HOW PLAYLETS ARE GERMINATED
Where does a playlet writer get his idea? How does he recognize a playlet idea when it presents itself to him? How much of the playlet is achieved when he hits on the idea? These questions are asked successful playlet writers every day, but before we proceed to find their answers, we must have a paragraph or two of definition.
I. THE THEME-PROBLEM AND ITS RANGE
Whenever the word “problem” is used—as, “the problem of a playlet”—I do not mean it in the sense that one gathers when he hears the words “problem play”; nothing whatever of sex or the other problems of the day is meant. What I mean is grasped at first glance better, perhaps, by the word “theme.” Yet “theme” does not convey the precise thought I wish to associate with the idea.
A theme is a subject—that much I wish to convey—but I choose “problem” because I wish to connote the fact that the theme of a playlet is more than a subject: it is precisely what a problem in mathematics is. Given a problem in geometry, you must solve it—from its first statement all the way through to the “Q.E.D.” Each step must bear a plain and logical relation to that which went before and what follows. Your playlet theme is your problem, and you must choose for a theme or subject only such a problem as can be “proved” conclusively within the limits of a playlet.
Naturally, you are inclined to inquire as a premise to the questions that open this chapter, What are the themes or subjects that offer themselves as best suited to playlet requirements? In other words, what make the best playlet problems? Here are a few that present themselves from memory of playlets that have achieved exceptional success:
A father may object to his son’s marrying anyone other than the girl whom he has chosen for him, but be won over by a little baby—“Dinkelspiel’s Christmas,” by George V. Hobart.
A slightly intoxicated young man may get into the wrong house by mistake and come through all his adventures triumphantly to remain a welcome guest—“In and Out,” by Porter Emerson Brown.
A “crooked” policeman may build up a “system,” but the honest policemen will hunt him down, even letting the lesser criminal escape to catch the greater—“The System,” by Taylor Granville, Junie MacCree and Edward Clark.
Youth that lies in the mind and not in the body or dress may make a grandmother act and seem younger than her granddaughter—“Youth,” by Edgar Allan Woolf.
A foolish young woman may leave her husband because she has “found him out,” yet return to him again when she discovers that another man is no better than he is—“The Lollard,” by Edgar Allan Woolf.
A man may do away with another, but escape the penalty because of the flawless method of the killing—“Blackmail,” by Richard Harding Davis.