Objectives

By the end of this lesson, you will be able to:

  1. identify  some characteristics  of written  prose fiction.
  2. identify  some characteristics  of plays.

Works of Fiction

Read the following  silently. Text A

The  mobile  phone  is a hand-held  communication device.  With a mobile phone,  one can talk  to  anyone in, literally, any part of the world today. The first mobile phones could do only this: make and  receive calls.  Today’s brands of mobile phones do much more. For example, even the simplest mobile phone today has a radio and can sent text messages as well.

Let us read another piece. Text B

The bell rang again.  Alice screamed at the maid to attend to the person at the gate. The gate  was  about  half a  mile  from the  house.  The  drive  to  the  house was graveled  and anyone  walking  in  will  have  to  walk  slowly.  Alice  imagined  that  the  noise  the  gravels make will be musical in their ears. The maid talked on phone to anyone at the gate before allowing  the  security  officer  to  open  the  gate  to  allow  the  person  in.  When  the  maid returned, she announced that it was Prince Tesi and that he was driving in. Alice leapt out of bed and started running to the front door. As she opened the front door and was about to  leap  down the steps,  she saw the car and  heard  the screeching of breaks. Then, the screams  from the drivers and  other pedestrians  telling her to  look  where she was going brought her to her senses. She was daydreaming  again.

Here is another piece. Text C

Dovi:   Kayi

Kayi:   Hnn?

Dovi:   Why do we have to come to school at all? All this mental and things. Kayi:  It’s my mother. She says I must become a police officer  for her.

Dovi:  Hahahaha!  Police  officer?  You?  Do  you  have  to  go  to  school to  direct  traffic or to collect … errh! errrm!

Kayi:   Collect what? I want to be an investigating  officer. Dovi: What is that?

Kayi: You don’t know? That is why you have to go to school. To know.

What are the differences  among the three texts?

 Let us look at the texts again; this time, one at a time. Text A

Obviously,  Text A gives factual information about the mobile phone. It tells us that the phone is a hand-held device. It can be used to make and receive calls. Thus, using the phone one can talk with  someone  else,  literally,  anywhere  in  the  world.  It also  tells us that now the mobile phone can do more than make and receive calls.

Text B

What does Text B tell us? Apparently,  it is relating something that had  happened. Part of what had happened was real. The other was unreal; it actually was a daydream. I hope you know what a daydream is. It refers to the state in which the one who is day dreaming has his or her whole mind  on  something  else,  usually  something  pleasurable,  that  he or she may not hear you when you call him or her even though you may be sitting next to the person. When you read Text B, you may ask yourself the question: “Can someone behave like this?”

Text C

The first thing we note about Text C is that it is a dialogue; two people are talking to each other in the text.   In Text C, the two boys discuss why they need to go to school. This text illustrates some ideas some people share on going to school. This could be real or imagined.

Prose vs Drama

Obviously,  prose and drama are organised  differently.

A prose piece is make up of paragraphs, and a number of paragraphs make up a chapter or longer part of the piece.

On the other hand,  a dramatic piece is made up  almost exclusively of dialogues.  These are put into  a number of scenes.  A number of scenes will also  make an act. Of course there are other directions  that  the  writer  of the  play  can  give to  make the acting of the play and  its message clearer.

However, both prose and drama have many characteristics  in common.  Here are a few of them.

Fiction

Fiction  is  used  to  refer  to  writing using events  created  by the writers.  The story told  in fiction will be on a particular idea. This idea is something that happens in real life. The story will try to explain  something  about  this  idea.  This  idea  is  what the  story  will be  all about.  This  idea  is termed the  subject or subject matter.  The subject could  be family life,  war,  religious rites, love, hatred, or anything  that happens in human  life and living.

Therefore  fiction  is  any  form of narrative which deals either partially or completely,  with events that are not factual,  but rather,  imaginary and invented or created by its author(s).   Traditionally, fiction  includes  drama,  short  stories,  novels, fables,  fairy  tales,  allegory,  myth,  poetry  among others. In recent times, however, it is also applied to films,  comic books and video games.

What will you say Text B is all about?

