Whether you are watching a play that was written yesterday or a thousand years ago, the plot and other elements must stand the test of time. Good playwrights know how to write a play that keeps the audience intrigued and entertained throughout.
Not sure how to write a short play? As you develop and write a play format, you should know that there is no silver bullet. However, there are certain conventions that all good plays share. For instance, you need to write a play that features an interesting plot and characters. This article contains important tips on how to write a play.
As you write a play script, you should:
- think about a central theme or plot idea
- establish a location and time period
- focus on character development
- come up with relevant dialogue that drives the story
- start with a conflict/problem that is ultimately resolved in the climax
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How to Write a Play: Excellent Tips
Here are some suggestions on how to write a play script:
- Pick a theme, characters with personalities, or an idea that you think is worth sharing.
- Do not think you have to stick to your original ideas. Do some brainstorming and let the ideas flow. You might discover that the most interesting ideas emerge from your subconscious.
- There is no narrative unless there are conflicts and/or obstacles to overcome. The protagonist must want something and needs to succeed in the face of the challenges. Some motivations could be power, freedom, love, and of course sweet revenge.
- Select the main conflict or problem that will serve as the foundation for the entire play, along with subplots that help drive the narrative.
- Who are the main characters of the play and what are their roles? Is the play being told from a particular character’s point of view?
Location, Place and Time
- Establish the place where the play takes place as well as when it occurs. Is it a modern play or a period piece?
- Pay particular attention to the setting. For instance, if the narrative takes place in an apartment, perhaps you could draw the dimensions and even the surrounding neighborhood. Providing stage directions helps create a vivid picture in the mind of the reader.
- Will the story take place in various locations or will it be confined to one spot throughout the play?
- Based on the time period that you set the play in – including contemporary times – make references to music, fashion or routine activities that would be expected of that particular period.
- The way the characters interact with the setting can have a huge impact on the plot. Keep this in mind as you come up with ideas.
- Put together a general list of potential characters and think about things like their relationships to each other, their purpose in terms of the plot, their importance in driving the story, etc.
- Provide a basic profile about each character. What are their ages? What do they look like? Where are they from? What are their hobbies? Who are their friends? By thinking about these questions, you can create more developed characters and start imagining the kind of dialogues that take place in the play.
- Go into more detail about the personality of the characters. How do they respond to situations? What are their strengths and flaws? It is perfectly acceptable to base your characters on people you actually know (although you might not want to actually tell them!)
- How do the characters respond to their environments?
- If you do not have a lot of experience with writing plays, coming up with the dialogue can be really tricky. The biggest problem is that you are inserting your own thoughts and ideas into each of their heads, making them all a reflection of your personality to some degree. As a result, you risk writing dialogue that comes off as unnatural. Watch movies, TV shows and other plays to get a better idea about how to properly write dialogue.
- Based on how you envision the characters’ background and attributes, how is it reflected in their manner of speech? Do they have accents? Are their word choices distinct? Try to imagine the characters interacting with each other as you consider their way of talking.
- Write a brief monologue for each character. Read it aloud, imagining it actually being spoken by the characters themselves to see it fits.
- Next, write dialogue between two of the characters. Have a friend read the lines of one character as you play the role of the other. Feel free to act out in a natural way based on what the characters are saying.
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Creating the Story
- Just as you would do with an essay, you should always start with an outline that serves as a guide for the entire play, including the ending.
- Make something like a storyboard that highlights every act and scene. If relevant, include details such as the time of day. Also make note of the characters that interact in each scene.
- Every scene serves as an individual piece of the puzzle. Make sure that everything that the characters say is deliberate and relevant to the plot.
- Begin expanding upon your outline.
- Once you have finished the first incarnation of your script, read it over a few times, making sure all of the scenes and dialogue serve a purpose.
- You will certainly end up rewriting the script. Cut out any subplots that do nothing to enhance the story as well as any comments or allusions that have no payoff.
- Finally, arrange for a group of friends to get together and read the play aloud. Ask for feedback, especially on dialogue or plot points that they found unclear. This is important because how they feel is likely to mirror how any audience would feel.
If you want to successfully write a play, you need good writing skills and a keen ability to visualize your ideas. Once you gain enough experience, you will find this task to be easier and easier. Just give it a try!
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