What is a story without structure? Consider a human without a backbone: Ill-fated.
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A Timeless Tradition
Students are the ultimate renegades. They revel in the unorthodox, love breaking the rules. When applied to writing, that inclination can certainly be useful and, sometimes, exciting. However, no matter how subversive a theatrical project may be, how non-linear the presentation of the material, somewhere in the shadows there must lurk a guiding framework. Otherwise, the piece—or the audience dozing in their seats—may fall flat.
From Shakespeare to Mamet, Sophocles to Albee, successful dramatic works are composed of formative actions that build upon one another compellingly, ultimately comprising distinct structural parts.
There are many approaches to structuring dramatic writing. "The Structure of Tragedy" from Aristotle’s Poetics is a literary mainstay. Gustav Freytag’s “Pyramid" or “Plot Mountain" employs such familiar tags as Rising Action, Falling Action and Denouement.
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Numerous other writers and scholars have devised various charts, systems and lexicons to aid their peers in the craft of writing plays and/or screenplays. Ultimately though, whatever the terms coined, the fundamental components are essentially the same.