Writing Drama (16)

Yves Lavandier’s book Writing Drama currently rates as the absolute favorite of our book reviewer Jack Brislee.
To give you the opportunity to delve into Lavandier’s amazing knowledge and insight, we will be publishing a weekly excerpt from the book.

Nothing succeeds like excess

A writer must not be afraid of excess, of taking things too far. There are those who say that excess in all things is meaningless. This may be true in life, where the truth usually lies somewhere in the middle ground, in moderation—even though, when it comes to excess, reality often outdoes fiction (I shall return to this point). However it is manifestly untrue in art.

A writer must not be afraid of excess.

The great writers of drama, from William Shakespeare to Jean-Michel Charlier and from Molière to Alfred Hitchcock, via Bertolt Brecht, Ernst Lubitsch and Ingmar Bergman, all went to excessive lengths. And it clearly brought results.

In Wise Blood and Oedipus Rex, the protagonist tears his eyes out.

In The Unknown, Alonzo (Lon Chaney) has both his arms amputated in order to be able to marry the woman he loves.

In Ballad of Narayama, Orin (Kinuyo Tanaka) does not flinch at breaking her own teeth in order to appear older than she really is.

In Counter Tenors, Meo (Paolo Ferrari) agrees to be castrated.

In Desire Under the Elms, a mother murders her infant child.

The list is endless, particularly when it comes to comedy which of all the genres goes furthest in stretching reality to the limit and beyond. When it comes down to it, who really is going to change their sexual identity just to get a job (cf. Some Like It Hot, Tootsie or Victor/Victoria)? Or act in any way at all like the protagonists of To Be or Not to Be?

The writer must not resort to excess as a matter of course

While on the one hand one should not hesitate to be excessive when the situation calls for it, the writer must not resort to excess as a matter of course. Going to excessive lengths implies setting out from one point, generally some kind of norm, and ending up at another, considered beyond the bounds of reasonable behaviour.

Works of drama that deal only in excess lack the shading that the norm provides by contrast, and tend to be overheated and hysterical.

-Yves Lavandier

If this excerpt has whetted your appetite and you would like to own this book, don’t fork out the $150 or so Amazon is charging.
Instead, send an email to the publisher contact@clown-enfant.com with subject ‘the story department referral’ and you will be eligible for the super-discounted price of 30 Euros (i.e. only $37 at the time of writing). This saves you $113 (or 75%) off the Amazon cost.
About the Author

Karel Segers

Karel Segers wrote his first produced screenplay at age 17. Today he is a story analyst with experience in international movie rights acquisition, script development and production. He has trained and consulted to filmmakers all over the world, including award-winning screenwriters, and Academy Award nominees. Karel founded this website, as well as Logline.it!, ranks among the most influential people for screenwriting on social media, and speaks more than a handful of European languages (which should come in handy in his present hometown of Sydney, Australia).

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