Top 15 Tips to Write a Kick-Ass Play

As I mentioned in my blog a little while ago, I am currently writing a play. I’m trying my best to set aside some time every Tuesday evening to meet up with a group of other writer friends to write and share ideas. It’s a really great way to stay motivated and also hang out with like-minded creatives 🙂

This week I asked the group for playwriting tips to share on this blog. Personally, something I found quite useful this week was to write a stream of consciousness; I ended up writing a bit of a back story for one of my characters. It’s definitely worth giving it a go.

Anyway, thanks to Amy Bethan Evans, Ross Willis, Grace Mitchell and Troy Baker for your advice. Here are their top tips:

  1. Someone will at some point have had the same idea as you. That doesn’t mean they’ve written the same play. 
  2. As the writer, if you think a line is funny, it probably isn’t. The funniest lines are usually written because they’re true. 
  3. Listen to your characters, let them tell you how they feel. 
  4. Don’t get it right, get it written – (one of my favourite quotes ever from Ross) 
  5. Always ask yourself what your unique perspective on the subject matter is. 
  6. Are you your characters truly reflecting the world we live in terms of diversity? This also includes sexuality, people with disabilities, class, etc. 
  7. Write what you’re embarrassed about. Write what you’re scared about. Write what you’re angry about. Write what you care about and will still care about three years later because plays / films take a LONG time to get made. 
  8. There’s rarely such thing as a ‘big break’ in writing , every meeting you take, every script you finish will move your career on. 
  9. Always ask: “Have I picked the most interesting way to tell this story?” 
  10. Goal and Complication = Conflict. Whether that be external conflict, internal conflict or interactional conflict, one or more of these drives all stories. 
  11. The first draft of the first thing you write probably won’t be that good. No-one is a genius. The only thing you can do is keep writing, keep drafting and listen to people you trust IN WRITING. These will be different from the people you trust with your darkest secrets. Have courage. Send things to people. Ask people. Annoy people. Apply to things you don’t think you’ve got a hope in hell of getting. Make a nuisance of yourself, but be kind. Be receptive. Appreciate opportunities people give you. Don’t be afraid to say no if it doesn’t feel right. Don’t disown the writer you used to be. 
  12. READ PLAYS/ MUSICALS – Study the ones you love and work out their mechanics. Focus on their form and why they’ve chosen that technique to tell that story. Always pay attention to how they have presented time and space.
  13. ALWAYS be able to answer these.
    This is a story of…
    The story begins when…
    The story ends when…
    The protagonist is…
    At the beginning of the story they want…
    At the end of the story they have achieved/failed/realised…
    They have changed because…
  14. There is no such thing as “in the moment” – if you want to write, write! Even if you don’t feel like it. It’s hard, but you’ll thank yourself later instead of sitting around waiting for “inspiration”. 
  15. And most importantly HAVE PATIENCE. Don’t expect anything to be instant. Just when you think you’re ready for something big, there’s always a bit more work to do just around the corner. Do it. 

I don’t know about you, but this list makes me feel so inspired. Thanks again to my lovely contributors, you keep my hopes up and my keyboard tapping.

For more inspiration and theatrical musings, please follow my Twitter! @tesshenderson94