Writing a Play and a Novel

Writing a Play and writing a Novel is Different

Writing a play and a novel are two different ball games. A playwright need not be a good novelist and vice versa. Whereas the novelist needs to tell a story via a plot inlaid into a narrative, a dramatist has to show a story through dialogue given to characters on a stage. It may seem that writing a play is simpler than a novel because it seems a shorter text than a novel’s, but it can often be more difficult. Writing concisely is definitely more of an accomplishment than a loose dabbling in words. The novel gives more freedom to the author, comparatively speaking, than drama does. In a novel the narration is simpler because it is handled by a single or best two or three narrators. But in a play the characters have to be made to speak in a way that a story emerges from their speeches. Characters in a play are like multiple, indirect, unknowing narrators whose words make up a story.

            The audience, or the people who are likely to see the play, make a great difference to the play’s script. A dramatist has to keep in mind the audience that they need to write for. It is unwise to write for just about everyone in society. Writing for everyone will blur the focus of the play and will not please any section of society. Surprisingly, when the playwright has a specific kind of crowd in mind, and writes for them, he manages to please a great many more sections of people because what he says is done with more clarity and makes other sections view the play with a shift of identity and self-interest. A playgoer begins to see a play from the point of view of others because a play has the potential to take an individual out of his own idiosyncratic likes and dislikes and put them into another’s value-system. Similarly a novelist should think of a particular category of readers instead of trying to rope in every kind of reader while writing a novel.

            A play can be written with or without some available actors in mind. The characters of a play are sometimes determined by the availability of actors. I have found that when we write plays for specific occasions, we have particular actors in mind. The characters, in that case, can take on some of the features of the actors they are written for. Besides, actors are often able or unable to perform certain roles and therefore the roles get written in accordance to the actors’ acting abilities. But of course there can be plays where someone personality in real life has impressed a dramatist so much that the living person’s traits enter into the character that is created after him or her. In a novel there are no restrictions that are imposed by actors.

            Both novel and play are written because an author wants to externalize what he or she has felt deeply within. It can become a play when the author visualizes the felt experience as something to be shown on stage, trying to squeeze the world onto it. But when an author wishes to go into greater detail and simply tell a tale through a chosen form of narrative technique, then the novel is the answer.

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