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Play-Writing – How Hard Can It Be?

Play-Writing – How Hard Can It Be? by Author Lauren Mayhew

Play Writing - How Hard Can It Be - Young Adult Author RendezvousWriting a stage play is a lot harder than I initially thought it would be. I knew it was going to be a challenge, as it’s the complete opposite of writing a story. It’s all dialogue and no description. In my novels, the dialogue is probably the bit I struggle with most. So why am I writing a play, I hear you ask. Because I like to challenge myself. If you don’t challenge yourself, life gets a bit boring.

So, I’m writing a murder mystery set in modern times. Normally, I have a title before I even start writing, but not for this one. The title has evaded me so far. I usually use a line of text from the story itself as a title, but no-one has said anything yet that’s catchy enough. That’s a little worrying now that I think about it.

Obviously, it’s still the early days of draft 1, and I think there will be quite a few drafts of this one to make it worthy for the stage, but I’m enjoying it so far. I keep trying to compare it to other murder mystery plays that I’ve read, to see if it fits with their formatting, but I have to keep telling myself that it doesn’t matter if it’s different. Different is good.

In ‘Murdered to Death’ by Peter Gordon, the first guests arrive on page 8, and the murder takes place on page 33. Inspector Pratt arrives on page 36.

In ‘A Murder is Announced’ by Agatha Christie, adapted by Leslie Darbon, the first guests arrive on page 20, and the murder takes place on page 35. Inspector Craddock arrives on page 38.

In my play, the first guests arrive on page 6, and the murder takes place on page 23. Inspector Dodds arrives on page 25.

As you can see, I have a lot of ‘filling out’ to do, but as of yet, I don’t have any clue what to add in. I don’t want to add dialogue purely for the sake of it, as the story has moved itself along quite nicely so far. However, I do want the play to be full length or around 80 pages. I’m not sure if that’s going to happen in its current state.

But, as I said earlier, I shouldn’t try and match it to the murder mysteries that I’ve read. There were definitely scenes in both of those that were extremely long and a little dull at times. This explains why the murder takes place later on in those plays than in mine. I have to start seeing my play as unique, and if I try to replicate others, it’ll just turn into the same old murder mystery.

As I said earlier, it’s still draft 1, so it all might change by the time it’s finished. I need to concentrate on getting it finished before I start worrying about adding or removing sections. I’m sure it’ll all come together in the end.


Want more from Lauren? You can check out his books on Goodreads HERE.

Find Lauren on the YA Author Rendezvous site HERE.

This was posted by Lauren Mayhew.

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Playwriting

Written by Paul Briggs

Playwriting opens up new audiences for your writing and new avenues for success. Many community theaters are looking for local playwrights to showcase. This generally means writing for “exposure” rather than money, but unlike certain Web sites I could name, it gives you the chance to actually meet the people who like your writing.

 

If your story doesn’t have too many characters and takes place within one or two specific locations (preferably indoors) it might be a good subject for a play. Writing a play isn’t any harder than writing a novel, but it is a little less forgiving. Unless there’s a narrator or Greek chorus, the audience knows nothing about the characters except what’s revealed through their words and actions. In fact, that’s really all there is to your characters. The actors who portray them will give them not only their faces, but their inner lives.

 

My advice to anyone starting out in playwriting is to keep set description simple and not worry too much about the blocking. Let the director deal with that stuff. Concentrate on the real meat of the play — the lines.

 

We’ve all had moments, reading books or watching movies, where we were suddenly yanked out of the story by the thought “that’s not how the character would talk,” or possibly “that’s not how anybody talks.” In a play, more than anywhere else, your dialogue should sound spontaneous — even accidental. It should flow naturally from the characters and the situation. Spencer Tracy said to never let them catch you acting. If you’re a playwright, never let them catch you writing. If you have one perfect line you just have to get in (and I know you do) take the time to guide the conversation to where it becomes a natural response.

 

The usual rule is that one page of script equals one minute of performance, but don’t count on this. As you write, try acting the parts, and time yourself as you do. This will give you an idea how long your play is.

 

Also, don’t flex your vocabulary too much. I’ve seen even skilled young actors struggle to pronounce words like “omnipotent,” “peculiarly” or “trimethylaminuria.” (If you’re wondering what fool put that word in a play, I give you one guess.)

 

If your play is chosen for performance, it will escape your control and take on a life of its own. The director and actors will change it, and don’t be surprised if they improve it. They know what works onstage better than you do.

 

The biggest surprise of all will come if you take characters from a novel you wrote and put them in a play. These people you can picture so clearly you could spot them on a crowded subway will have not only different faces and forms, but reinterpreted personalities. Aspects of them that you thought no one knew about but you will suddenly be on proud display. You’ll learn new things about your own creations.

 

In short, I love playwriting.

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