Back in my uni days, I once said to an English lecturer that I had a great idea for a story but that I just hadn’t finished it yet.
“Stop right there,” she said. “If you’re going to be a writer, remember this. An idea for a story only exists when it is finished. Everything else is a starting point.”
Let’s take, for today’s starting point, the concept of beginning with characters. Continue reading “You’re Being Annoying (a few thoughts #10)”
I’m a dual citizen of Australia and the allegedly United Kingdom. However, for the time being I’m back in Melbourne with my young family after over a decade in London, and I’m returning to the idea that I am, for better or worse and wherever I reside, an Australian playwright. This is where I was born and became established as a writer. I learned an incredible amount being – and remaining, I hope – in London’s industry, but wandering around what is now my local park has got me thinking about how our environments might shape our attitudes to the most basic of things without our consciously knowing it.
For I have to say, some plays that fly for audiences in Australia seem to be impenetrable for audiences in the UK. In my time reading for UK theatre companies, I listened to other readers express their incomprehension at some writing from Australia that I loved (and knew that others in Australia also valued). There’s a book by the drama critic most important to the New Wave of 1970s Australian drama, Katharine Brisbane, that goes by the name, Not Wrong Just Different, the title taken from one of her reviews where she celebrated a newly-emerging and self-conscious difference in Australian drama. What contributes to this difference?
And, so, my tiny hypothesis is to do with trees.
That’s right. Trees. But why? Continue reading “Comparing Trees to Plays (a few thoughts #8)”
Okay, there’s no easy way to improve apart from working at writing drama, but I’ll give you a few practical ideas in this post.
1. Concentrate on writing scenes, not lines or structure
First things first: great plays are made up of scenes, one great scene followed by another. Individual lines need not be wonderful examples of prose. Lines are there for actors to act rather than appreciate. Continue reading “Three Easy Ways to Improve Your Playwriting (a few thoughts #7)”
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)”
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)”