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The Art of Dramatic Writing: Its Basis in the Creative Interpretation of Human Motives

4.14  ·  Rating Details ·  1,443 Ratings  ·  109 Reviews
Kessinger Publishing is the place to find hundreds of thousands of rare and hard-to-find books with something of interest for everyone
Paperback, 320 pages
Published March 1st 2007 by Kessinger Publishing (first published 1942)
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Apr 02, 2011 Abigail rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Abigail by: Amy Warren
After reading this incredibly insightful, incredibly lucid book, I really feel that it's a crime that (1) so few people have read this book, and (2) there are so many bad plays (novels, etc.) out there. And it's not even hard to understand! I didn't have to struggle to comprehend the advice or see why it works.

Lest you think I'm overstating the value of the work, I shall explain it to you in three easy steps.
1. What premise are you trying to prove? (This is not theme or plot summary, but the pl
Aug 13, 2015 Francisco rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In some ways this is a very basic book. But sometimes it is good to be reminded of the simple principles that make book or a play interesting. Good writing may be complex in that it can be read again and again providing newer levels of meaning with each reading. But it need not be complicated. A great book can weave it's complexity around a simple premise. Jealousy ultimately destroy the lover and the beloved may be what Othello is about but the play is so much richer than that, don't you think? ...more
Sarah Cypher
Nov 02, 2011 Sarah Cypher rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
If there is one book I cite more than Strunk and White's classic The Elements of Style, it is Lajos Egri's relatively obscure gem. I happened upon it thanks to a writer-friend of a writer-friend who took one of James Frey's (no, not that James Frey, may his plagiarizing soul fly to a million little pieces) master classes in fiction. And yes, Egri will help you write a damn good novel.

The key is unity. Out of necessity, teachers of writing split the art of fiction writing into about five elements
Sep 19, 2014 Bret rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I was introduced to this book by Paul Schrader (TAXI DRIVER) when I tried, unsuccessfully, to enroll in a screenwriting course he was teaching one quarter at UCLA Film School. About 50 students crammed into a room meant to accommodate ten, and the first thing he said was: "I'm not admitting any undergrads into this class. (I was an undergrad, so I was already out in the first five minutes.) However, I'm going to tell you a few things if you ARE an undergrad film student.

"First, if you want to w
Rick Royster
Apr 29, 2013 Rick Royster rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the 2 or 3 best books i've ever read on writing, and i've read quite a few. Story by Robert McKee is very solid and a must read for film makers, but this book combined with Dara Marks inside story should be read, studied and read again. Everything you want to know about plot and character come together in this brilliant How-to masterpiece.
إنّ الحياة هي التغير ، و أقل اضطراب في أي دقيقة من دقائقها يغيّرها جميعاً
و البيئة إذا تغيّرت تغيّر الإنسانُ معها . والشاب الحدثُ إذا لقيَ سيدة صغيرة
في الظروف السليمة المناسبة فإنه ربما انجذب إليها بفعل ما يتفقان فيه
من مشارب مثل حبهما للأدب أو الفنون أو الألعاب الرياضية . و هذه المشاركة
العامة في أمر من الأمور قد تكبر و تشتد وتتعمق جذورها حتى تصبحَ غراماً
و تعاطفاً تشترك فيه وجداناتهما . و إذا لم يُعكّر صَفْوَ انسجامها هذا شيء
فلا شك أنه يصبح افتتاناً و صبابة . و مع هذا فالافتتان ليس هو الحب ، لكنه
Chuck O'Connor
Jul 05, 2012 Chuck O'Connor rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a masterpiece of instruction.

Egri's approach is that of a naturalist and Socratic philosopher.

He bases his theory on observed phenomenon and allows illustration from example to prove his hypothesis. He then provides an approach using dialectics to encourage and challenge potential emotional resistance to the ideas.

The strongest and most exciting notion within this work is Egri's insistence on premise as the essential component for playwriting. My fledgling experience as a serious writ
Aug 11, 2008 Katie rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I want to retract what I wrote before. This book makes some important points when it comes to structuring/developing dramatic stories around dynamic characters. I found the style (overly wordy and written in a contrived informal tone, as if the author is ushering you to some holy grail) confused more than it clarified and made the ideas hard to stomach. So I’d say, read the first few paragraphs of each chapter to understand the concept Egri’s trying to illustrate, skim his explanations of plays ...more
Mar 22, 2010 Nancy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: skimmed
For some reason, I thought this would help with writing poetry. (Then again, I look at my cat and hope that will help with writing poetry.)

However, for a gutsy stance on how plays work, this is the place. It was (honestly) news to me that a play needs a "premise" and that you could boil Ibsen's Ghosts down to "The sins of the fathers are visited upon the children."

