Author - Playwright
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Arouse people everywhere by writing stories or plays portraying animal or human characters caught up in the mess of life. Unleash your story-writing pen for animal rights. Subtle stories sway sentiments!
||"Writing is difficult, of course, and it takes time. Lots and lots of time…I’ll write total rubbish for a long time, but as long as something’s coming out I don’t mind." From Working Writers: Evie Wyld Interview.
Evie Wyld, prize winning storywriter and Booktrust's 2009 ‘Writer in Residence’.
A huge portion of the literature people consume is fiction. Bookshops and public libraries, knowing this, devote considerable floor space to fiction stories. Fiction storywriters are respected the world over and outstanding writers are honoured. But you do not have to be a literary marvel to write good stories. What you need is ambition, grit and a bit of knowhow. So give people a good read with a subtle underlying animal rights message to influence their opinions and discussions. Remember: Subtle Stories Sway Sentiments.
Is there an animal rights genre? Yes, some works of fiction are clearly animal rights oriented. Two examples are the animal rights novel Elizabeth Costello
and the animal rights play Every Breath
, and the other examples given below are also strongly into animal rights.
Elizabeth Costello, by J M Coetzee
In Coetzee’s (b 1940) novel the protagonist, Elizabeth Costello, is a frail, grey haired woman, a distinguished novelist, delivering lectures at institutions. Her talks include raising questions about the moral status of animals.
At a dinner given for her after a lecture, discussion turns to isolating a quality that raises humanity above animals. Someone declares that animals live in “a vacuum of consciousness”. Costello replies, “What I mind is what tends to come next. They have no consciousness therefore
. Therefore what? Therefore we are free to use them for our own ends? Therefore we are free to kill them?”
One of the most celebrated animal rights storywriters, Coetzee sets a tough trail for writers to emulate: he is a professional writer, received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2003 ("for his riveting portrayals of racial repression, sexual politics, the guises of reason, and the hypocrisy of human beings toward animals and nature"), and is the first author to win the Booker Prize twice.
Every Breath, by Judith Johnson
Johnson (b 1962) wrote the play Every Breath
to fit into the school curriculum. The play is a family drama that even-handedly probes dilemmas of the animal-rights vs medical-research gulf. A primary theme revolves around a teen vegetarian, concerned with animal rights and nature, and his older sister, a meat-eating scientist, committed to using animals for research. The two other characters in the play are their mother and her boyfriend and the tensions between the characters threaten to disrupt the family’s unity.
The play received financial backing from both sides of the animal experimentation divide. Actors of the Y-Touring Company, a travelling theatre outfit (see Street Theatre, Chapter 4), performed the play at the annual Edinburgh Festival in 2006 and at schools around Britain. After every performance, the actors retain their stage characters and debate with their audience the meaning of the play. Oberon Books published the play in 2007.
War Horse, by Michael Morpurgo
This story points out the power of storytelling, emphasizing that bare statistics (millions of horses dying in the First World War) hardly make a dent on people but that everyone is roused and inspired by the story of a single individual.
The war horse is Joey, bought by the cavalry and transported with other horses from Britain to France for the First World War. Joey’s rider is killed. Joey drifts around no-man’s-land and is captured by the enemy. Eventually, Joey’s original owner finds him and takes him home across the sea. Uplifting ending, though not for the masses of horses, who died of infections, exhaustion and injuries. Britain alone lost nearly half a million horses, one horse for every two men (R Holmes. The Oxford Companion to Military History
Morpurgo (b 1943) originally wrote War Horse as a short story for children, published in 1982. It has been translated into several languages and made into radio and stage plays and a film.
Doctor Rat, by William Kotzwinkle
Dr Rat is insane, he has been a laboratory rat for so long, and tells of the appalling medical experiments on the animal inmates, rats to monkeys. “Death is freedom”, he shouts and stresses the need for more funding, “We’ve got to continue verifying facts that were established a hundred years ago.” A revolt breaks out; the rats take over the premises. Dr Rat fights to protect the laboratory and restore order, but the animal revolution against human tyranny spreads worldwide...
Kotzwinkle (b 1938) wrote his short book as a reflection on inhumanity to animals and the use of animals in medical research. First published in 1976, the story has been described as clever, sickening, touching and written with brutal wit.
The Jungle, by Upton Sinclair
Published as a serial in a journal, then as a novel in 1906, the story’s characters are immigrants labouring in the Chicago stockyards meatpacking industry. The stockyards were abysmal for the workers and worse for the animals. The slaughterhouses were the origin of some of the earliest international corporations dealing in animals and the story gives insight into how the slaughterhouses were run. The novel stimulated labour reform, but did little for the animals.
