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 Posted: Mon Nov 22nd, 2010 04:00 pm
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Luana Krause
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Mana: 
Thank, Paddy. It's good to know what works for other writers.

Like you, I spend a lot of time (months) just thinking about the play and the story I want to tell. I find that drawing from my own life makes it so much easier than delving into areas where I'm totally clueless, especially regarding places and cultures that I'm not familiar with.

I've actually started the writing and it's coming along great because I know where I'm going. However, I'm open to change during the process. I'm finding that one of my supporting characters is trying to take over the play, tending to overshadow my main character. I need to make sure my main character has what she needs to carry the entire play.

Luana

 

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 Posted: Mon Nov 22nd, 2010 03:52 pm
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Paddy
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Mana: 
Luana.

I think whatever works for you - works for you.

I mull. Sometimes a couple of years. Don't write down a think, just think about it...characters, dialogue - things.

When the story spills, I write.

I tend, for a full length - to write the beginning, write the end, and then the middle. No notes. No outline.

Just what works.

Sometimes, I come up with really spiffy concepts, but still need structure and a thread. Thread takes me a while.

When I read your post - I thought - you're at the point when you need to remind yourself why you are telling the story at this moment.

Just my thoughts.

Paddy

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 Posted: Wed Nov 17th, 2010 08:42 pm
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JustGoWithIt
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Doug B wrote:
To me, plays are about journey's.  The journey that a character makes to achieve the goal forced upon them by the Inciting Incident. 

In the Inciting Incident the great bowling ball of fate starts down the alley and life for the protagonist can never return to what used to be.  In the Point of Attack, the protagonist realizes that the status quo has changed forever and he/she must search for a new status quo.  Conflict comes from the obstacles the protagonist must overcome to achieve the new status quo. 

For what it is worth, I think most plays start at the Point of Attack and include the Inciting Incident as exposition as the dialog progresses. In Night Mother, the Inciting Incident is the daughter's decision to kill herself.  The play begins when she is looking for the gun.

In a good play there are several obstacles to be overcome which all come to a head at the same time in the climax.  The protagonist must change to overcome these obstacles and that is the journey of the play.  I have read a lot of plays (and written more than a few) that don't have a great climax and they leave me (and I assume, the audience) unfulfilled.  End the play Night, Mother just before the daughter leaves the room at the end of the play or the Odd Couple just before Oscar and Felix have their big fight and the plays would leave you unsatisfied. 

The example I use in my play writing classes is: a woman has unprotected sex in the Inciting Incident, finds out she is pregnant in the Point of Attack and is faced with the father who wants her to have an abortion, her mother who wants a grandchild and her own value system as she decides what to do about the pregnancy. 

The protagonist doesn't have to be successful - Romeo and Juliette sure weren't.  But there was great conflict as they tried to overcome the obstacles. 

Enchanted April doesn't have a knock-'em-dead climax but it does have a wonderful set of mini-climaxes as each character completes their journey.  My favorite example is Rose's meltdown as she tells Lottie about the loss of her child.  It is this mini-climax that allows Rose to complete her journey.  Watching the women (and their husbands) change during the play leaves you feeling that the world is a better place at the end of the play. 

Just a few more random thoughts.

Doug


You've visited this site before, haven't you?

http://www.vcu.edu/arts/playwriting/seminar.html

Anyhow, Luana, if you want my thoughts, I have never outlined once for a scene, a play or anything, but it certainly helps to develop the characters and plot before you start writing. I knew how my first play was going to end way before I started actually writing. One of the benefits of having a short attention span. (laughs)

On the other hand, sometimes you can find a way to create new conflicts and plot points out of a situation you already have without even planning it beforehand. You'll see what I'm talking about when you get there.

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 Posted: Wed Nov 17th, 2010 05:54 pm
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Doug B
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Mana: 
To me, plays are about journey's.  The journey that a character makes to achieve the goal forced upon them by the Inciting Incident. 

In the Inciting Incident the great bowling ball of fate starts down the alley and life for the protagonist can never return to what used to be.  In the Point of Attack, the protagonist realizes that the status quo has changed forever and he/she must search for a new status quo.  Conflict comes from the obstacles the protagonist must overcome to achieve the new status quo. 

For what it is worth, I think most plays start at the Point of Attack and include the Inciting Incident as exposition as the dialog progresses. In Night Mother, the Inciting Incident is the daughter's decision to kill herself.  The play begins when she is looking for the gun.

