Lajos Egri and creative writing for fiction writers

Hungarian Lajos Egri died in 1967 at the age of 1978, yet two of his books are still revered today. “The Art of Dramatic Writing” is about playwriting and “The Art of Creative Writing” works for novels, plays, and scripts for movies and TV. 

He took the opposite view of Aristotle who believed character was secondary to plot. Not Egri, who placed character above all else, who said, “Every type of creative writing depends upon credibility of a character,” and that, “Living, vibrating human beings are still the secret and magic formula of great and enduring writing.”

He believes that the reader, or audience, must see that what happens to the character is real; that the reader, or audience, can identify with the character. That, more than anything, is the hook the draws the reader in. If the emotion of the character is real, then we have the key to identification. Think of your favorite novel or character and ask yourself why you liked the story. I know for me when the characters are ones I identify with, the more I enjoy the story, the more I want to read it, not one chapter, but read until my eyes get tired.

Egri believes a story should begin with the central character in conflict, for “any character. . . will in conflict reveal himself in the shortest time possible.” Perhaps at the beginning of the story the main character is fired from his job for sexual harassment. At this point we do not know if is guilty or innocent, there are questions concerning the woman’s allegations. The man is married, behind in paying bills, and now fired. What does the character do? Whatever he does, the character must have a past, present, and future. The past-whatever it is-shapes how he reacts at present, and what he does now will decide his future. It is not my intent to write the story but to provide an example. We see a character fired for something he may or may not have done-something a reader can identify with; and we see potential conflict between the accuser and the accused. We also wonder how he is going to handle things with his wife, so we have curiosity, something that will make us read to see what he decides to do.

His books are available on Amazon and should be found in good libraries. When your books are in print for over thirty years after your death, you must have written a book that stands the test of time. Egri is worth reading for creative writers.

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