Identifying Good Literature

By: Nathan Steele

This page contains information about how to recognize good forensics literature.

Find Literature You’re Passionate About

What makes a selection of literature good for forensics depends in large part on the energy and creativity you use to transform the words on the page to movement and sound on the stage. You will want to select literature that you find interesting since you will be presenting it dozens, if not hundreds of times, and you are permitted to compete with the same piece for the duration of the season (consecutive fall and spring semesters). Some performers enjoy competing with material that they can easily identify with, while others attempt to play and relate to characters wholly unlike their real selves. What kind of character do you want to play or story do you want to tell? It’s often a good idea to keep an open mind on that question and just start reading.

Common Traits of Successful Literature

So what does good literature look like? Although there are no steadfast rules, there are common norms for competitive material. These norms do limit creativity, the types of literature that students perform, and the types of performance skills that students develop. If a student can think of a clever way to present nontraditional material, students should dare to take those risks, but here are the norms for successful literature:

  1. Narrative Point of View: Although some performers do use narration from a 2nd or 3rd person perspective, this literature is viewed as stifling by some critics who have an absolute preference for stories told from a 1st person perspective. It is true that the 1st person perspective allows the audience to see the actions and feeling experienced by a character, unmediated by narrators that are removed from the plot and emotion of the story.
  2. Balanced Dialectics: Your performances should attempt to span a gamut of human emotionality, meaning you need material that will push your audience to experience a mix of emotions (ie: joy, laughter, pain, sadness, anger, contempt). Look for stories that have both high and low energy, both funny and sad moments. If your story has a very creepy narrator, search for the opportunities to humanize and help your audience like that person. Don’t think of your characters merely as polarities (crazy or sane, evil or good) and instead push toward the yin-yang; find ways to complicate and nuance their personalities, actions and motives.
  3. X-Factor: Finally, you want material that will stand out from the rest. What about the character(s) or story is uncommon or otherwise memorable?
Play to Your Strengths

Some literature may require you to present multiple characters, using your voice and body to distinguish characters; if you don’t have confidence in creating different voices, don’t select a play with 20 characters. What other skills do you possess?

Now that you have an idea what good forensics literature is, learn about where to find literature.