During the reign of Queen Elizabeth I of England stage plays evolved from the retelling of folktales and rewritten Greek plays to actual multi-act original productions. During this time playwrights came into their own and some gained notoriety.
What I would like to write about in this article are not the playwrights, like Shakespeare, but the evolution of the plotline.
The plotline is the guiding force for any story.
The writers of novels, stage and screen take great care when formulating plotlines for their stories.
These days in the age of TV and film we are actually harkening back to the days of the stage plays and penny opera. The viewer is shown an acted out plotline and not much is left but to be an observer of the actors.
A book or novel is a much more challenging way to tell a story. Fictional or nonfictional background can be told in detail, and the reader has a better connection with the characters in that story on an emotional level, even the historical people that are written about seem more alive in the readers’ mind’s eye.
Epic characters such as Frodo Baggins from “Lord of the Rings” is detailed more clearly in the books and if you were to only have that written information you would completely understand Middle Earth from a Hobbit’s point of view. Harry Potter is in that same category of epic character, and in reading the books you gain a better understanding of his transition from orphan to wizard.
What drives character detail is the plotline. When writers sit down and draft out a story idea one of the main questions before writing the story out is what characters will tell the story best. The characters drive the plot and the plot drives.
Story plot started out as dramas involving royal families and high ranking people in the church. Mighty warriors, knights, kings and queens, most were adventure tales that took the reader places around the world.
In the last decades of the 19th century a new type of story evolved from classic adventure tales. Jules Vern told tales of submarines and travels to the moon. H.G. Wells wrote about invaders from Mars and time travel. The Sci-Fi novel was born. A mix-match of Sci-Fi and drama was introduced by Mary Shelly’s “Frankenstein”. In the first part of the 20th century High Fantasy took a leap from the “Hansel and Gretel” folktales when JRR Tolkin wrote “The Lord of the Rings” and C.S. Lewis wrote the Narnia tales, and J.K. Rowling mixed magic and reality making witches and wizards popular heroes. To fully appreciate a good story, read a book.