For expressionists, abstraction is the distillation of reality into its essence. Expressionists are not interested in presenting the world as human beings might see it or apprehend it through any of the senses, but rather as they emotionally and psychologically experience it. In drama, abstraction means that a play is conceptual rather than concrete, and it means that plots and characters are frequently symbolic and allegorical. For instance, a character might simply be called "Father," as in Strindberg's play The Father, or "Cashier," rather than, say, Mrs. Jones, as in a realistic play. The idea is to show the universality of human experience rather than its particularity. In poetry, writers such as Trakl attempt to represent the psychological depth and texture of the human experience through a series of fragmented and disjointed symbolic images, rather than relying on narrative or a speaker with a coherent identity.
Monologues are speeches by a single person, and they are especially prevalent in expressionist theater. Partly, this is due to the didactic nature of much expressionist theater, and partly it is because Expressionism often champions the individual and his vision of the world. When characters speak to themselves, which they often do in expressionist plays, the monologues are called soliloquies. Strindberg, Kaiser, and Toller all made extensive use of monologues and soliloquies in their plays.
Many expressionists had the idea that art could not be separated into categories such as plays, poetry, or fiction. Instead, they experimented with mixing genres. Plays often contained dance, music, and sets that resembled art galleries, and characters would periodically launch into verse. Expressionists such as Wassily Kandinsky, a painter, poet, and dramatist, practiced this form of "total art" in productions such as The Yellow Sound, in which he uses color, music, and characters with names such as "Five Giants," "Indistinct Creatures," and "People in Tights" to abstractly represent the human condition.