Do poems need premises, too? Perhaps much less dramatic premises? Something like, "It is fun to say the letter 's' a lot."

Books with
Joel Miller
Mar 17, 2015 Joel Miller rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I just reread this book after many years. Its perhaps the best book on dramatic writing I have ever read. It puts all the structural approaches like Sid Field, McKee et al to shame frankly.
Melissa Ellis
Mar 10, 2013 Melissa Ellis rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Lots of good information for writers here, some of it obviously geared to beginners but very helpful to experienced writers, as well.
Feb 25, 2009 Janet rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Tremendous resource for character development and orchestration, scene and conflict.
Hannah Spencer
Jul 26, 2013 Hannah Spencer rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-for-school
For me, the first chapter on Premise was the greatest revelation (and there were many). I never knew what a premise was before, but not it makes total sense. Even your creative writing needs a thesis, something you are trying to prove. One needs a premise that conveys character, conflict, and resolution. For instance, ruthless ambition leads to its own destruction. This premise indicts a ruthlessly ambitious character whose attempt to gain something (conflict) destroys himself (resolution)... th ...more
One of the books often cited in other works on writing fiction, and after reading it I can see why. This is a great exploration of the structuring of successful stories. It focuses on playwriting, but almost everything the author says applies equally well to writing novels, short stories, or screenplays.

Essentially, Egri explores the psychology of both characters and audience and how they interact. He devotes quite a few very short chapters to specific and detailed aspects of storytelling, and e
Merlin P. Mann
Feb 13, 2008 Merlin P. Mann rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Merlin P. by: Troels Chr. Jakobsen
Fantastic book on writing. Not as slick and accessible as McKee, yet that only adds to the author's high degree of integrity. His points are still sharp and very well argumented - the best for me was how he kills of the distinction between "character-driven" and "plot-driven". All good plots come from good characters, i.e. one does not make sense without the other - and his analysis of different plays is extremely convincing.

Some passages were too repetitive or slightly overemphasizing the point
Berin Kinsman
May 22, 2016 Berin Kinsman rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: writing
While it is both dated and specifically about writing plays, this book should still be required reading for writers of any sort of fiction. Story structure, character development, and more are covered in depth. The examples drawn from (now very old) plays still get the point across.
May 08, 2014 Brad rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I cannot speak highly enough about this book!

Ergi has valid - perhaps in some instances even unique - arguments and observations about playwriting and holds the whole artform up to very high standards. He calls theme "premise" and is very straightforward about his belief that charcaters must drive conflict, but the result is a solid demystification of dramtic writing.

However, he is a bit aloof throughout the book, which, personally, I found strangely appealing.
Ahmad Galal  Al Sabbagh
الكتاب جميل ، وللكاتب وجهة نظر مُعتبرة لخصها باقتدار المترجم دريني خشبة في أول 31 صفحة من الكتاب . وألخص المُلَّخَص فأقول أنَّ ملخص اللون الأدبي سواء كان (قصة أو أقصوصة أو مسرحية أو قصة قصيرة ) يكون في 1- فكرة أساسية "مقدمة منطقية" بمثابة القدر للشخصيات ، والفعل 2- الشخصية الروائية ، وهي من تصنع العقدة ،وتحلها بطريقة منطقية عن طريق نموها 3- الصراع ، وهو الفعل الروائي ويكون ساكنا أو واثبا ، أو مرهصا على ذروة ، او صاعدا،والكاتب يُفضل الأخيرين .

Aug 13, 2012 Jenni rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good, solid advice, but hard for me to get through. I didn't like having to plow through examples of bad writing to get to the examples of good writing. It did help to have many of his points illustrated through several famous plays, such as Hedda Gabler and Macbeth.

I started this with a 4-star rating, but given that it took me over six months to force myself to finish it, I had to downgrade it for not keeping my interest.
Jul 08, 2008 Andrew rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As a writer, I learned a lot from this book. The author's insistence on character over plot (because character drives the plot) and his emphasis on starting with a premise are two principles that will save my writing. This is a must for writers of plays, screenplays, novels and short stories.
Jun 08, 2012 Ke rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When I read this book, I found that some advices were a bit outdated. That is why it is not enough to just read this book, if someone wants to learn dramatic writing.

Still, I recommend this book to anyone who wants to create round and unforgettable characters.
Mar 10, 2011 Kate rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: writers
This book breaks down what makes dramatic writing great. You can write badly all you want for your own benefit, but if you want to create characters and stories with depth, read this book.
May 22, 2012 Fay rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Quick and easy to read and the best single general handbook for creating stories I've found. There are other good ones out there but few of them are so concise / useful.
L.E. Hollis
Egri has good ideas, but he consumes too much time making arguments. The points are too basic and simple to require extensive arguments, and the logic is often weak or flawed, drawing on similarities in nature or examples. The book could have been a third of its size without loosing anything.

