Getting Started – 4

This next exercise is about developing the idea and thinking about your characters place in the idea and story of your play. Give yourself 30 minutes but try to answer each question quickly if you are struggling with the answer then move on to the next question and come back to that question later.

  • What is at the core of the idea?
  • What are the things that drew you to the idea?
  • What are your intentions? Why do you want to write it?
  • Write as many words as you can to describe your play in one minute.
  • Add some more words to that list – think of colours, think of textures, think of sounds.
  • What is the central question that you want to explore?
  • How do you want the audience to respond to the piece?
  • Why is the story important to you?
  • Why do you want to tell this particular story?
  • What do you think you will learn by exploring this theme?
  • Who is the protagonist?
  • Who is the antagonist?
  • What does your protagonist want?
  • What is stopping them getting what they want?
  • What are the potential obstacles to them getting what they want?
  • How is the world of the play changed or not changed by them getting or not getting what they want?
  • Do you like them?
  • Do you think the audience will like them?
  • What is the character forced to react to?
  • List all the choices your characters are forced to make in your play?
  • What is the time pressure for each decision?
  • What is at stake?
  • What makes the decision difficult?
  • What is the risk they take?
  • What are the consequences?
  • What is surprising about the decision they make?

Take a look back and expand any of the answers. If you’ve answered all these questions fully then you should be ready to begin to write your play, well hopefully, at the very least you’ll be a lot closer to getting started.


Getting Started – 3

We now need to expand the story and the plot of the play.

Find a large piece of paper (A3 at the very least) and take 20 minutes to answer the do the following. Again do this quickly. Answer one then move on quickly.

Draw a time-line across the centre of the piece of paper. Answer each question then put it onto the time-line

  • What is the central event?
  • What has happened five minutes before?
  • What happens five minutes after?
  • What happens 10 minutes before?
  • What happens 10 minutes after?
  • What happens 30 minutes before?
  • What happens 30 minutes after?
  • What happens 1 hour before?
  • What happens 1 hour after?

Depending on your time scale. You can do whatever time you want to?
One day, one week, one month, one year?  Draw out the time line according to the time line of your play.

Now look at your central point on the line – think of three other things that could happen rather than the event you’ve chosen. Go through each point and do the same.

By the end of this you should have a story and a plot of your play. You may find that the start of the play is different to where you previously thought.

Getting Started – 2

Develop the characters a little more, then a little more than a little more. You’ll know when they’re ready to start the play because they’ll start to talk to you or maybe argue with you. Some writers like to simply get started with the script and find the characters voices that way. That works for some people but it doesn’t work for me. I like to find the characters first before I start writing the script.

Another exercise that helps to find characters is a more detailed life history.

Take out 10 note-cards or post-it notes or just blank pieces of paper and mark them 1-10 Think about the progress of your character from their birth to the point we meet them at the start of the play. Now give yourself 10 minutes.

Write on the top of each card a significant event in the characters life. Keep the events spread out and think about the things that might relate or link to what will happen to them in your play. Some of the events can be huge like the death of a loved one or they could be small – like watching a film but it is a memorable moment for your character.

These are a few suggestions but they can be anything; best childhood memory and worst, funniest thing that ever happened to them, most embarrassing thing that ever happened to them, the moment when they knew they were no longer a child, happiest moment in their life, saddest moment in their life, the moment they thought life was wonderful, the moment when they felt the most disappointed in someone else, the moment they felt the disappointed with themselves, the funniest thing they ever saw happen to someone else, why does your character like a particular colour.

Use whatever time you have left to add a few more details. If you need a little more time then give yourself 10 more minutes to flesh out the moment and add more details.

Getting Started – 1

With the deadline for plays for Town with No Traffic Wardens getting closer I thought it might me good to remind everyone of a few of the exercises since the group started.

These exercises have been begged, borrowed, stolen, adapted and corrupted from a variety of sources but mainly Kaite O’Reilly and Noel Greig’s Playwriting:  A Practical Guide

All the exercises work better if you give yourself a time limit initially, you can go back and expand later but for now – give yourself 3 minutes for this first one.

Let’s create or develop a character. Think of a character, either one you’re working on or have a go at plucking one from your imagination now. Start the timer – and go!

What is their gender?
What is their age?
What is their ethnicity
What is their name?
Three physical characteristics (maybe appearance, mannerism, tone of voice etc)?
What are they wearing?
Where does their money comes from (work or otherwise)?
What sort of accommodation they live in?
Where exactly on the world map is that accommodation?
is there something they lack in life?
Is there something they need right now?
Do they have a secret?
Do they have a problem?
What do they believe?
What is their wish?
Where are they right now?
What they are doing at this very moment?
What they are thinking or saying at this very moment?

List three other things you know about them ?
What else do you want to ask that character from the answers they have given above?

Time to get writing

The next meeting of the Writing for Performance Group will be taking place on Tuesday 14th February. I’m hoping that you’re all either hardened cynic or romantics with understanding partners who won’t mind cooking you a romantic meal and creating a sea of rose petals through your house on another evening.

Me, I’m a romantic but I believe in romance 364 days a year – and that romance should not happen on 14th February because romance is about doing something for your partner altruistically.  I’ve also ended two long term relationships on Valentine’s Day but I promise it’s a weird co-incidence and not a sign of a hard hearted bitch, well okay so maybe it was vaguely connected to it being Valentine’s Day BUT that’s a story for another day. Or at the very least I’ll use it for a character back-story one day.

So now it’s time to get serious and get writing those plays. Well not that serious, comedy is allowed. We’ve shared our ideas for plays or shared the seeds of ideas so now it’s time to get something on paper and test those ideas out. Please bring along anything you have, completed plays or rough bits of dialogue that you want to test out. Remember there aren’t any rules this time, it can be as many characters as you like, it can be as short or long as you want. It’s up to you. If you’re feeling a little lost, over the next few days I’ll be reminding you of all the little writing exercises and games we’ve played in the last couple of months to shake-up those ideas and maybe even adding a few new ones. If you want a reminder of the stories that have been floating around in the news recently then here they are and if you want a reminder of how the idea began it’s all here.

And as always please feel free to bring any work that you would like to share or test out, it doesn’t have to be for Town with No Traffic Wardens.