Difference Between Drama and Novel

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      There exist some good similarities as well as dissimilarities between drama and novel. In a story, the writer describes the events; in novel, he also describes details of environment and thinking / feeling of various characters. Both the genres are written with a start, middle and end. In drama, ‘environment’ and ‘thinking / emotions’ of characters are not ‘described’ but are ‘presented’. Environment is presented through stage design whereas thinking / emotions of characters are presented through background music plus facial expressions etc. of actors (i.e. characters). A novel proceeds in the form of just description of interrelated course of events. Novel states the background of its story just like in short stories but rest of the proceedings is ‘evolved’ out of description of environment and interactions between characters. It means that author of a novel does not tell all the story to readers because there readers have to understand the story proceedings out of the description of situations that are faced by characters as well as out of dialogues between those characters. Unlike a novel, in drama, even the relationship between characters is not described. Audience should understand the relationship between those characters just out of type of interaction between those characters or out of exchange of dialogues between them.

      A novel is generally written in basic prose while a drama is almost exclusively written in dialogue. Both types of work have similar story elements such as characters, plot, settings, etc. Each work creates these elements through different techniques. A novel is far straighter forward than a drama. In a novel, we often have a lot of extraneous information provided for us. The descriptions of both characters and settings are much more ample and vivid. In a drama, we must imply and infer much of what we learn about characters and settings. There is no room in the drama format for lengthy explanations. We must learn about the characters as they communicate and interact rather than learning about them through an author’s description.

      Most plays and movies are enacted as if they are happening in the present. The scripts are almost invariably written in the present tense. Novels and short stories are usually written in the past tense. The first-person or third-person narrator is telling about something that happened in the past and is now all over with. Drama is effective because we see things happening right before our eyes. Novelists have the problem of writing about something that happened in the past but making the reader visualize the characters and events as if he or she is witnessing them in the present. Novelists can use many techniques that are not available to the dramatist. For example, a novelist can tell the reader what the various characters are thinking and can offer all sorts of information in the form of straight prose exposition. The dramatist usually has to have the characters convey information to the audience by talking to each other. We do not even know who these people are supposed to be on the stage until they address one another by their names. Much of the difference between drama and novels is that dramas show what is happening, while novels tell what happened. There are a few exceptions in both cases, no doubt, but they have never had a significant influence on the two different genres. Even when a play or movie attempts to deal with an event that occurred in the past, they have to depict the past as the present; and the script will describe everything in the present tense.

      To be very specific, in the literary sense, the term ‘drama’ has two meanings. One is a genre of literature; the other is similar to a play. Dictionary.com defines drama as “a composition in prose or verse presenting in dialogue or pantomime a story involving conflict or contrast of character, especially one intended to be acted on the stage.” A novel, on the other hand, is a story written to be read, as opposed to be performed. Dictionary.com defines a novel, as ‘a fictitious prose narrative of considerable length and complexity, portraying characters and usually presenting a sequential organization of action and scenes.’ The novel can be written in first person or in third person. It may have dialogues, or the events happening may be described. People, events and thoughts can be described, whereas this is not in possible in a drama. In a drama, only the dialogues are said, everything must be referenced to in the dialogue or not at all.

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