The Pitfalls of Playwriting

Discussion in 'Writing for Stage and Screen' started by CasRose, Feb 1, 2018.

  1. CasRose

    CasRose New Member

    I can't claim to be an expert on playwriting, but I can confidently say I've written a few decent plays, and plenty more terrible plays before that, so I figured I'd make a short list of nonspecific playwriting tips that may come in handy.
    • Write for the stage. If you want to write a novel, write a novel. The stage is a completely different experience than reading a book and some stories just won't work well on stage if you're not writing it with the stage in mind! This is a bit of an overarching topic for the rest of these, but it's the number one rule for writing a play.
    • Calm down with the exposition. Exposition is boring and clunky when done wrong, and there are two main ways it's done wrong; blocks of dialogue, or unnatural statements. Blocks of dialogues are long pieces of just information explosion. The character just stands there and explains something in a long-winded monologue that the audience probably won't fully catch either. Unnatural statements are things said that just don't match up. Unless you're writing it like Shakespeare, when someone new comes in that your character would know, it'd be weird for the character to announce their name and relation to them. Your audience doesn't need to know a character's name immediately, and if your world is so complicated you need a long paragraph to explain how it works, reread the first tip again.
    • Stage direction doesn't need to outline everything. This isn't necessarily the worst thing in the world, but it can certainly annoy directors and turn away those potentially interested in putting on your production. If you've ever read any of Shakespeare's plays (and who hasn't), you'd know he kept his stage directions short and very few. While you may have a vision, plays are unique because they can be taken and interpreted by many different directors. If they're all stuck with strict directions that outline every movement, breath, hesitation, inflection, etc. then a director may not enjoy putting your show on. Also, stage directions need not be beautiful and artistically written. The audience will never see it, and it's only purpose is to give direction to those putting the show on.
    • Be realistic about your set/costume design. Not every show will be in a big theatre with a huge budget, and while you may not expect a high school production to be able to put on your show, there's a limit to what someone can do. If you want your character to be hoisted off stage on a zip line with an explosion of fire beneath them, you may need to rethink your idea or wait until you can get a stage that could put it on.

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