By the end of this lesson, you will be able to:
- identify some characteristics of written prose fiction.
- 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: 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.
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?”
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 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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
- First, there is the friendship between Cat and Mouse. So, we can see Cat and Mouse doing things together.
- Next, there is the cooking of the food.
- Then the friends parting company on the way to the vegetable garden.
- After that, we see Cat coming back to the house and looking for Mouse all over the place without success.
- 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.
In this lesson, we have learnt that:
- fiction refers to works that come from the imagination of the writers.
- prose fiction refers to imaginative writings that are in the form of continuous writing.
- in continuous writing, there are chapters and paragraphs.
- specific ways to refer to prose fiction are novel and short story.
- drama consists of dialogues or people talking to one another.
- a play has a number of Acts which are divided into Scenes.
- we must refer to a particular play as the play, not the drama.
- both the novel and drama have subject matter and theme.
- the subject matter is what a play or novel is all about.
- the theme is what the writer wishes to teach the readers about the subject matter.
- the writers of both the novel and plays use characters to bring out the themes