The secret of the ancient Greeks: Aristotle can teach us about writing fiction

5:14 PM
ABOUT 2300 years ago, the story is the rule that at least according to legend, a man was defined by the last person to know everything. He was a philosopher and scientist, as well as a student of Plato. Today synonymous with scientific and philosophical brilliance, is the name of Aristotle. But you said he was also an expert on writing? In his unfinished work Poetics, Aristotle observed aspiring writer Greek ideal: to help achieve perfection set forth several simple rules.

The novel was unknown in ancient Greece, but Aristotle was well versed in our time are the most popular form of entertainment: play. He was not, as far as we know, a playwright himself. But the theater to check and test the same spirit that he showed in all disciplines to apply. Soon, he noticed a few things in common was successful plays.

Not only the modern so-called "story" experts "called his own as are marketed by, Aristotle's rules still contemporary novels, plays and screenwriting applied to most, but many of them. They feel that their knowledge and experience from many years of analysis, but the story really comes to the elements for millennia been known to be trusted. You can save yourself a lot of time - as well as workshop fees - being close to the source itself.

After a huge treasure trove are a few gems that are part of our cultural heritage, as is free to take. As they were the authors of these comments as relevant today when Aristotle first wrote them.
  • All stories are made up of five elements: character, plot, dialogue and thought setting. "From," a character's motivation or intention Aristotle meant something like thought. (He also plays with passion for that music.) When these elements are combined in proper proportions, the effect of an attractive work of wholeness - to make a great story dealt with a class, including . And in order to get the proportions, the elements also had to occupy its rightful place, for some categories are more important than others. Emphasis on the plot to set a story, for example, just would not work. Why not? This brings us to our next point:
  • Plot is everything. "The first essential, life and soul, then, a story, to talk plot," wrote Aristotle. The son of a Thracian people to the doctor for free all this time trying to tell us what has been said to be: We have a good story badly, but the flowery prose wrapped up in a bad story did not say sorry can make huge sums paid.
  • Characters come second. After the plot, the next important question is: Who are the actors? To work for a character, Aristotle, wrote four aspects should be developed.

First, the "good will" that he is not a nun or a Girl Scout means, but that he respects his readers some comfortable wins, redeeming quality to.
  1. Second, the "proper" - that is, her different qualities, his identity should be based on meaning. For example, a serving girl in a mansion, and a queen should not be washing dishes should not live.
  2. The third property that he "trusted," or should be realistic, we want to believe it could exist, even though we know it is a work of fiction.
  3. The fourth quality is consistency. A character on a page and understanding should not be stark mad mad the next.

  • Keep bending your readers by using 4 reversals. Reversals (Aristotle had them "peripeties") is called the contrast from one state to change things in your story. Two examples: a wedding feast (a happy event) by the bride's father (a sad one); a child a storm (a disaster) between (a happy occasion) is born, the sudden death marred is.
  • 5 and a way to hook readers from the searches is to use. Searches, Aristotle, the meaning of those moments when our hero learns something or the story itself has an impact in the direction of the other characters too. Today's simple plot twists these as we can think of. But really nothing is simple about the plot twists, not least when done well. His most effective when they meet a certain set of expectations are. Aristotle it is not good story just for the sake of our story in some strange mystery to be throwing caution us against, being abusive.
"Search is the best form peripety participated," he wrote. In other words, the most of your readers straight out of a search for a reversal arises is satisfactory. Here's an example that most of us had to read in high school, and that Aristotle himself: Oedipus the King is a game with the contemporary. When Oedipus that he is married and had children with women actually her mother - a search - this is the cause of suffering happily learns her reversal. This new state, in turn, leads to her ultimate self-mutilation and exile.

How little the story of Oedipus the King, Aristotle considered the best tragedy ever written, is effective fantasy hero never learned the truth about her mother. If his blindness was raised for some other reason, or imagination - for example, a war or a disease. Others did not come from elements of the story still the same dramatic effect can be the one?

Why are important discoveries and reversals? They say that the average spell the difference between fiction and great literature provide broad emotional range help. Simply the best stories, explore an emotion, but cover the gamut of human emotions. While we're on the subject (and what fiction and literature? The only entertainment is the difference between pre-, post, and the strength of our common humanity to remind us about the lives changed.)
  • The entire plot is simple not complicated. Anyone who only months working on a story that will appreciate it a lot was said to be spent. Cause and effect we have a theoretically infinite range effort that our readers get to make interesting stories, we often far side of caution by stringing together event after event, hey can. How much is enough to know one? Our old toga - that one friend had to wear a response.
"The plot so without seeing the things take place, he only listens to the account of those events will be filled with the spirit should be ready," Aristotle tells us. Your favorite novels or movies for a moment think. How easy is it for you they are about to explain to someone else? Most likely, your answer is "plenty." HarperCollins as his editor, if you have more than two or three sentences can not explain the essence of your story, then told me many times is not ready yet.

So, what modern writers include Aristotle's advice is the best way? The most useful approach I have described my writing group will be to discuss the issues. Aristotle, so to speak on it with you to the people is easy to read - and that's worth the effort. Or get yourself a copy of the Poetics and read it. You point it to your own work to help improve methods can be used to see?

Well, it was an easy target once all the literary expectation - publishing, or dramatists, acquired in the production of our old student writing? No. "For him there are the first poet of tragedy is strong in many species, critics now [author hopes] to cross each one of my predecessors," Aristotle intones.

In other words, 25 centuries ago, authors already with butterflies in his stomach were waiting for their review. Some things never change.

Poetics and there are a variety of online book available in translation. For this article, I of Aristotle, edited by Richard McKeon Introduction to the Modern Library and Random House had (1947) published by. Whatever translation you recommend I choose to use a study guide, "Aristotle's Poetics? Study Guide googling to get some leads."


Ask yourself how your current work is to discuss standards in the article. For example:
  1. Each in their proper proportion of its story elements are present? Their land is being overwhelmed by other elements?
  2. Its plot is clear and no more than two or three simple sentences to express? Here to answer this question one way to have fun at the same time: a good friend or your significant other and tell him to pretend he is an editor hold. Walk into the room and no more than 30 seconds to pitch your story. This is not about hard selling, it's about being clear and concise. Well it's great practice for the moment when you have to do it for real.
  3. My hero, constantly reliable proper sympathy?
  4. Your story or two controlling an interesting discovery and re-create them is a reversal?
  5. As always, remember that the rules were to break. When you by accident, is that they break amateurism. You on purpose, the style to break them.

- W. K.

William Kowalski an award - winning novelist and screenwriter. Lovely to last, wrote his screenplay with co-director Markus Griesshammer is currently in production.

Name Works: Poetics (Nonfiction work)

Source citation: Kowalski, William. Ancient Greeks "Writing Secrets: Aristotle can teach us about imagination. (Progressively)." Writer 121.3 (March 2008): 34. Academic OneFile. Gale. BROWARD County Library. August 10, 2009
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