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)”
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)”
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’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)”