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This book examines what literary and dramatic plotting is--what plot is. The premise of this book is that the concept of forces in literature and drama is analogous to the concept of forces in physics. In physics, vectors represent the forces that push and pull--that move, propel, objects. Vectors are used analogously to describe how characters, objects, and locations which are the "bodies" of literature and drama reflect the propelling of literary and dramatic "forces." Vector theory “elegantly,” as the ...
This book examines what literary and dramatic plotting is--what plot is. The premise of this book is that the concept of forces in literature and drama is analogous to the concept of forces in physics. In physics, vectors represent the forces that push and pull--that move, propel, objects. Vectors are used analogously to describe how characters, objects, and locations which are the "bodies" of literature and drama reflect the propelling of literary and dramatic "forces." Vector theory “elegantly,” as the mathematicians say, describes the workings of plot in literature and drama, and so will give fiction authors and the theater artists (playwrights, TV and screen writers, actors, designers, choreographers, puppeteers, directors, designers, and TV and film producers) a set of new analytical tools that will help in the creation, revision (including script doctoring and scene rehearsal), and criticism of tales written and performed. While vector theory is able to answer certain questions more thoroughly than they have been answered before, vector theory supports and supplements traditional forms of criticism.
One of the most important functions vector analysis serves for the analysis of literature and drama will be to lay to rest the notion that plot is conflict. Considering conflict to be the essence of plot has tended to flood American culture with stories of violence wanting in dimension, and to encourage fiction authors, dramatic artists, readers, and audiences to find conflict in stories that are not about conflict, and so miss the point of the tale. Vector theory yields a real understanding of the workings of plot and this should lead to the greater appreciation of all tales and to the creation of stories of greater scope.
It has long been supposed that there is an underlying order to works of literature and drama, but this order has not been precisely described. Therefore, dramatic artists are accustomed to basing their work on intuition. For instance, they learn to quickly and easily spot a climax; a skill that some undergraduates never learn. Likewise, theatrical artists learn to sense what lines in a play will receive laughter and which require some kind of a movement, knowing the movement will bring out a specific emotional meaning to the line.
There are times during rehearsal when the director will tell the actors to "pick up the pace" or "milk it." The former means to move and say lines more quickly; the latter means to go slowly and fully reveal all the levels of emotion of a passage of the script. However, by the fortieth or fiftieth rehearsal, nothing is funny; intuition refuses to assert itself; and the actors and director know they must rely on the fact that when they first read the script it was funny. Dress rehearsal is normally a disaster. No one can remember lines or blocking, the timing is all wrong, and everything the director has told the actors to do they forget to do. Nevertheless, the very next night, the audience laughs when the actors think they should; indeed, an enthralling evening of theater takes place, leaving the audience satisfied, happy, and feeling that this was a special evening in their lives. If the audience does not feel this way, the show closes and the dramatic artists are out of work maybe for years.
Such a situation would make anyone a little high strung. So, if there were a precise way to describe plot, if the workings of plot could be analyzed with asmuch definition as the trajectories of shooting stars, it would help immeasurably.
But wait! The sudden brilliance of the meteor, its flaming path across the sky, its gradual yet beautiful extinguishing as it passes overhead is precisely understood, and can, and often is, plotted on a graph. The force of the speeding meteor meets the resisting force of the earth's atmosphere. The force of friction burns away some of the meteor and particles within the atmosphere collide with particles of the meteor and the forces of the collision wreak havoc. The forces are charted, and the physicists know exactly what happened to the meteor and why because they understand the mathematics of forces. This mathematics of forces is variously called vectorial analysis, vector analysis, or vector theory.
Vectors are abstract representations of properties underlying effects. In physics and engineering, vectors represent the forces that push and pull--that move, propel objects. Engineers, who build roads and buildings just as costumers build costumes, set designers build sets, actors build characters, and playwrights build suspense, understand vectors this way: "The graphical representation of a vector quantity in its proper magnitude, direction, and sense is called a vector."