A very long-winded and verbose man once said (and I paraphrase), “All the world’s a stage.” In this month of April, I want to explore this concept, as well as celebrate a birthday I share with the very man who spoke these influential words. On April 26th of 1564, William Shakespeare entered the world. Four hundred and twenty-three years later, I did the same. So, Bill’s got several centuries of legacy on me, but let’s not assume that makes me less impressive by default. It isn’t just about birthdays, of course. There is some poignancy here! Though I have only had twenty-eight years upon this earth, I already feel as though I have moved through so many chapters of experience. Setting aside the fact that I have (on many occasions) expressed my desire to have my life play out like a musical upon a stage, I have often felt as though all life truly is a work of theatrical storytelling. I’m not sure who’s benefiting from it, but I certainly hope they’re amused. Maybe that’s why writers write, because we’re sick of being only players.
Shakespeare remains one of the most recognizable playwrights of this world’s history. Even for people whose interests bear no column labeled “theater”, Shakespeare is a household name. The concept of the Three Act play, however, is more commonly understood by members of the creative community. Let’s not assume all of us have an interest in the stage and move quickly through an explanation of the classic format of the Three Act Structure. Traditionally, Act I (or “exposition”) is meant to introduce the elements of the script, and build the story. This act should also introduce at least one central conflict. Act II takes us through the main action and inevitable “rising action” of the story, building to the peak (also, the “climax”), of the tale. In the movie world, this would be where we see the biggest car chase or the most explosions. By Act III (which may also harbor the true climax of the story), we arrive at the “falling action”, leading to the ultimate closure of the tale. In most writing, we refer to this as “conclusion”. This month, we will be writing based on this classic structure.
Does that sound too simple? That’s because I’m not done. The Three Act Structure is old hat for most of us, but in April we’ll be breaking the acts up into four weeks of writing: Act I, II, III, and Epilogue. You are free and encouraged to interpret this however you choose to, but there is one clear rule: Your four entries should work together as a cooperative series of installments, complementing one another. If possible or preferred, they should also be chronological. This stipulation is not required, but is suggested. In tandem with the three acts and the epilogue, I will provide quotations from Ol’ Billy himself to inspire and drive you. Ready? Curtain up.
ACT I: “We know what we are, but know not what we may be.”
When I came into this world, apart from having no language or motor skills for a bit, I had no general idea of what to expect from this crazy ride called life. I was completely raw material, malleable to a fault. There are a handful of wonderful years at the very beginning that protect you from the terrifying prospect of becoming an actual person at some point. No one ever knows to appreciate those years, however, and all too soon we thrust forward without warning. I think you can identify the cusp between “just got here” and “just realized it’s going somewhere someday” by looking back on your earliest memories, and choosing a median age. Before that, we are so swept up in simply living, there is no time available for holding onto how things happened. By the time I was no longer in Preschool but rather attending Big Kid School (that’s K-6 in my part of world), I knew something was up. I was on the verge of a journey, and I had absolutely no idea what to make of it.
In Week One, I ask you to open your tale. Show me your world and the person, people, or creatures in it. Help me see and understand the surroundings. Will I be able to grasp where this all leads, or will there be a learning curve? An immediate element of mystery? I challenge you to capture me within those first precious moments after the velvet rises slowly from the stage.
Submission closes Sunday, April 12th at 2345EDT. The poll is here.