Aristotle’s Poetics as a Guide for Screenwriters

In his work Poetics the legendary philosopher Aristotle carefully analyzed the structure of the dramatic stories. Though more than 2 000 years have passed, it is a valuable writing in the modern developed world, especially for screenwriters, who consider Aristotle to be “the first movie analyst”, because it describes the fundamentals of successful screenwriting (Tierno 6).

In his Poetics Aristotle observes that “…we delight in representations of things that in reality would horrify us”. In order to understand deeply what he meant it is necessary to highlight that the reality often seems boring to many people, therefore, the more the screenwriter exaggerates the reality and depicts human fantasies, the more interesting they are. The tragedies and dramas, which would happen in real life usually horrify people and hurt their feelings, while making the spectators sympathize and feel pity for the heroes’ tragedy marks the movie as a deep and serious one. It is widely-known that giving a screenplay “a rich and dramatic depth” actually is one of the main aims of a screenwriter (Tierno 61). As fear is one of the most effective ways of psychological manipulation, the plot, which represents the reality and imitates life, must be constructed on the plausible events and focus on awakening the strongest feelings of the spectators through the exaggeration and horrifying.

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Aristotle also prescribes that the poet (surely he meant the screenwriter) “…favor the plausible impossibility over the implausible possibility”. Therefore, the notion of probability is quite important. According to the beliefs of various people probability “sidesteps the truth in favor of credibility” (Bushnell 44). According to Aristotle, the screenwriter must avoid everything implausible in order to make the impression from the screenplay as strong as possible. As it was mentioned above, the more plausible the events and actions are, the better result will be reached as probability is “responsive to fiction’s intense focus on human action” (Bushnell 44). Therefore, believability is one of the peculiar features of the successful plot for the drama, tragedy or screenplay of any other genre.

To sum it up, it is possible to state that according to the “Bible of the screenwriters” Poetics written by Aristotle such characteristics as events plausibility and feelings exaggeration make the plot of the screenplay realistic and, therefore better perceived by the audience.