Sunday, 4 April 2010

Silent Partners II

I really went into acting for the chance to dress up, and one of my big regrets is that I never got to be in one of those BBC period dramas. But I did do some period work on stage, and managed to play Alithea in The Country Wife twice, once at Leicester, and once at the Theatre Royal York.

Restoration comedies are long, and need quite a lot of cutting to make them work for modern audiences. Part of the reason is that modern audiences come to the theatre, sit in rows obediently and listen to the play. Audiences in the late 17th century were quite different. They turned up at any point, mainly to meet up with their friends. There were formal seats round the edges for the posh, but most people ambled around in the pit. Because of this, Restoration comedies have many acts, and the beginning of each one starts with a quick recap of what's happened so far in the play so all the late arrivals can catch up.

Now think about writing a novel. You're writing the book, it's living with you every day, but a reader might take a month to read it, one chapter at a time. You need to keep the characters fresh for them. Thomas Wycherley did it with a plot recap from time to time, but that doesn't work for the modern novel. So you've got to keep everything going in the reader's head, and make it easy for them to follow what is happening, even though their reading may be disjointed. Keep all the main characters alive and don't 'lose' them. That way, you won't lose the reader, either.


Anonymous said...

Stumbled on your blog about a fortnight ago. Really - really - enjoying it!

Sarah Duncan said...

Oh thank you, that's nice to hear. Hope you carry on enjoying it!