Tips for Writing Plays
Writing a play or script can be as simple as telling
your friends what happened last night at the park. In
fact, that may be exactly what your play is about —
something that really did happen to you and your friends.
At least that’s the way you will want your play to sound.
More than any other form of creative writing, a play
can bring your personal experiences (or your imaginings)
to life in a “dramatic” way. The tips which
follow should help you transform your best ideas into
exciting dramas worthy of any classroom or stage.
The Playwriting Process
The first thing you need to know about writing a play is
that it truly is a process of discovery. You can’t possibly
imagine how your play is going to turn out before you write
it. In fact, if you choose real-life characters based on
people you know, or through research, they will actually
write part of the play for you.
All you need to do is put these characters “on stage,”
give them a problem to overcome, and then watch and listen
what they say and do. You become as much a reporter taking
notes and recording conversations as a struggling playwright.
Remember this as you write your play.
Setting: (Describe where and when the story takes
Main problem: (What is the main problem faced by
the characters in the play? What do they have to do to
overcome this problem?)
Complication: (What complication or added problem
makes it difficult for the characters to find a solution
to the main problem? How can this complication help you
to add humor or suspense to your play? What can your characters
do or say to help solve or further complicate the situation?)
Solution: (How do they finally solve the problem
and bring the play to an end?)
Message: (What, if anything, does your play have to “say” about
life to your audience? Is there a moral, a lesson, a point?)
A play should begin with a dramatic situation so strained
and so unstable that it leads to action. This action either
progresses, delays, or reverses the events. Either way,
it presents a new situation that is often less stable than
the first. This process repeats itself until certain events
result in a stable situation. The following is an outline
of plot structure:
OPENING SITUATION: events at the rise of the
curtain. (Includes the exposition that gives the background
or reveals what has happened before the curtain rises.)
INITIAL INCIDENT: first event that suggests
there will be a change in the situation; an incident
to which you can trace all future action.
RISING ACTION: additional events leading to
CLIMAX: highest point of emotional intensity
that occurs near the end of the play and to which all
action has been leading.
FALLING ACTION: brief events after the climax
in which the outcome is resolved.