“MICHAEL: He loves me. Don’t you ever question that!
SASHA: NO! Michael, that’s not how you love someone! You don’t love someone by forcing them to become you!”
Excerpt from Who Loves Like That? by Christine Fulgham
I’ve been writing plays for about two years and involved in theatre/drama for about six. Since plays are a lot of words, I’ve decided to give as much advice as possible with lots of visuals. The biggest thing I learned about plays is that you have a very short amount of time to get a story told and that audiences prefer for you (the playwright) to show things rather than have them blurted out directly. I’m going to to reference my pride and joy play Who Loves Like That? throughout this article.
Steps to Writing a Play
1. Think of a premise.
It should be short and sweet. What is the moral of your play?
2. Learn formatting.
There is no reason to write something that no one will read because it is improperly formatted. The play writing and screenwriting industry has a pretty rigid guideline so follow it.
3. Write a treatment.
Treatments should start with the title of a play, location(s) and time period. Next portion should be elaborate descriptions of each character both physically and background information. This is where you figure out who your characters are. The final part of the treatment is to write a detailed summary of your play is a novel style writing format. This can include dialogue to give the reader and yourself an idea of how the character speak.
4. Write the play!
5. Review x 5
6. Bask in the glory of your baby!
You can send it off to competitions or to companies.
Tips about Writing Plays and Lots of Memes.
1. Every idea shouldn’t be a play.
Some topics don’t have enough substance to become an entire play on its own. I have come across a lot of topics that just ended up adding another layer to a play I was already working on. Also, keep your length requirement in mind. My class was based around writing a one act play (less than 60 pages) I ended up with a full length (123 pages). Luckily the class wasn’t going to penalize me for doing more work but some places aren’t always so forgiving. Classes are about learning but the real world is about following directions.
2. Think things through.
The more times you review your play, the better the end product will be. Make your world believable. Theatre is based on the willing suspension of disbelief. The audience knows that they aren’t in a rain forest but you need to make everything as believable as possible. Continuity is equally important.
3. Fill in holes.
If you’re lucky enough to have someone to read over your play, encourage them to ask you questions about what they didn’t understand. Sometimes we make jumps in thought process that others, who aren’t in our heads, can’t follow.
4. You must love every single one of your characters no matter how corrupt they are.
Marc Torres, the father of the protagonist in Who Loves Like That?, was the head of an international sex trafficking ring. This man is an awful human but I had to make sure I saw where he was coming from. I learned to consider the fact that most people do not think they are wrong when they act even if they are committing inhumane acts. They are rationalizing these acts and they are justifiable in their minds. Marc Torres thinks of women as units and bartering chips for money but I had to ask myself why when developing him.
5. Hating yourself is a natural part of the process. It will pass.
6. Make the process fun!
My play writing professor’s name was Rob so the class made use of #WhyRob constantly on our social media outlets as we worked on our plays. Procrastination is part of the process and should be kept to a safe level especially if you have a deadline to meet. I made most of the memes in this post, including the thumbnail in the time I should have been working on my play. It made the ride more fun and the play still got done. It’s all about finding the right blend.
7. Blend and blend and blend.
You need to think a lot about all the little things that make the characters themselves as well as all the action in the play. This is what separates good plays from great plays. Great plays don’t have any unintentionally left loose ends they blend together to form a magnificent cloth that is the story.
8.Writing a synopsis is hard.
Point blank. It should never be more than one page and is meant to grab the attention of whoever is reading it. You want to encourage them to ask for the rest of your play.
9. Review. Review. Review.
Errors will give off the vibe that the author, you, did not care enough about their work. When you’ve gotten sick of looking over your play, review it again.
The play writing process is beautiful and hard and fun. My well accomplished play writing instructor, Robert Ruffin, blew our minds two memorable times in the class. The first day he said something to the effect of “If you mold and breathe life into your characters and guide their every step, are you not their God? And when your play goes on stage and a actor or actress breathes life into do your characters not live, both on stage and in the minds of every audience member?” The last day of the class, he told us that play writing can change the world. Remember that you are the God to your characters and if you’re going to lock them into the cycle of living your play forever, make it something worth living.
“The best way to predict the future is to create it.” -Peter Drucker