Alec Nevala-Lee

Thoughts on art, creativity, and the writing life.

Archive for December 18th, 2015

The interest curve

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Magic and Showmanship by Henning Nelms

Increasing interest is called building. If we had to rely on natural interest, providing an effective interest curve would be a hopeless task. Fortunately, we can call a whole battery of technical devices to our aid.

We build interest by adding more: more movement, more color, more sound, more light, more people, more intensity, more concentration, more excitement. In short, anything whatever that the spectators regard as interesting will also increase their interest.

A stage act gives you plenty of scope. You can start with a bare stage and fill it with production items, or start with black-and-white costumes and apparatus and end with a riot of color. Begin with minor effects like a cigarette vanish and wind up by producing an automobile. Commence with small slow movements and end by racing around the stage waving silken banners. Open silently and close with a shout and a pistol shot. If you have adequate lighting facilities and a reliable electrician, nothing is more effective than starting with a fairly dim stage and ending in a blaze of light.

My own pet device for building interest consists in increasing the height of my actors above the stage floor. This works so well that I often introduce steps and platforms merely to make height possible…

One of the dramatist’s most important jobs is to relieve the audience of all mental effort. Each step should be clear, and the transition from one step to the next should seem easy and natural. When a step does not logically follow the one before it, the spectators are puzzled. While they are groping for the connection, they miss the next step—or the next few steps. This confuses them still more. Confusion makes the interest curve drop sharply; people who are trying to understand what has happened cannot give full attention to what is happening.

Henning Nelms, Magic and Showmanship

Written by nevalalee

December 18, 2015 at 8:18 am

Quote of the Day

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Virginia Woolf

I believe that the main thing in beginning a novel is to feel, not that you can write it, but that it exists on the far side of a gulf, which words can’t cross; that it’s to be pulled through only in a breathless anguish. Now when I sit down to write an article, I have a net of words which will come down on the idea certainly in an hour or so. But a novel, as I say, to be good, should seem, before one writes it, something unwritable, but only visible; so that for nine months one lives in despair, and only when one has forgotten what one meant, does the book seem tolerable. I assure you, all my novels were first rate before they were written.

Virginia Woolf, in a letter to Vita Sackville-West

Written by nevalalee

December 18, 2015 at 7:21 am

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