Aristotle’s six elements of theatre:
1. Thought/Theme: What the story really means. “The abstract issues and feelings that grow out of the dramatic action.”
2. Plot: The events of the story.
3. Characters: The people presented in the story that move it forward as they work to achieve their ends.
4. Language: The linguistic choices in the narration and dialogue that help define the theme and story.
5. Music: Yes, this refers to the literal music in musical theatre, but Aristotle also defined it as the rhythm and tone of the dialogue. Specific rhythms and voices in writing and certain language tones can establish tempo and patterns.
6. Spectacle: The elements of the story (its world, characters, etc.) that enthralls us.
In my last post I discussed how we all prefer different focuses in our reading and writing. Pondering that subject brought up the six elements of theatre and how they serve similar purposes in plays. Like how some audiences attend ‘low-brow’ performances purely for the spectacle and plot and some prefer ‘high-brow’ plays that incorporate deeper themes and characters.
Whether we recognize it or not, all writers use a different blend of these themes. I may write riveting plots with beautiful language that awes audiences with many spectacles of the plot and world but have fairly shallow characters--which works okay for my style because I use them purely as narrators of the world (there is argument the The Lord of the Rings is written this way). On another hand I may have a humble plot in a simple but relatable world and mainly focus on delving deep into the human experience through my characters and themes. I may also choose to have very little power in my plot and characters and charm my readers purely through the spectacle of the beautiful language and music of my narrative. The blends of these themes can go on and on.
The question we all ask ourselves then, is what blend do we use? The first thing that comes to mind is to go through my writing and perfect each of these themes: create really deep thoughts, plots, and characters, perfect my language and music, fill the story with spectacles, etc. However--though I do believe it’s good to try to appeal to all audiences and weave all of these themes into our stories--I also think maxing them all out can be overwhelming to our readers and a healthy blend that better focuses the book can work out much better for us. It can be helpful to us to recognize what elements we prefer at the forefront and pay attention to how we incorporate all of these themes into our writing.