“You’re talking as if you’re Methuselah, falsely presenting yourself as an ancient and decrepit nag. It’s true, you’re no dewy-eyed colt, but you know, as well as I, that there’s many a woman who prefer to mount a seasoned, proven stallion when overcome with the urge to go riding.”
I thought I’d write a post about the first thing I ever published. It was a play, The Lovers’ Ruse, a bedroom farce, or what I suppose would be considered a romantic-comedy in today’s terms. Due to life getting in the way and several hiatuses from writing altogether, it took eight years for me to complete and publish it in 2015.
Between 2005 and 2007, I had a good run at writing. I couldn’t stop. But I was starting to burn out, especially on prose. As an exercise, I thought I’d try writing dialogue only, and how better to do it than as a play? I was influenced at the time by several opera buffa, the plays that inspired them, and the works of Molière. Specifically, The Barber of Seville by Beaumarchais (opera by Rossini), Il Matrimonio Segreto, an opera by Italian composer Cimarosa (a vast improvement over the English source material, The Clandestine Marriage), and Molière’s The School for Husbands, along with other various French plays of the 18th century.
The Lovers’ Ruse is a basic set-up with stock characters. Young lovers facing obstacles, a scheming servant, a well-meaning but old-fashioned parent, a helpful acquaintance, etc. Initially, the dialogue was very stiff, very formal, and very stylized. I realized I had to loosen it up some to make it more accessible. It was the right choice. It’s still stylized, but not nearly as much. Rhythm is also incredibly important and overall, it flows quite well. There’s also a great deal of wordplay, the piece wouldn’t work without it. At times, I don’t even know where some of that repartee came from. I credit that to those carefree and sometimes elusive muses.
A curious thing happened while writing that had a positive impact. I had a character that was mentioned a few times early in the play. He doesn’t make an appearance until the end. It occurred to me; why not have every character talk about him at some point, but each with a different perspective? He’s obnoxious, he’s a rogue, he’s witty, he’s industrious, and so forth. When he finally appears, the audience (or reader) can decide the kind of man he is for themselves. Is he some, none, or all of the things he’s purported to be? What made that decision even better, was it allowed me to get out of a bit of a bind in a particular scene.
What makes The Lovers’ Ruse so different is that it’s so unlike what I usually write. I tend to skew toward darker, psychological character studies or horror, suspense, occult. It’s like coming across a moon garden of white blooms at midnight; light, charming, and wholly unexpected.