“WHO IS GUSTAV FREYTAG?”[1816-1895] “SHOULD I CARE?”
Freytag wrote about structure of five-act plays. Shakespearean formalist critic of the first rank. His Pyramid formula is used as a tool for intelligent appreciation, leading to further enjoyment. “Wow! That is really neat!”
The structure of the play becomes dynamic: every event falling into place, every word and image seen as leading to an effect, every action adding to the interest and suspense of the plot. (Story is who, what, when, where. Plot is how, why. “She bonked him over the head with the frozen lamb roast” = story [line] “because he is leaving her” = plot.)
Easy explanation of analysis done in 1863:However, TV writers, fiction writers, and dramatists cannot be so simple. Twists and turns of plot. Story changes. Things happen. If not, readers and audiences would hoot and holler.
So, here is how it really works, since “drama” is “character portrayal IN ACTION.”
Introduction (Prologue), Rising Action, Exciting Force (or Exciting Force, Rising Action), Crisis, Climax (the Crisis is NOT the climax: the crisis is deciding what to do; the climax is the result of, the decision), Falling Action. THE PLAY COULD END HERE. “BOOO! BOOO!” “I want my money back!” But wait: There is more. Problems/Complications, then Denouement (happy) or Catastrophe (sad), finally, the Ending (Epilogue).
Try it out: Gnomeo & Juliet; Gone Girl; “The Open Boat”; Hamlet; Grey’s Anatomy; Die Hard; Gravity; DaVinci Code; The Sixth Sense; “The Lottery”; Interstellar; Balto.
Here are some bits and pieces: Where/how do they fit? “We got it just in time!”; “To be or not to be”; witches on a beach making (a) pot (of stew); didn’t get the promotion; iceberg; “You have cancer.”; a perfect storm; finding a diary; “And they lived happily ever after.”; commercial break, score is 101-99, with ten seconds to go; “Oh, no! The tire is flat!” plane crash in Alps; “I left my wallet at home, Officer.”; antidote did not arrive in time; “Once upon a time,…” The End. Fin. Finis. -30-
Thank you, Mr. Freytag, for showing us the way. Now what about deus ex machina?
I don’t write fiction but I went to a lecture with a friend of mine who does. Advice: after making your character sympathetic, do something to put her in trouble. And then more trouble. And then more trouble. (In a nutshell.)