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Writing a play can be intimidating—especially if you’ve never done it before!
So where to start? There are many different ways to approach it, and while no way is right or wrong, we do have our favorites.
1: Choose a theme to write to.
Are you passionate about politics? Do you love a lonely-heart-finds-love story? How about embracing the ethereal?
Whatever theme you choose, it should be something you enjoy watching or reading about.
2: Start with a Character.
Got someone in mind? How about a seemingly mild-mannered middle-class office worker who is a reformed assassin hiding in plain sight? Or a famous, no-nonsense dietician whose public profile is about healthy diets but secretly eats cupcakes until he/she/they throw up every night? Start with a trait, and then ask, what if? What if this person’s very identity that they present to the world is a lie? See where it takes you!
Remember, in addition to following along with the plot, your characters should experience a transformation from where they are at the beginning of the play to where they are at the end.
Give your characters a secret that gets revealed at some point in the play. It could be something seemingly innocuous, like they’ve been pretending to like pizza for years but secretly they hate it and were just being nice to their spouse (which in turn reveals something about their character, doesn’t it), or something huge like they had gone to jail when they were younger for vehicular manslaughter. Whatever works with your character will create depth to the play and raise the stakes.
3: Start with a writing prompt.
If writing to a theme or character isn’t helpful at the moment, try a writing prompt. Oftentimes, a writing prompt will lead you down a thought process that will end up with something completely original—sometimes it won’t even have anything to do with the original prompt! Of course, sticking to the original prompt is fine too, as long as it speaks to you.
Here are some examples of writing prompts:
After winning a bet, a pathological liar forgets to mail an important letter.
With only a week to live, an unsuccessful comedian receives a message from God.
After being fired, a single mother of three burns down a house.
We think you’ll agree, those are some loaded prompts! Remember, they’re just a jumping off point, so maybe your plot line will resemble something more like “After winning a bet, a single mother of three receives a message from God.” Or something totally unrelated—perhaps houses burning down reminds you that you wanted to be a firefighter when you were young, and being young reminds you of being a teenager and about the time you cheated on a test. Suddenly you’ve got the idea for a play where a celebrated firefighter cheated on his written exam to join the department a few years back, and this fact has just been discovered by a coworker who hates him.
Once you’ve got a starting point, you’re ready to do one of two things: start outlining or start writing! Some people plan their entire play out with extensive notes, outlines, character profiles, etc., while others just jump right in with a vague idea of where they want to go. And of course some do a combination of both! Rest assured, whatever works for you is the correct way to do it.
We hope this helps to get you started. Check back, as we will update this page with more tips and suggestions!