WRITING A PLAY
Guidlines for Writing Your First Play
Elements of a Play
Plays can be a great deal of fun to write. They are like extended poems in that they rely on voice and timing. In order to be successful as a playwright, one needs to be willing and able to undertake a life in the theater--at least for a while.
Writing a one-act play with a single setting is the quickest, easiest way to learn the craft. It's simple, really. Except for a description of the set, list of characters, and a few stage directions, the whole thing is in dialogue.
Rather than the novelist dialogue of:
"I don't know," Bibi sighed, putting down the legal papers he had just handed her on the on the ivory inlaid table beside her. She looked wistfully out the window where the winter-bare trees appeared slightly yellow in the fading light.
"I do," her husband John replied, looking at her coldly, realizing again how much she was starting to remind him of his mother. "Know."
Bibi: I don't know. (PUTS DOWN PAPERS HE HAS HANDED HER)
John: I do. Know.
It's the job of the actors and the director to carry the meaning of this scene in a play, rather than the narrative supplied by the writer. As you become more adept at playwrighting, there are a number of elements to consider. It's a fascinating form.
GOOD ADVICE: If you want to learn to write dialogue, write a one-act play or turn something that you've been working on into a play. In writing from a novel or story, you can always go back and insert the he-saids and she-replieds, but there is something about externalizing a story into play form that clarifies it, and adds zing. Works like magic.
EXERCISE: Set a scene around a holiday meal. Visualize the table in your mind. Who is sitting there? Let them start talking to each other.