Theme

Prose  fiction  has  subject  matter.  It is what the whole narrative  is about.  More importantly,  the writer  of prose  fiction  wants  to  tell the  readers  something  he  or  she  has  observed  about  the subject  matter.  Some scholars  call it the lesson the writer wants the readers to  learn about the subject matter. If the writer is writing about people‟s weaknesses, the writer will like to show the readers what he or she has observed  about human weaknesses. What will you say the writer in Text B wants to  teach us readers about a human weakness such as daydreaming? Perhaps the writer has observed that such a weakness can put one in some danger. You see, Alice nearly got run over by a car.  This observation or lesson about the subject which the writer wants to make the writer note is called the theme. Themes are said to be the central idea of any text or work of art.

Character

Now,  to  get the theme across to  the readers the writer uses certain tools.  One of the tools is character.  A  character  is  a  person  (or  animal  that  behaves  like  a  person)  in  the  story.  The behaviour  of the person in the story will illustrate the theme.  The behaviour of Alice in Text B shows that if you daydream, you could put yourself in danger. Because Alice is a person like you and  me,  we identify with her; we feel what she feels, so we learn the lesson (or get the theme) very quickly.

 Fiction can be in the form of prose or drama.

We have seen that prose is continuous writing.  Continuous writing is organised in paragraphs. A paragraph is usually a number of sentences that discusses one idea. A number of paragraphs will make up a chapter or a part of a book.

In a similar way,  a play is divided  into  parts. We know that a play is made up of dialogues or people talking to  one another.  A play is divided into Scenes. A number of Scenes will make up an Act, and a number of Acts make up the play.

Note:

Prose and drama are general names given to all works that take the forms of prose fiction or are dramatic.

Do not refer to a particular book as the prose fiction. Instead refer to the book appropriately as the novel or short story.

In the same way, do not refer to one particular  play as the drama. Instead refer to it as the play.

Plot

Another  very important element of prose fiction and  drama is  plot.  Plot is often defined  as the storyline.  It  is  the  number of things  that  have  happened  and  make up  what we call the story. What we call a story will be made up of a number of things that have happened. This number of happenings  that make up the story is what we will call the plot or the storyline.

Let us read this short story to illustrate  the idea of plot

Long long ago, Cat and Mouse were very close friends. They did everything together; they had common farms and worked in their farms together; they prepared their meals together and ate together; they played together; in fact, it was impossible to see Cat without Mouse at his side.

One day, they decided to cook their favourite meal, ‘akpledzi’. They set out to get the ingredients for the meal. Mouse went out to bring some corn flour. Cat also went out and brought  some smoked  fish.  They got some palm oil too. They had some pepper and tomatoes on their farm, so they went and harvested enough for the meal. In a little while, all the ingredients were assembled and so they could prepare the meal.

When the food was ready, they sat at table to eat. But then, the food was so hot that they could not touch it. Then, Mouse suggested that they went to their vegetable garden which was within sight of their home and worked for as long as it took to sing fiv e songs. By that time, the food would have been cool enough to eat without burning their fingers and their tongues and throats.

Cat agreed. So, they set out for the garden.

When they were about half the way to the garden, Mouse stopped short. He had forgotten his pipe, and as he couldn’t relax unless he was smoking, he had to go back to the house for it. He asked Cat to continue to the garden. He would run home, pick the pipe and run back to join Cat in the garden.

The two friends parted company: Cat walked towards the garden, and Mouse to the house.

After Cat had sung the sixth song, and Mouse had still not arrived in the garden, he grew worried. So he started walking back to the house. Cat did not meet Mouse on the way, neither did he find him anywhere in the house. He called, and called, and called. There was no response, and Mouse was nowhere to be found.

‘Well,’ Cat thought, ‘I’m a little hungry now. I can eat some of the food and leave the rest for Mouse.’

 So he went into the kitchen to fetch the pot of ‘akpledzi’. He found in on the floor, and it was turned upside down. He quickly turned it up.

Something rolled out. It was Mouse. He had eaten all the food and had become round like a football.

In anger, Cat leapt on Mouse and tore him apart. He licked a finger. The taste was good. So, he ate up his friend. That is how it began, and to this day cats eat mice.

