A play involves drama and action in its purest form. The only thing you have to work with is characters and language. If you want to join the ranks of Shakespeare, Ibsen, and Arthur Miller, you need to develop a bold, character-driven story that can be performed in a theater. Hopefully, you will experience the thrill of seeing your finished play, directed and performed in the theater.
Part 1 of 3: Develop Your Story
Step 1. Start with the characters
The plays are character-based texts. Since it will basically consist of a lot of dialogue between people, the characters need to be as credible as possible. In great plays, the internal tensions between the characters are represented in external ways. In other words, they need to have problems that are reflected in their behavior.
- What does your character want? What prevents him from getting what he wants? What gets in his way?
- Thinking of interesting jobs can be a good way to develop a character. What is the hardest job you can imagine? What job have you always been curious about? What kind of person becomes a podiatrist? How do you get to have a job like that?
- Don't worry about the name or the physical description of your character. You get nothing from knowing that a character is named José, who is 6 feet 4 inches (1.90 m) tall, has strong abs, and sometimes wears T-shirts. Stick to a single noticeable and revealing physical trait. Maybe your character has a scar on his eyebrow from a dog bite or maybe he never wears shorts. This reveals something about him and gives him depth.
Step 2. Consider the setting of the work
The frame of the work is the place and time in which the story takes place. Placing your character in a tense situation or location is an important way to create drama. Combining the character with the setting can also be a good way to develop the former and discover the kind of story that can emerge from placing him in that environment. If being a podiatrist is interesting to you, what about a podiatrist in Texas? What kind of character becomes a podiatrist in Texas? How do you get to that point?
- Be as specific as possible when developing the framework for the work. "The modern day" is not as interesting as "Dr. Wilson is in front of a church at 3.15pm. on a Good Friday”. The more specific you are, the more you will have to work with.
- Think about what other characters the frame might feature. Who works in the podiatrist's office? If it's a family business, maybe it's the podiatrist's daughter. Who has a date on Friday? Who is in the waiting room? Why is he coming?
Step 3. Find out the inside story
The "internal" story refers to the psychological conflicts that occur within the characters. This is largely hidden throughout the story, but it is important that you have an idea of it as you write the play. The internal story will guide the characters through the decisions they make throughout the plot. The more concrete the inside story, the easier it will be to write about the characters. They will make their own decisions.
Perhaps the podiatrist wanted to be a specialist in brain surgery but lacked the courage for that. Perhaps the podiatry program had the least strenuous schedule and allowed your character to stay up late partying without failing any subject. Perhaps the podiatrist is very unhappy and dissatisfied because he never left his hometown
Step 4. Match the inner story to the outer story
The bad plots are oriented towards the past and the good ones towards the future. It would not be interesting to have a play in which the podiatrist talks endlessly about how he would rather not work in that field and then commit suicide with shoe polish. Instead, find a dramatic situation where you can place your characters to test their mettle and change them in some way.
If it's Good Friday, maybe the podiatrist's retired parents (former podiatrists) will arrive for Easter dinner. Does the podiatrist even have a religion? Does he go to church? Does he have to get home and clean it up before the weekend starts? Will his father ask him to check his bunions, AGAIN? the drop that spills the glass ?, what will happen?
Step 5. Understand the limitations of the scenario
Remember that you don't write a movie. A play is basically a series of ongoing conversations between people. The focus needs to be on the tension between the characters, on the language and their development so that they can become credible people. Not a great place for gun fights and car chases.
You can also step away from traditional theater and write a play with scenes impossible to do on stage as a way to explore the writing itself. If you have no plans to actually stage the play, treat it as a different form of a poem. Bertolt Brecht, Samuel Beckett, and Antonin Artaud were innovators of avant-garde experimental works that incorporated audience participation and other absurd or surreal elements into their works
Step 6. Read some drama and watch some productions
Just as you would not try to write a novel if you had never read one, it is a good idea to familiarize yourself with the world of contemporary theater. Review the plays you've read and liked to see how they transform on stage. David Mamet, Tony Kushner and Polly Stenham are popular and famous playwrights.
It is important to see new works if you are going to write one. Even if you have good practical knowledge and love Shakespeare, it is important to familiarize yourself with what is going on today. You don't live in Shakespeare's time, so it wouldn't make sense to write plays like that
Part 2 of 3: Write Drafts
Step 1. Write an exploratory draft
Even if your idea for the play “Easter with the Podiatrists” looks like it will win you a major award, you still need to surprise yourself during the writing. You may have the brightest idea in the world, but you still need to write it down and allow surprise to enter the equation.
- In the exploratory draft, don't worry about formatting the work or writing it “correctly”, just let everything that needs to come out. Write until you have a beginning, a middle, and an end for your work.
- Perhaps a new character will appear in the story and change everything. Let it happen.
Step 2. Try to keep the artwork as small as possible
A work is literally a piece of a life, it is not a biography. While it may be tempting to want to skip ten years into the future or have the main character quit his job as a podiatrist and become an actor, a play is not the best medium for these kinds of seismic changes in a character.
