How to Write a Play
by Victorien Sardou
My dear friend:
It's not so easy to answer you as you think. ...There is no one necessary way of writing a play for the theater. Everyone has his own,
according to his temperament, his type of intellect, and his habits of work. If you ask me for mine, I should tell you that it is not so easy to
formulate as the recipe for duck _à la rouennaise_ or spring chicken _au gros sel_. Not fifty lines are needed, but two or three hundred, and
even then I should have told you only my way of working, which has no general significance and makes no pretense to being the best. It's natural
with _me_, that's all. Besides, you will find it indicated in part in the preface to 'La Haine' and in a letter which I wrote to La Pommeraye
In brief, my dear friend, tho there are rules, and rules that are invariable, precise, and eternal for the dramatic art, rules which only the
impotent, the ignorant, blockheads, and fools misunderstand, and from which only they wish to be freed, yet there is only one true method for the
conception and parturition of a play--which is, to know quite exactly where you are going and to take the best road that leads there. However,
some walk, others ride in a carriage, some go by train, X hobbles along, Hugo sails in a balloon. Some drop behind on the way, others run past
the goal. This one rolls in the ditch, that one wanders along a cross-road.
In short, that one goes straight to the mark who has the most common sense. It is the gift which I wish for you--and myself also.
Victorien Sardou (1831-1908) was probably the French playwright who was most widely known outside of France. In the course of fifty years
he was successful in almost every kind of playwriting, from lively farce to historic drama. His first indisputable triumph was with 'Pattes de
Mouche,' known in English as the 'Scrap of Paper' and as widely popular in our language as in the original.