Don‟t  forget  that it is possible to  act out this story.  One person will play the part of Cat and another person the part of Mouse. If we do, it becomes a play.

Now,  let us write out the main events that make up the plot. In other words, let us look at the happenings  that make up this story.

  1. First,  there  is  the friendship  between Cat and  Mouse.  So,  we can see Cat and  Mouse doing things  together.
  2. Next, there is the cooking of the food.
  3. Then the friends  parting company on the way to the vegetable  garden.
  4. After that, we see Cat coming back to the house and looking for Mouse all over the place without  success.
  5. Finally,  Cat finds Mouse under the pot and kills and eats his friend.

Causality in Plot

One  thing  is  very  important  in  making  the  events  a  story.  Something  must  happen  to  make another thing happen.  There is always a cause and  an effect in a story. This is what makes the events a plot in literature.  The technical name for this cause and effect relationship  is causality.

First,  there was the friendship.  If there was no  friendship  between the cat and the mouse, there will not be this story at all.

Something  caused  them to  want  to  cook  the „akpledzi‟.  What was it? Were they hungry? Did they just want something  to eat?

Next was the parting on the way to the garden. Did they disagree? Apparently, there was some disagreement.  They  were going to  spend  the time it took  to  sing just five songs at the garden. Why couldn‟t  Mouse wait till they got home to  smoke his pipe? And  if they were going to be singing,  anyway,  how could Mouse sing and smoke at the same time?

Finally,  there  was  the  killing of Mouse.  What caused  this action? Anger? Perhaps Cat felt that

Mouse had been treacherous.

You  see,  these  are  the  things  we  are  referring  to  as  causality.  Something  happened  and  this brought  about  an  effect.  It  is  the  cause and  effect relationships  which bring the plot to  life.  In fact, if there is no cause and effect relationship,  we cannot say we have a plot.

Conflict in Plot

Another  important  characteristic  of plot  is  conflict.  Let  us  look  at  conflict  as disagreement.  It could also be considered as a struggle. We note that in the story, when Mouse insisted on going home to pick his pipe Cat allowed him to go. This is a kind of conflict. What do you think was going through  the mind  of Cat when he walked alone to the vegetable garden?

Of course,  there is  real conflict in which Cat kills Mouse.  This illustrates violent conflict. This is often present in the stories that we read.

Another kind of conflict  has been illustrated  in the story.

When Cat came home, he looked everywhere for Mouse but could not find him. Then he thought that since he was hungry  he would eat some of the food and leave the rest for Mouse.

What do you think  was actually  going  through Cat‟s mind?

Perhaps this was what was going through  his mind: Ah! Mouse too. Where is he gone?

I am hungry  now.

Should I keep waiting  for him?

What if he doesn‟t come back for a long time?

What if it is the hawk that had caught and eaten Mouse? Then he will not   come  back  at all.

I can just eat a little  and wait for him to come.

You see,  this is like a conflict with oneself. Cat will have been, in a way, struggling with himself, trying to find reasons why he should or should not eat the food. This is the kind of conflict that is referred to as internal conflict.

People  go  through  internal conflicts  all  the time.  Perhaps,  you have gone through some internal conflict  recently.

Thus,  a  literary  piece  will have  subject  matter  and  theme.  If it involves some narration,  as do plays and novels,  then it will have a plot and characters.

Summary

 In this lesson, we have learnt that:

  1.  fiction  refers to works that come from the imagination  of the writers.
  2. prose  fiction  refers  to  imaginative  writings  that  are  in  the  form  of  continuous writing.
  3. in continuous  writing,  there are chapters and paragraphs.
  4. specific  ways to refer to prose fiction  are novel and short story.
  5. drama consists of dialogues  or people talking  to one another.
  6. a play has a number of Acts which are divided  into Scenes.
  7. we must refer to a particular  play as the play, not the drama.
  8. both the novel and drama have subject matter and theme.
  9. the subject matter is what a play or novel is all about.
  10. the theme is what the writer wishes to teach the readers about the subject matter.
  11. the writers of both the novel and plays use characters to bring out the themes