A few thoughts on craft #21
There are many ways to come up with characters, but I’m about to share with you my favourite way.
What is the basis of a dramatic character? Most writers will say that the character is wanting and failing to get something, and then does something about it.
So, one shortcut for getting inspiration for an amazing character is to look through the love-wanted classifieds or websites. Continue reading “How to Make a Character Quickly? Look for Love”
I have a bit of an involuntary tick when it comes to seeing questions in drafts of plays – whether those plays are mine or anyone else’s. Why? What have I got against questions?
In everyday life, we ask questions all the time. How are you? What’s that over there? How about that, huh?
When we do it, we’re often not interested in the details of the answer. We’re doing it to get along.
It’s a mode of talking that linguists call “phatic”, confirmation that we’re alive and that we’re showing/feigning being interested in being in the company of the person we’re talking with.
But if you’re trying to write a dramatic scene, I’m not sure it’s a great idea to put questions in the way of either character.
I’m going to work with an example here. A first draft of a scene I made especially for this exercise – but if you’ve ever read or written the first draft of a scene yourself, you may recognise some of the sorts of questions that come up. Continue reading “What’s That Question Doing There? (a few thoughts #17)”
What do your friends say about you behind your back? Or in front of it? Hang on. That’s a tricky physical manoeuvre.
What’s that got to do with writing drama? Don’t worry. We’ll get to that soon.
Maybe you’re reading this because you’re a regular. Maybe you’re reading this because you’re searching for writer’s block busters. Or maybe you are still trying to find yourself as a writer.
Great. I want you to put aside half an hour and try the following six steps. Continue reading “Who Do You Think You Aren’t? (a few thoughts #15)”
In the world of novel writing, NaNoWriMo is buzzing along, with thousands of people aiming to write a 50000 word draft of a novel in the month of November. It’s a yearly event and I look forward every year to hearing of people attempting to start AND finish their work.
Theatre abounds with stories of the play written in a weekend, or in a fit of anger or inspiration over a caffeine-laden night.
While I’ve written some plays very quickly in the past, there’s only one play that I’ve written in two days – Who are you, Mr James? which turned into Post Felicity and won me my breakthrough awards and productions. As I’ve explained elsewhere, that two days and nights of writing was a culmination of around five years of thinking and failed starts.
When you’re writing a play alone, independently of a deadline and/or commission, what’s a feasible timeline? Continue reading “A 13-week recipe for writing a play (a few thoughts #14)”
One of the most common concerns among playwrights with a play between drafts is that some of their characters sound too alike.
There’s a kind of rule among some theatre literary managers that if you cover up the characters’ names on a page of dialogue, you should still be able to tell which character is which.
I’m not sure that’s a useful thing to tell a playwright working through the mechanics of their play. Clear differences in speech ought to be a side-effect of the work, rather than an aim of the work.
Why? Well, personally, when I try to concentrate on differences between characters’ speech patterns I unconsciously exaggerate. Lisps, weird dialects, finishing every utterance with ‘eh?’ signalling a bunch of stereotyped thinking rather than clear delineation.
So what to concentrate upon to avoid this problem?
There are many things you can do – here are three – and the last of these is the quickest fix and probably the most effective. Continue reading “When Characters Sound Too Alike (a few thoughts #12)”
Between writing projects, sometimes I feel as if I will never write another thing. Or I come up with one idea, get absolutely excited about it, then when it comes to the sitting down and doing it part freeze, paralysed by the pressure I put on myself.
Every writer feels these things. To continue as a writer, you learn how to accept or to deal with these feelings. Here’s a small technique I would encourage anybody to try when they find themselves stuck or paralysed before starting work on a new play.
Continue reading “Getting your worst ideas out of the way (a few thoughts #9)”
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)”
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)”