read of the play that character has been pronounced over-drawn and exaggerated.
Since Mr. Wilson and I always talk over and write our plays together, the people in them seldom "balk”—not nearly so much as in fiction. Our working hours would probably average five a day, though we sometimes work much longer than that. We first write a brief scenario, then a longer scenario, and then dictate the whole play to a stenographer. In that way the dialogue takes on a live, natural ring. After that we re-write the whole piece at least twice, and finally divide up different acts between us for a last polishing-off. The length of time we have consumed in writing our plays has varied from four to twelve weeks. 'The Man from Home," I believe, took about eight.
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 because I have to because the times demand 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 opinion. For the last fifteen or twenty 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
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 forgotten - 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 one — never 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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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