Sunday, September 7, 2014

How to write a play by Leanne Dyck

In 2014, I won the right to have my short play staged. Here I document the journey--including what I learned from this experience.

photos by Leanne Dyck

The MayneNews blog announced the Mayne Island Little Theater's Play Writing Contest 

Members of the community were invited to submit a one-act play with an island theme. Characters were limited to three and props were to be minimal. 

I didn't know what I could enter but I knew I had to find something. 

I'd just finished milking all the 'thriller' out of a thriller to transform it into a literary novella. So I thought I should be able to write a play.

With the deadline hanging over my head, I sat down to write something new but nothing was as good as that novella. 

The novella fit the criteria--it was set on an island. Could I transform it into a play? 

I searched the novella looking for the perfect part. It had to involve no more than three characters, have strong dialogue and action. 

I re-read the rules. Minimal to no props, I read. I took this information seriously and thought creatively. Chairs can be a ferry bench or a car. Gosh, you're brilliant, Leanne. 

But what was I going to do with all the internal dialogue. A friend pointed out that much can be conveyed by facial expressions and gestures. And I knew she was right. But I also knew that it wouldn't be enough for the type of internal drama I wanted to build. I can let my characters talk to the audience. And once again I told myself I was brilliant. 

My pen flew and soon I'd finished writing my play. Worried that I was too dazzled by my own brilliance I sought out feedback and brought the play to my writing group. Other members were working on submissions.  So we workshopped our plays. This resulted in one of the most enjoyable meetings we've had. I received lots of helpful feedback. My play was further strengthened when I shared it with my husband. 

"This doesn't make sense... What does this mean?... Why did you include this?..." He was very helpful--I'm not kidding, he was.

Feeling confident that I was sending my best work, I clicked send on July 24th (about three weeks before the deadline). 

Playwriting tips...

1)fall in love with the story

2)vital ingredients:  strong dialogue and action

3)if you are writing your play for a contest, closely follow the rules

4)once you've finished writing your play, gather feedback
-ask friends to dramatize it

5)two ways to convey internal dialogue on stage:  by letting your characters talk to the audience or through facial expressions. Pick what works for you.

Sharing my author journey...

What made this week special?

Tuesday evening I played Rock Band with my husband. The last son in our set was Viva La Vida by Coldplay. I love that song. Early (and I mean early) Wednesday morning I was inspired to write an approximately 200 words strong. I shared what I'd written with my husband. 

He said, "I like it (high praise from him) but I don't think it's complete."

My reaction, "Not complete. What do you mean it's not complete?" --predictable, right?

We played Rock Band, again, that evening--ending with Viva La Vida by Coldplay, because I can't get enough of a good thing.

Thursday morning I woke with the rest of the strong leaking out of my pen. The story is now approximately 500 words.

I can't wait to get my writers' group reaction and feedback.

**Pump in inspiration--pump out story**