A couple of months ago I unearthed a play I’d written in the 1980s. It had been a semi-finalist in a local theater contest and enjoyed a couple of staged readings. I’ve worked on it, off and on, for a number of years. Finally, I decided to get a professional critique.
When the work came back, the opening comment was, “quite good,” and was followed by the expected “but.” I wasn’t afraid of the “but.” That’s what I’d paid for. Happily, I got my money’s worth.
The play’s origin stems from the interactions of three women I’d observed over a period of two years: an elderly mother, her middle aged daughter and the grandchild who had recently graduated from high school. As a family they were so dysfunctional I decided their lives made for good drama. My play was brutally accurate, and therein lies my failure. I’d observed their habits and eccentricities but never considered their motives.
One of my first blogs, written almost three years ago, made a distinction between journalism and literature. To write, “First the King died and then the Queen died,” is journalism. To write, “First the King died and then the Queen died of grief,” is story telling.
Whatever form it takes, in literature what happens is not nearly so important as why.