Playwrights who have taken any of my classes in the last two years may have this commandment scribbled somewhere on a notepad:
Any information that no character has fought to get or tried desperately to hide does not belong in your play.
There you go. It’s a pretty simple injunction, but if you follow it you’ll write – and rewrite – stronger plays. Continue reading “Kill Your Exposition, then Hide the Body (thoughts on playwriting craft #6)”
Amateur Zizek-inspired post alert…
Last week, Alison Croggon wrote about encountering and making art in dark times at the (for now) scratch website, Witness (which will be going full steam ahead in 2018.) The full post is here. It’s an inspiring piece of writing and I’m particularly taken with the penultimate paragraph:
When meanings are destroyed, I turn to the making of meaning. I look for what will answer my anger and grief. I need to awaken in myself and to see awakened in others the possibilities of laughter, beauty, courage, joy, resistance, delight. I need the resources of imagination and knowledge that art can bring to bear on human experience, in all its complexity and contradiction, in all its fullness.
The key word here is meaning. Art actively creates meaning, i.e. meaning is the thing made in the moment of artistic elements coming together, not some previously immanent truth uncovered. For anyone who’s taken a longer playwriting course with me, they might guess the next place I’m going because of this. It’s my probable misreading of Slavoj Zizek’s reading of Lacan’s reading of Freud, in terms of something called triads. Go on to the tough stuff
The spark for this week’s post was to discuss the importance of the ‘where’ of dramatic writing. What follows is my thoughts while meandering around the streets of my inner-city village, less instructional than previous posts. (For a terrific introduction to thinking about the ‘where’ of a scene and how to combine it with characters, story and a provocative image, check out the books in this post here, particularly those by Wright and Van Itallie.)
I started this post walking around my gentrifying neighbourhood. Where there used to be garages and places where mechanics worked there now lie pilates and yoga studios.
This is no accident. The body has now become our vehicle, the thing to be worked on rather than in; a thing that we can repair and display rather than feel is us.
read the rest
I used to be paranoid about the number of playwriting manuals I bought, borrowed and read. Now I’m vaguely proud of it, partly because of the help many have given me to think around as well as within playwriting craft.
Below is a growing and curated list (with amazon links) of the books I recommend that I think could unlock different parts of any playwright.
Continue reading “Write Your Play with the help of some recommended books”
Writing isn’t therapy, but it can be therapeutic. When writing drama, though, if the therapeutic bug takes hold you can end up with a draft in which your characters live a bit too happily.
If you have ever tried some cognitive behaviour therapy to help sort yourself out, you might recognise things called ANTs, Automatic Negative Thoughts, that are best to avoid. Anxiety, depression and burnout aren’t fun or productive, despite what the stereotypes of writers say.
However, these bad thinking habits can be great for characters.
In fact, if your story so far seems a little cheery or flat, giving at least one of your characters one of these types of thoughts as a habit can give your dramatic writing the push it needs.
Continue reading “Make your characters anxious with some ANTs (thoughts on playwriting craft #5)”
Even strangers will tell you that doing something creative must be amazing. Writers can hear it often enough that we put a lot of pressure on ourselves. Not just to write amazing things but to feel amazing while doing it. If the brain surgeon and the removalist at the party said it must be amazing, then who are we to argue?
The problem with that is, that a lot of the act of writing feels joyless. When we deny this reality and encounter the mundane in the act, we want to. give up. We don’t finish.
Go on – finish this!
Recently a fellow theatre-maker (yes, you’re allowed to use that term if you’re not comfortable with calling yourself a playwright) got in touch with me because they’d hit a wall with the play they had started.
As with a mad love affair, the initial spark had consumed them. The first ideas were so exciting that they sat down and wrote. And wrote. And wrote. And just when they thought they couldn’t write anymore, they did.
And then Monday dawned.
Continue reading “When the Thrill is Gone – (a few thoughts on playwriting craft #3)”
At the moment, I’m working with another playwright (although they might prefer to call themselves a theatre-maker) at the very beginnings of their project. It’s a privilege to be let in to somebody else’s first stirrings.
Part of making any performance piece is character work – but the question is often, what kind of character work should we do? Working on two main characters, one character is easy to place precisely in history, and to figure out backstory that could contribute to the evolving plot.
But try this stuff on the other character and she (the character, not the playwright) resists. It’s almost as if this character was not born in time. When we write in ways that differ from realism, this is a stumbling block that can deter us.
Continue reading “Developing an uncanny character (a few thoughts on playwriting craft #2)”
If you’re a friend of a friend of Ned Manning, there’s a question not dissimilar to the one I asked about plays you’d choose to help inspire new playwrights over on Facebook you can see here.
The question, if you can’t see it, is which four Australian plays would you choose?
It’s great to see people ask these questions. I would love us to think a bit more about why we suggest what we do. For example, Michael Gow’s Away is a great play and what about it are we hoping to inspire playwrights with?
Well, I asked a question on Facebook, and got a gazillion responses.
What would you choose?
I’m particularly taken with responses that are precise (i.e. one play rather than one playwright or several different plays – choose, dammit!) and active (i.e. give the hypothetical new playwright something to do, like edit the script down or take a poem and look for the drama).
Anyway – here goes: https://www.facebook.com/benelliswriter/posts/10155623002791159
Comment here or back there. I welcome it all.