"...and as for the other men, who worked in tank rooms full of steam, and in some of which there were open vats near the level of the floor, their peculiar trouble was that they fell into the vats; and when they were fished out, there was never enough of them left to be worth exhibiting, sometimes they would be overlooked for days, till all but the bones of them had gone out to the world as Durham's Pure Leaf Lard!"
Published in 2003 by Sharp Press; also free online from The Project Gutenberg
Eva, by Peter Dickinson
Dickinson (b 1927) wrote this sharp and humorous novel for young people. Eva is a teenager injured in a severe accident. She wakes up in hospital materialized into the body of a young chimpanzee from her dad’s research laboratory and has to adapt to her new position…
Gollancz published the novel in 1988 and Macmillan Children's Books published it in 2001. The story stimulates discussion on issues like animal rights, medical ethics and euthanasia.
Etre the Cow, by Sean Kenniff
Etre (French for ‘to be’ or ’to exist’) is a simple bull who spends his life in a pasture. He tries to grasp his seemingly inescapable predicament: he is fenced in, powerless, but aware. He despairs, yet recognizes he must defy his bovine condition and decides to confront life...
You can interpret Kenniff’s (b 1969) short novel, published in 2010, in many ways: as a story about animal life, animal rights, what it means to be alive, or as a straight allegory of the human condition.
Short Stories Online
There are many online sources dedicated to the short story, just three are:
: short stories and advice on writing for aspiring writers of all ages and backgrounds.
: stories from around the world.
: superior short fiction.
Write Your Short Story
Try a quick fun trial. Write a short story now of up to 7,000 words. Think about it for a few minutes. Always start with a simple idea (simple things tend to get complex; therefore, if you start with a complex idea it will likely get out of hand).
You will want the ingredients of a good story:
- Characters - the personalities in your story.
The fox, his lady-fox and her cubs, the fur farmer and his dog.
- Plot - what happens in your story.
The easy-going fox has been living at the fur farm making love to lady foxes, not realising why they and their cubs go missing. He finds out from the farmer’s dog that he and his latest love are in imminent danger of being skinned. The fox decides to breakout.
- Conflict - obstructions that hinder the main character's fulfilment: the heart of the story.
The fox cannot abandon his lady-friend or her cubs and they seem doomed.
- Climax - the highpoint of the story.
The fox, his lady friend and their cubs manage to flee but run straight into the pursuing farmer.
- Resolution - how the conflict is resolved.
The foxes bonk the farmer on the head and reach the shelter of the forest.
- Twist - a sudden new development at the end of your story.
The foxes crash into a bloody trapper who decides to use them as bait. But the foxes push him onto one of his traps and make their way to freedom and a new life.
Write the story quickly, even before it is all set out in your mind, and see where it takes you. Put your story aside and reappraise it after some weeks. It may be better (or worse) than you first thought and reveal faults from which you can improve.
Write Your Play
What is your play’s genre: mystery comedy, drama, romance, science fiction, fantasy? You can mould any genre to animal rights. The play may be any length and divided into one or several scenes (each scene portrays an event) and larger acts (they have intermissions between them).
The best plays have simple plots; kick off with something intricate and your task will become impossible. Write an outline of the plot in a single paragraph. Your scribble is a basic plan of the play so that you do not get side-tracked.
The play may be any length and divided into one or several scenes (each scene portrays an event) and larger acts (they have intermissions between them). How many scenes or acts might your play have?
Make up a list of characters. Aim to make each character a different personality. What drives them? What threatens them? What happens to them?
Sketch a rough draft of the dialogue (the key to a good play) and scenes as they come into your head. Just get your basic ideas down.
Edit your draft several times. Get the characters and dialogue right: are they interesting? Cut out everything that does not contribute to driving the action forward.
Hand out copies of your play to anyone who will give you their honest opinion about it. Consider their advice and rewrite as necessary.
Might you have the qualities of a storywriter or playwright? To find out you must keep writing and learning. Check bookshops and the Web on how to write stories and plays. Get feedback on your works and improve your skills via online writers’ forums, such as WritingForums.org
People must read your stories, so distribute them widely. As a new author or playwright:
- Try non-paying markets: writers' magazines and web sites pay little or nothing, but display your work.
- Try paying markets when confident (and check the books Writer's Market and Writers' & Artists' Yearbook).
- Display your stories on your blog or website.
- Submit your play to your local school or community amateur theatrical society to stage.
You might turn your stories or plays into books. A number of online companies use Print on Demand (PoD) technology to print books specifically for anyone who makes an order, unlike the bulk printing and mass distribution of typical publishers. Lulu
, for example, offer PoD at no cost to you as an author, and you can set a profit margin, like a dollar or something per book. Basically, you write and upload your manuscript with a cover design, and when someone makes an order, they print and dispatch the book and pay you your earnings.
Finally, when you are really hammering out those words, you might try a regular commercial publisher - but that is another story!
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