I don't mind him quoting plays. They're out of date now, but he cannot be blamed for that, and it is still possible to see his intent in the scenes he includes. What I didn't like were mock conversations wit
Dec 11, 2007 Gary rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: novelists, screenwriters, playwrights
seed of drama = conflict

[ this was the textbook at both ucla & sc when spielberg, copolla, lucas, etc. were at film school ]
Chryse Wymer
Dec 10, 2012 Chryse Wymer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
While this book is littered with waaaaay too many examples when what the author is trying to communicate has become clear, I LOVE this book. What I love is what he has to say about premise:

"Webster’s International Dictionary says: Premise: a proposition antecedently supposed or proved; a basis of argument. A proposition stated or assumed as leading to a conclusion."

Basically, he considers a premise a kind of scientific theorem. Once you have your theorem in place, the idea is to take a dialectic
Arda Aghazarian
Apr 12, 2013 Arda Aghazarian rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book highlights on plays written by geniuses such as Shakespeare, bringing attention on why these are plays written by geniuses. Lajos Egri focuses on "premise" (basically the idea that "something" LEADS TO "something"). Apparently, good stories (plays, short stories, novels, or films) need to have a clear premise, as well as character growth.

The author explains what makes a character weak, and I could not help but think about whether this applies to real life. According to Egri,

weak char
John Jr.
Where writing advice is concerned, the question is whether it's useful. That won't have a universal answer; it'll vary with each individual writer.

On the negative side, a moment's reflection tells me it's a good thing Herman Melville didn't try to follow such principles as this book espouses, else we wouldn't have Moby-Dick in its present, strange and wondrous form: much that he put into the novel is extraneous to the central conflict. We might in addition lose the entire category of post-modern
Dann McKeegan
Oct 22, 2011 Dann McKeegan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is one of those books I should have read long ago. Like senior year of high school levels of long ago. Back when I was flying by the seat of my pants writing a screenplay for a short film, I gave fleeting thought to taking a creative direction, but got sidetracked. Picking up Egri would have been useful then to begin to understand what the hell I was doing and what I could do with a better understanding of character and premise. By taking his dialectical approach to heart, so much of the bi ...more
Sean Clouden
Mar 14, 2012 Sean Clouden rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've read quite a few books on writing fiction and this was one of my favorites (my number one favorite being Story by Robert McKee). Egri does an amazing job breaking down how to make characters drive your story, and his principles are self-evident in that you'll immediately recognize them at work in all great stories that you've read and watched.

Some of the key concepts he covers in this book are...

- How to create your story's PREMISE. SO many stories lack this and, as a result, feel empty and
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Lajos N. Egri (born June 4, 1888; died February 7, 1967) was the author of The Art of Dramatic Writing, which is widely regarded as one of the best works on the subject of playwriting, though its teachings have since been adapted for the writing of short stories, novels, and screenplays[...]
More about Lajos Egri...

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“PHYSIOLOGY 1. Sex 2. Age 3. Height and weight 4. Color of hair, eyes, skin 5. Posture 6. Appearance: good-looking, over- or underweight, clean, neat, pleasant, untidy. Shape of head, face, limbs. 7. Defects: deformities, abnormalities, birthmarks. Diseases. 8. Heredity SOCIOLOGY 1. Class: lower, middle, upper. 2. Occupation: type of work, hours of work, income, condition of work, union or nonunion, attitude toward organization, suitability for work. 3. Education: amount, kind of schools, marks, favorite subjects, poorest subjects, aptitudes. 4. Home life: parents living, earning power, orphan, parents separated or divorced, parents’ habits, parents’ mental development, parents’ vices, neglect. Character’s marital status. 5. Religion 6. Race, nationality 7. Place in community: leader among friends, clubs, sports. 8. Political affiliations 9. Amusements, hobbies: books, newspapers, magazines he reads. PSYCHOLOGY 1. Sex life, moral standards 2. Personal premise, ambition 3. Frustrations, chief disappointments 4. Temperament: choleric, easygoing, pessimistic, optimistic. 5. Attitude toward life: resigned, militant, defeatist. 6. Complexes: obsessions, inhibitions, superstitions, phobias. 7. Extrovert, introvert, ambivert 8. Abilities: languages, talents. 9. Qualities: imagination, judgment, taste, poise. 10. I.Q.” 1 likes
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