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Drama and Adventure


Ninteenth century authors often borrowed concepts from the stage when writing their short fiction. There was a natural alignment between the two genres, both in length and in focus on plot and character. An author might begin a piece of short fiction by laying a “scene,” essentially giving descriptions of stage setting and layout for a reader to imagine.  One scene of a longer drama could be adapted as a short story.  Even an entire stage play could be the length of a sizable piece of short fiction. Given the prominence of relatively brief theatricals during the period (melodrama, scenes performed as part of music hall entertainment, etc.), drama provided a logical set of practices for authors of short fiction to adapt.

In addition, writers responded to an almost insatiable demand for plot-driven adventure stories. Particularly prominent in fiction written for boys, settings for these stories ranged the globe. During a time when the British empire was expanding to its greatest size, many of the narratives were set in far-flung colonies, on the seas, or in fictional lands set on the opposite side of the globe. Adventure stories often spanned the gap between fiction and non-fiction, at times embellishing the exploits of explorers, at times presenting fictional events as historical.

Significant Terms

Selected Examples