Your work can end with a simple decision making or with a character confronting something they have never faced before. If the play ends with a person committing suicide or killing someone else, reconsider the ending
Step 3. Always look to the future
In early drafts, you probably wrote a lot of imprecise scenes without actually going anywhere. That's fine. Sometimes you need to get the character to have a long, awkward dinner conversation with his brother-in-law to figure out something that will give you a whole new perspective on the drama. Excellent! It means that you are doing well, but it does not necessarily mean that the entire dinner scene is important to the play.
- Avoid scenes where the character is alone. Nothing can happen in a scenario in which a character is alone in the bathroom looking in the mirror.
- Avoid doing too many preambles. If the podiatrist's parents are coming, don't delay with twenty pages. Make it happen as soon as possible to give yourself more material to work with. Make it simple for you.
Step 4. Find the voices of the characters
The characters will reveal themselves through their language. How they choose to say things is perhaps more important than what they actually say.
- When the podiatrist's daughter asks "What's wrong?" The way her father responds will tell the audience how to interpret the conflict. You may roll your eyes dramatically and sob saying "Everything!" and toss a stack of papers in the air to make your daughter laugh. But we actually know that there is something wrong that you downplay. We will look at the character differently than we would if he said something like "Nothing, go back to work."
- Don't allow your characters to express their internal conflicts. A character should never yell "I am just a man's shell since my wife left me!" or something that explicitly reveals your inner conflicts. Make him keep his secrets. You want his actions to speak for themselves rather than forcing him to explain himself to the audience.
Step 5. Review what you have written
What is the saying of the writer? "Don't include your personal preferences." You need to be a severe critic of your first drafts, which are often in disarray, to make them turn into the hard-hitting, realistic drama you want to write. Cut out unnecessary scenes, useless characters, and make the play as compact and fast as possible.
Go over your drafts with a pencil and circle all the moments that pause the drama, and underline those that make it progress. Get rid of everything that is circled. If you end up cutting off 90% of what you wrote, so be it. Fill in the blanks again with things that make the story progress
Step 6. Write as many drafts as necessary
There is no correct amount for drafts. Keep writing them until you feel like the play is done, until it is satisfactory for you, and until it meets your expectations for the story.
Save all versions of the draft so you can feel free to take risks and go back to the old version if you wish. Word files are small so it's worth doing
Part 3 of 3: Format your artwork
Step 1. Divide the plot into scenes or acts
An act is a mini play by itself and is made up of several scenes. An average play has 3 to 5 acts. Usually a scene will have a certain number of characters. If a new character is introduced or if one of them goes elsewhere, it means that you are going to move on to another scene.
- An act is difficult to distinguish. For example, the story of the podiatrist could end its first act with the arrival of the parents and the introduction of the main conflict. The second act could involve the development of said conflict, in which the scenes in which the parents argue with the podiatrist, the preparation of the Easter dinner and the attendance to the church are included. In act three, the podiatrist could reconcile with his father and take a look at his diseased foot. The end.
- The more experience you gain writing plays, the more you can think in terms of acts and scenes as you write your initial draft. However, don't worry about it at first. The format is much less important than doing the drama the right way.
Step 2. Include instructions for the scenario
Each scene should begin with instructions for the scenario in which you briefly describe the physical components of the scenario. Depending on your story, these instructions could be very elaborate or quite simple. This is your chance to influence the way the play will look in the end. If it is important to have a gun on the wall during the first act, put it there.
It also includes the character's instructions throughout the dialogue. Actors will take their own liberties with the dialogue and move as they wish or as the director directs, but it is helpful to have particularly important physical movements included throughout the dialogue. For example, it's probably important to direct a kiss, but don't overdo it. You do not need to describe the physical movements of a character every minute because the actors will ignore such prompts
Step 3. Label each character's dialogue
In a play, each character's dialogue is marked with their name in capital letters, tabulated at least about 4 inches (10 cm). Some playwrights will focus the dialogue, but that's up to you. You don't need to use quotes or other distinguishing features, just separate the language by including the character's name each time he speaks.
Step 4. Write the preliminary pages
This includes any prologues you would like to place in the play, a list of the characters with a brief description of them, any notes you would like to include about the staging or other guidelines, and possibly a brief summary or outline of the play in in case you plan to present it in theater competitions.
- You don't create the characters before writing the plot. As you write, you will know when it is necessary to place the characters and what they will need to do.
- Provide time between scenes for scenery changes and for actors to take their places.
- Don't worry about the names. You can change them later.
- If the show is not a comedy, watch out for the funny stuff. People get offended faster in shows that aren't comedies. If it's a comedy, you have a much wider range than you can tell. But do not do anything too bad, such as racist or sexist jokes, children who do not swear (that only happens in movies). You may be able to include a few religious jokes from time to time, although some people may take them seriously.
- You can write moments when the characters come home (the house is the audience). It's something you see a lot in musicals, although if you don't have to, don't go overboard with it.