WEEK 1: CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT
- If you have an idea for your play, go ahead and start working on it! The goal of this workshop is to write a 15-20 minute one act play that can be submitted for performance, so you should aim for 15-30 pages, or put another way, one page of script equals about one minute of performance time.
- What to bring to class next week:
- The fully (or mostly fully) developed archetypal protagonist and antagonist for your play. Include each character’s goal (What does s/he want by the end of the play? What’s at stake if s/he doesn’t get it?). You should also be able to explain to someone why your antagonist is a good match for your protagonist, and the function of the extra characters in your play (if you have any). It’s okay if these evolve and change as you start writing your play.
- Based on what you know about your play right now, write out of your play’s premise (remember, it’s only one sentence long) and major dramatic question. Again, you are not committed to these ideas, and you might find that as you get further into writing your play, you change your mind. That’s okay.
This Week’s Handouts:
WEEK 2: ACTIONS AND STORY DEVELOPMENT
Your goal this week is to start writing your play! How exciting is that? Keep the following in mind:
- This is a one act play. The goal of this workshop is to help you produce a one act play that you can submit for the Youth One Act festival in June. With that in mind,
- Keep it short. This is not your 2-5 act magnum opus that takes place over several weeks in 3 locations with a cast of fifteen characters. 15-30 pages, performance time 15-30 minutes.
- Keep the cast size managable. Protagonist, antagonist, and at most two extra characters. Anymore than that, you might have trouble knowing what to do with everyone; everyone in your play needs to have an important job.
- Think small. You can have more than one scene if you need to, but try to stick to keeping your characters in one time and one, maybe two locations. Give them a problem that can be worked out within the boundaries of your scene. For lack of a better analogy, think thirty minute sitcom, not two hour feature presentation. Less is more.
- Keep the beginning and (especially) the ending in sight at all times. My best advice for not getting bogged down: use your inciting incident/point of attack and your crisis moment/climax as the two fixed points in your play. As you fill the gap between them with forward-moving actions and complications, check, double check, and triple check that you are building a tight cause and effect chain that (a) can be traced back to your inciting incident and (b) unavoidably lead to the crisis point.
- Make your character work to earn the prize. Raise the stakes. Make it complicated, and make it increasingly difficult. Consider allowing your character fail (It happens to all of us!) so that he can learn something and grow from it; he’ll come back stonger and wiser. No freebees or “gimmes” at any point, no deus ex machinas or coincidences. It’s okay to throw a bone once in awhile, but be judicious about when and how you do it.
Bring to Share at Next week’s workshop:
- An outline of your play. You can either bring the note card outline that you made in class, or you can use the note card activity we did as a basis for a more specific French scene outline. It’s easier to revise outlined beats and plot points than to revise/rewrite your script.
- The archetypal bio of your main characters. You completed this in week one, and you make have made some changes. That’s okay. But have them with you for a reference.
- Drafting tools. We will be dedicating a significant portion of next week’s workshop to letting you draft and collaborate on your script. If you have already started your draft, bring what you have so you can add to it. If you haven’t started yet, bring either paper/pen(cil) or a laptop/typing device.
This Week’s Handouts:
- Notes from Class
- Action and Story Development Jobsheet
- Three-Act Structure
- Diagram: The Anatomy of a Plot
- Diagram/Ideas: Forward-Moving Actions and Complications
- Suggested Material: Outlining method: French scenes (Not handed out in class)
WEEK 3: IDEAS AND AND INTRODUCTION TO LANGUAGE
This week, we spoke briefly about ideas (themes), but devoted most of our attention to language. Your goal over the next two weeks is to continue writing your play, aiming to bring a completed (or nearly completed) draft to class for week 5. Some guidelines to help you out as you write:
- Don’t let writer’s block get you down! Just start writing! My best advice for you: if staring at your computer screen is messing with your head, start writing by hand. Sometimes, writing with pen and paper actually helps, because it forces you to slow down a bit and you might find that the ideas come a bit more easily. I have done this often as a writer, and I find it very helpful. By the way, no one said you have to start writing at act 1 scene 1; if you’re stuck, write the middle or ending first.
- Write every day. Even if it’s only for 10-20 minutes.
- Accept that your first attempt at writing your play will not be your best work. If you sit and wait for the perfect line/dialogue/words to materialize in your head before you commit them to paper, you will never write your play! Have fun spending time writing the words that your characters say and don’t worry about how badly your first draft sounds. In fact, you have permission to write badly. Plow through until you reach a stopping point. Don’t get hung up on writing a good draft; commit to writng a complete The playwriting demons will tempt you to stop and edit and revise in the middle of what you are doing. IGNORE THEM and write.
- Go where no one will hear you and talk out loud. Listen to your characters and let them tell you what they want to say. Speak the lines for one (or more characters), have conversations out loud with yourself in character. Act out the scene with your dog, and since your dog can’t talk, say your doggie’s lines for him and then write down the good stuff. Have fun with performing as you write!
Bring to Share at Next week’s workshop:
- Drafting tools. We will again desginate a significant portion (probably about an hour) of next week’s workshop to writing your play.
- A complete “scene” from your play that you would like to workshop. Plan to bring enough copies so that you have a script for each actor/reader, a copy for the instructor, and a copy for you to write on. DO NOT SHOW UP WITHOUT SOMETHING TO WORKSHOP!!!!!! No excuses.
- Aim to have about half your play (8-15 pages of script) I am setting aside a significant amount of our time to writing because I know that you are all busy, and I want you to be successful in leaving this workshop with a completed draft of a play that you can polish and submit. When you come to class for week 6 (the final week), You should have a complete script in hand.