Get Ahead of the News

Sometimes, writers choose topics that they think are ‘hot’ or ‘relevant’. They then spend three months or three years developing that script, and find that the play feels dated or cold or that times have past on the topic.

There’s a way to avoid this problem: focus on what is dramatic.

Drama – conflict between characters that can only be resolved by change and transformation or defeat – never goes cold. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? never feels less than electric.

If you are writing something about, say, the latest UK election results, you are going to have to dig deeper than a bunch of people feeling sad (or elated). You are going to have to focus on characters doing something and failing and learning, if it’s going to be interesting beyond tomorrow and people who feel similarly to you.

When people complain of writing that “preaches to the converted”, what they really mean is that the writing lacks drama.

If you’d like me to help you figure out the drama in your ideas, get in touch. Or join the email list for more writing tips

How to Make a Character Quickly? Look for Love

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”

“When” is just as important as “what” – it’s part of the “what” (a few thoughts #20)

My daughter began to smile this week.

She’s only been alive for a month, so this is a cause for celebration rather than a tale of facial muscles overcoming years of adversity.

When things happen is just as important as what happens.

In fact, you could say that the when of things is part of the what of things in creating stories and making a drama. Continue reading ““When” is just as important as “what” – it’s part of the “what” (a few thoughts #20)”

When Worlds Collide and the Art of Subtraction (a few thoughts #18)

What if the thing that is going to destroy your normal world has actually been a part of it all along?

My favourite thing in the world, apart from writing scripts, is the reading of them. Part of my relatively recent move into screenwriting means that I have been gobbling up television and film scripts of late.

Many writers I love and respect claim that they don’t need to read the work of other playwrights and screenwriters. That they only need to experience the work to learn from it.

I find this claim odd. If you were a chemist, would you only need to watch acid eat through something in order to make a similar compound? Wouldn’t you want to look a little closer? Continue reading “When Worlds Collide and the Art of Subtraction (a few thoughts #18)”

There Be Dragons in this Writing Post: Id, Ego, Superego and Real, Imaginary, Symbolic

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