In a good play there are several obstacles to be overcome which all come to a head at the same time in the climax.  The protagonist must change to overcome these obstacles and that is the journey of the play.  I have read a lot of plays (and written more than a few) that don't have a great climax and they leave me (and I assume, the audience) unfulfilled.  End the play Night, Mother just before the daughter leaves the room at the end of the play or the Odd Couple just before Oscar and Felix have their big fight and the plays would leave you unsatisfied. 

The example I use in my play writing classes is: a woman has unprotected sex in the Inciting Incident, finds out she is pregnant in the Point of Attack and is faced with the father who wants her to have an abortion, her mother who wants a grandchild and her own value system as she decides what to do about the pregnancy. 

The protagonist doesn't have to be successful - Romeo and Juliette sure weren't.  But there was great conflict as they tried to overcome the obstacles. 

Enchanted April doesn't have a knock-'em-dead climax but it does have a wonderful set of mini-climaxes as each character completes their journey.  My favorite example is Rose's meltdown as she tells Lottie about the loss of her child.  It is this mini-climax that allows Rose to complete her journey.  Watching the women (and their husbands) change during the play leaves you feeling that the world is a better place at the end of the play. 

Just a few more random thoughts.

Doug

Last edited on Wed Nov 17th, 2010 05:58 pm by Doug B

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 Posted: Wed Nov 17th, 2010 04:32 pm
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Luana Krause
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Mana: 
That's interesting, Doug.

Like you, my main problem is creating the dramatic conflict. I already have the characters, the story, how it should end...but it needs that tension to make it interesting. That's where I'm struggling right now. I think it's definitely worth the time and effort to get this figured out before actually writing the play.

I've been doing a bit of research, reading plays and looking specifically for the inciting incident in Act I and the climax. I've noticed that the conflict doesn't have to be a huge, earth-shattering thing. It can be as simple as two people sharing an apartment (Odd Couple) or whether a woman is going to commit suicide (Nght, Mother).

I'm writing a comedy and as a sketch writer, I have to be careful not to turn my play into a SNL sketch with wall to wall humor. I want it to be a thoughtful work with "real" humor that fits the characters and situations.

Luana

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 Posted: Wed Nov 17th, 2010 03:52 pm
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Doug B
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Mana: 
From what I have seen everyone has a different method.

I have not been able to make the transition from short plays to full length - not for lack of trying.  I have tried to wing it, I have tried outlining - both big picture and extremely detailed.  I have tried to stitch several ten minute and one act plays together.  None of it has resulted in a good play.

A couple of years ago, I was part of a discussion group with playwright David Grimm.  He just starts writing dialog.  When he gets somewhere past 300 pages, he reads what he wrote and hopefully finds a nugget that interests him and he writes another 300 pages based on the nugget found and repeats the process until he has something he likes.

I know another playwright who spends weeks or months developing a group of characters complete with detailed bio's and back stories.  His written character studies are works of art.  He then populates his play with these characters to examine some issue (often from his life) and turns them loose.

When I start a play, it is because I have a story I want to tell.  I do well at telling the story but my plays start, run and end with out the climax that makes a play riveting.  Right now I am struggling with a story I want to tell but can't for the life of me come up with a great climax that would make for compelling theater.

What I consider my "best" full length play started as a ten minute play.  When I finished it, I realized that there was more to the story to tell so I wrote a second scene which left even more story to tell.  By the time I had told the story, it was a full length play with eight scenes that ran about two hours.   The scenes were not written in chronological order.  Sometimes I had to go back to existing scenes and change them for the facts discovered in the new scene.  When I was done telling the story, I edited it down to six scenes, eliminated two characters and cut the running time to about 90 minutes.  I told the story I wanted to tell but I agree with my critics that it just starts, runs (predictably, they say) and stops without any great changes to the characters.  I have tried for two years to "fix" it but it tells the story I wanted to tell and I don't seem able to make significant changes to it.

Just my thoughts

Doug

Last edited on Wed Nov 17th, 2010 03:53 pm by Doug B

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 Posted: Wed Nov 17th, 2010 12:39 pm
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Luana Krause
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Mana: 
I'm writing my first full-length and I'm noticing that, for me, the creative process for writing a larger work is much different than for short plays.

I'm discovering that before I even start the play,  I need to write a brief synopsis so I know exactly what the play is about - the characters, plot, dramatic conflict, climax and resolution. I need to have each Act and scene established before I put anything on paper.

Do you think this is too confining? I tried just writing to see what happened but I lost focus and had no idea where I was going. Is there a perfect balance between preparation and just letting go?

So my question is: what is your creative process in writing a full-length play?

Luana

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