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
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)”
You may have been reading my blog for sometime, or you’ve found me through a relatively random search.
However you got here, hi. You probably enjoy writing plays – or you enjoy the thought that you could write a play.
I’ve been teaching playwriting – as well as working professionally as a playwright – for a number of years now and recently started teaching** playwright clients via Skype in the US and UK after my recent move to Melbourne, also working with playwrights face-to-face here.
I can confidently say that if you enjoy reading my blog posts then, working together, I can give you personal, practical and targeted advice that will help you write your play.
My preferred process is to work with clients over 8 weekly sessions of around an hour to an hour and a half. Some writers prefer a maximum of 45 minutes. And after the 8 weeks is up, we can decide together whether we think there is more work to do or if the play is ready to fly. Or be posted. Or e-mailed. You know what I mean. Continue reading “Writing your play with my help – your words and my guidance”
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)”
Writers need to read. Playwrights need to read plays. What writers & ‘wrighters do is enter into a discussion not only with their audiences but with a history of existing and surviving work. Some writers claim that they steer away from the works of others, but that just means that they are entering unknowingly with their work into discussions with the advertising and propaganda of the day. (For advertising and propaganda employ story technique on a hyper scale.) Ignoring the work of others potentially dooms you to repeat the worst of it.
As a professional playwright sometimes you can be engaged by a theatre company to deliver script reports that the literary department cannot conceivably cover via its own, usually minuscule, staff. The pay to deliver a report is fairly modest, but I can assure you (if you’ve ever submitted your script to a theatre company and you’ve wondered what happens) that every script reader I’ve met wants to find a play they love.
In terms of writing up my reports, I’ve tried to follow this process for a number of years now with these questions. Continue reading “What happens when I read a play”