Den allvarsamma leken

Besides being an extraordinary book, Den allvarsamma leken by Hjalmar Söderberg, or Serious Game as its English translation is called, is very interesting to read from a “technical” perspective – that is, with the principles and techniques of storytelling in mind (see here).

The book consists of five parts, each mapping directly to a stage of the dramatic curve: (I) exposition, (II) rising action, (III) climax, (IV) peripeteia and (V) catastrophe. Göran Hägg writes in Författarskolan:

As early as the fourth century BC, Aristotle created from the old Greek dramas … a theory for the art of dramatically developing a story. It is still used in an evolved form both to create American B-movies and European Nobel-Prize-winning novels. Why it works, nobody knows. But it does. (My translation.)

Hägg continues to write that in the exposition, the main character, the scene and the problem is introduced. After that, the action rises as things happen that escalate the conflict. The conflict is escalated up to a climax, after which it is “reversed” – the peripeteia. Peripeteia, according to Dictionary.com, means a “sudden change of events or reversal of circumstances”. This, Hägg writes, “usually involves an insight, that something is disclosed or a recognition (for the main character – the viewer or reader already has figured it out).” The final stage is the catastrophe.

Göran Hägg writes that Carl Barks’ Donald Duck stories from the 40s and 50s strictly follows this principle. He also writes that the principle is more important the shorter the story is, and concludes, “Reality of course doesn’t look anything like this at all. But we apparently have to believe it does, to be able to be interested in it.”

The above was posted to my personal weblog on July 2, 2002. My name is Peter Lindberg and I am a thirtysomething software developer and dad living in Stockholm, Sweden. Here, you’ll find posts in English and Swedish about whatever happens to interest me for the moment.


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