Writing Plays

So what makes writing a play any different from other forms of writing?

Direction, timing and dialogue.

The simple definition of direction is telling the actors what you want them to do( I’m sticking with stage plays here to make things simple.  Radio plays are slightly different).  I prefer a light approach.  A few general directions here and there e.g. move from one side of the stage to the other, shout, gesticulate, sit down, stand up…you get the idea.

When writing a novel, you have an audience of one, the reader.  When writing a play, you have a bigger audience and it is this which causes issues to arise.  The old adage ‘Too many chefs spoil the broth’ comes to mind.  Each new input, while well meaning, is likely to derail the story and reduce it to a horrible mess.

The next area of interest is timing.  Most stage plays have two acts which are about forty five minutes long, on average.  This length of time gives you some room to play with (no pun intended!) but be careful.  Audience attention is likely to wane if it is too long.  A consideration you need to be aware of is that the audience needs to get home once the play is finished.

Like other forms of short writing, it forces you to edit your work so it can be the best.  Extraneous words must be hunted down and removed forthwith.

Lastly, plays are almost purely dialogue, with the exception of a short passage at the beginning of a scene setting it up (partly for the actors, partly for the audience).  So your dialogue needs to be good or it will feel flat.

Get these three ingredients right and you’ll have a decent play on your hands.  Then, work at it so it delivers what you wanted it to.  Like all things in life, practice makes perfect.  The more you do something, the better you’ll get at it.


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