Just asking, and I know that many of you are opposed to this notion, what playwriting guide would you recommend to a not-so beginning playwright? I've heard good things about "Backwards and Forwards" and "Story". Always looking to gain new insight on the craft.
I remember others having posted earlier on this site rebuking the idea that they had to be "taught" or instructed to write plays. Basically, asserting that playwriting is innate in the few and can be polished only in writing.
But I'll check out those books. Thanks. What about "The Playwright's Guidebook" by Stuart Spencer?
A rule says, "You must do it this way." A principle says, "This works...and has through all remembered time." The difference is crucial. Your work needn't be modelled after the well-made play; rather it must be well made within the principles that shape out art. Anxious, inexperienced writers obey rules. Rebellious, unschooled writers break rules. Artists master the form."
From Robert McKee's book and workshop, "Story."
Also, from Gore Vidal: "Don't worry about becoming a great writer. Just try to become a good writer."
Also, one of my mentor's once said, "Some writer's knew 10 books well and based their writing on learning those 10 books well. Others read thousands of books and were no better writers. you just have to know who you are."
David Cromer, the director who just won one of those MacArthur "Genius" grants said he based his entire career on Bennet Cerf's collection of twelve great plays.
One can either have a breadth of knowledge or a depth of knowledge; or one can have both. It makes no difference. If you want to know more, you will seek it. if you don't want to know more, you won't.
Add to the list Aristotle's "The Poetics." it is the grand parent of all.
I've read most of the books IMR suggests. I have over a dozen books on play writing on my shelf. Some of them are "cookbooks": Do "A" then do "B" then "C" and so on and you'll have a great play. Others are philosophical in approach, still others are collections of interviews with successful playwrights.
If there was a single "right" way to write a play, we'd need just one book. Every book on my shelf, presents a different approach to writing a play. Even where there is agreement between writers, there is seldom agreement on what to call it. Everyone seems to agree that plays are about conflict but there is less agreement on what that means.
That said, my all time favorite is "The Art and Craft of Play Writing" By Jeffrey Hatcher. His approach resonates with my approach to writing a play.
On your last post: You have to learn how to write a play - you have to understand how the various elements of a play come together to have a coherent story. (You can be taught to "Show not Tell" or you can write enough unsuccessful plays to discover that yourself.)
I think learning from others shortens the process.
Once you have learned the rules, you can break them to tell a specific story.
Creativity is different. I don't think creativity can be taught. It can be honed or sharpened but it is an individual skill. Some people are unbelievably creative, most are far less creative.