What is a play?

How is it different from other kinds of expository writing (stories, essays, poetry)?

  • The purpose of prose fiction is to write for the page in such a powerful, inventive way that you start up a play in the reader’s brain.
  • The purpose of a play is to create a live event which takes place before an audience.
The playwright’s principal tools are dialogue, plot, character, setting, and stage directions.
  • Setting: This is the time and place where an action occurs. Where do you hang out?
  • Character: Who is the most interesting character that you know?
  • Dialogue: In plays dialogue is what people do to each other.  It is the playwright's method of exploring human behavior.
Exercise #1 Two Line Plays
  • Think of some bit of dialogue that someone typically says which best expresses his or her character
  • Then respond to it uniquely, not in some standard way- truly and in opposition.

The Engine of a Play:

  • There is really only one rule to follow in writing a play: be interesting!
  • Remember that plays take place on days that are different from any other day. They happen on the day that something happens which has been building for a long time.
  • Plays turn up the heat on everyday life. Conflict is at the center of all drama. Characters want things; they have needs and objectives: a good night’s sleep, the love of somebody, new shoes. Conflict occurs when obstacles get in the way of the character achieving what he or she wants.
  • Character: You have to know a lot about your characters: their biography, traits, manners of speaking, their ways. You also have to know what they want.
  • Objective: Plays are made from the spectacle of characters struggling to get what they want. They have to want something and want it badly.
  • Conflict: Something has to block that desire; an obstacle creates conflict. The obstacle gets in the way of the character getting what he or she wants. Dram is built on conflict.