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The Playwrights Forum > The Art & Craft of Writing > The Playwrights' Gym - Feedback > Ending an upbeat but serious play with a sad ending or no?

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Ending an upbeat but serious play with a sad ending or no?  Rate Topic 
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 Posted: Mon Jun 10th, 2013 07:10 am
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Clouddog
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Mana: 
if you were to go to the theatre and watch a story where
A Schizophrnic woman meets a guy a bit like Dr Who who can travel between realities
They go on an adventure - she ends up back in hospital - I'm going to write her going on a second adventure and then return to hospital for one last time for the climax conversation between the heroes
Then (option 1) the Demons come on and paint no exit on the doors

Then (option 2 ) we see a flash forward of happy home life between them and the demons spray NO ENTRY on the other side of the doors

Which ending would you prefer to see?

What messages come over with these two endings

sorry i feel like i am asking you to do all the work for me!

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 Posted: Mon Jun 10th, 2013 03:54 pm
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katoagogo
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Mana: 
Here's the thing that's tricky about creating drama - your main character has to be actively working toward a goal. A character that goes along for the ride is a passive character, and not a strong choice for a main character.

The character you describe seems to be going along for the ride rather than creating change herself. In the 10 pages that you posted she is passive as well. She talks to people who arrive easily and at the right moment. There is not much drama going on. Drama is action. Characters taking action. When it is a lot of talking about the backstory (also known as exposition or expository writing) that signals that nothing is actually happening. It seems more like you're carefully putting the pieces in place rather than starting the chess game.

Successful drama relies on beginning the action.The action is driven by your main character having a clear goal that she is striving to accomplish. Whether she succeeds or not is your plot, as well as designing obstacles that keep her from the goal.

Whether your story end happily (with goal achieved), unhappily (failure to reach goal), or somewhere in between (goal reached, but it's not what I thought it be) - is up to you and the needs of your story.

I just downloaded a book for Kindle a few weeks ago called
Story Engineering by Larry Brooks

Check it out. It's a very good beginner book on how to understand these principles. It's written for fiction writers, but it will translate well to playwriting. It takes a couple chapters to get started, but once he starts describing the 6 story principles it is very clear.

--kato

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 Posted: Tue Jun 11th, 2013 06:49 am
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Clouddog
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Mana: 
Hi
this is all true and valid - i read around and found Bella from Twilight is one of the best well known passive protagonists -- and she is a weak character
She does - at about 6000 words come in useful in a dramatic incident and helps the hero - her one love - this is essentially a love story which has a lot of scene setting - maybe too much because it leaves the audience at the moment thinking that there is not much going on with the love story angle so far into the play
her goal is to get a man - and i don't think this is unusually passive for a female
it may be dated - but this character would be unable to cope without a carer or good man as a husband - plus support from elsewhere
I wonder if seeing the character as disabled would help with the active / passive thing
if it were a physical disability rather than a mental one - the struggle would maybe be more obvious?
or is this totally missing the point?
the people she talks to who arrive easily are dramatised delusions - they are in her head

Last edited on Tue Jun 11th, 2013 06:51 am by Clouddog

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 Posted: Tue Jun 11th, 2013 01:39 pm
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katoagogo
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Mana: 
Here are a couple of things I found on the web that might help you out on the importance of and techniques for creating an active protagonist. None are specifically about playwriting, but these principles apply to any story built on dramatic action.

A video from a writing coach:
http://writersfunding.com/eric-elfman-the-importance-of-having-an-active-antagonist/#!prettyPhoto[]/0/

A screenwriter's perspective:
http://scripteach.com/?page_id=667

An essay from a woman taking a workshop and having the lightbulb moment go off for her about her passive heroines:
http://www.meaganspooner.com/the-pitfalls-of-passive-protagonists/

A simple checklist for creating an active protagonist:
http://thestorydepartment.com/checklist-active-protagonist/

Last edited on Tue Jun 11th, 2013 01:42 pm by katoagogo

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 Posted: Tue Jun 11th, 2013 01:58 pm
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katoagogo
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Mana: 
Take your lead from the new Doctor Who. One of the primary things that makes the series viable in a new century is how it has redesigned the companions. Starting with Rose, this revamped Doctor Who has made every companion an active companion. From the moment they choose to go with him they are active. None of them are just along for the ride, and none are passive victims.

I just saw the play WAR HORSE. Talk about a victimized character - that horse has no power in the system - and neither does the boy. And yet the play makes them begin with strong choices right from the get go. They commit to one another, and the boy vows to get his horse back after it is sold to the army.

You want giant odds stacked up against your heroine. That is a great beginning. How does your character negotiate, ignore, circumvent, blast through those giant odds stacked against her as she strives toward her goal? That's the drama. That's what you, the story teller, have to invent.

Last edited on Tue Jun 11th, 2013 01:58 pm by katoagogo

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 Posted: Tue Jun 11th, 2013 02:00 pm
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Clouddog
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Mana: 
Regarding the below points

1. The hero must have strong will power.

Will power does not help schizophrenics, they will be, if driven to anything by willpower, more at risk of more time in hospital. (In plot directed things not things like giving up smoking).

2. The hero should have a clear goal.

I need to make this play stand out as a love story more, I think it becomes evident too late - after the first 10 pages at the mo.
Love Is her goal, although this is stereotypically passive anyway for the woman

3. At least one character should state the goal explicitly .

Good point

4. The hero must not be forced but chooses to pursue the goal.

If the goal is love it's organic not forced

If the goal is to live well in the presence or absence of mental health problems

5. Once the goal is known, the hero should stay on the case.

She gets well, then deteriorates again, so maybe knocked off course in this case

6. The hero can only be distracted because of a new, stronger goal.

Delusions distract EVERYTHING

7. Keep showing us the hero really wants to achieve the goal.

She is confused enough not to be single minded about trapping this man

8. Make sure the obstacles in the way are significant.

Her ill health is HUGE. And the fantasy scifi of the play is her brand new to her as not many access this supernatural side to reality in the world of the play

9. Stay in the Hero’s point of view for as much as possible.

I do

10. If the hero seems passive, there must be a primal reason, e.g. fear of death e.g. fear of death.

If you have any suggestions to make schizophrenic psychosis a perceived
Threat of death ?
It is, my sister died because of it, my own life has frequently been put on hold as a risk to self or others
That's what it's really about

I will cut and paste the whole thing somewhere if that is appropriate and you are interested?

Thanks for your help

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 Posted: Tue Jun 11th, 2013 02:07 pm
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Clouddog
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Mana: 
I agree that there must be some kind of active choice she can make
do you want to see the rest (so far?)

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 Posted: Mon Jul 1st, 2013 09:12 pm
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Allan_West
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Mana: 
I have always challenged the whole notion that each play and each character has to live up to some defined template. Like each main character has to be THIS, or they have to do THIS, to make it a real drama. It's all about writing a good story, and having this story come alive on the stage.

For this question, on which ending to use, write both endings. Then read it, reread it, send it to friends, post it on here, and get feedback. With the feedback from either yourself or your audience, make a choice and go with it to the end. Make it so that, in the end, there is no other ending but the one you finished with.

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