Wednesday, November 7, 2012

On Writing Plays for Writing Exercises

So, this is a short post, because I am super-duper-extra-busy.

Why am I super-duper-extra-busy, you ask? Because my mother said if I get the laundry room sorted out (seriously, it looks like some sort of cloth bomb went off in there), if I take out the trash, do the dishes, and clean the litterboxes... THEN she'll take me to Barnes and Noble and buy me TWO BOOKS.

You know you're an avid reader when you're so psyched to get two books that you'll do that list of chores.

But this was not the point of my post. I meant to talk to you about plays. In my creative writing class today (I have it as a school elective, in-case-you-didn't-know), we're starting plays, to "branch out from regular fiction." That's not even something my teacher said. That's what I percieved from this particular class.

We're supposed to write a one-act play, on anything we so desire to write about. How does this relate to us novel-writers?

It turns out that writing a play is harder than it seems. Especially me, since I've read about one play in the entirity of my life: The Crucible.* There is generally no narrative, no pages-and-pages to spread your creative description and dialogue and character-building (oh my!). In this case, we have 20 pages of a one-act story to fill out. The. Entire. Story.

With plays, most of it is told through dialogue and those little italicized stage directions. The setting, the character-fleshing-out, the tension and conflict and whatever else you want to throw into the mix. This is a pretty excellent way to spread your creative roots.

Think of a tree - it needs to spread its roots over lots of area; in the same way, you need to spread your creativity over a lot of different types of literature. Including plays. And it is a decent way to develop the acquired skill of showing, not telling.

Those stage directions are a lot of work, but they show most of the tension. And not those crazy symbols you place in the setting ("the curtains are blue, indicating his sadness!"), but the actions of the characters. Frowning, leaning forward, that sort of thing.

It also has a small cast of characters. At least the one-act play does. This provides a chance to really know and develop small groups of people. Which is a helpful tool in any writer's toolbox, in my opinion.

Movies are kind of the same thing, but this one-act play doesn't switch scenes so often. In plays, you don't have months and a camera; people are performing it live. So you really need to make it all count.

So, instead of writing short stories or a short spiff for exercising your creative muscle, maybe try a one-act play. Who knows, it might help novel-writing more than you think.

How about you? What do you think of plays? Have a blessed Wednesday!

*I recommend reading the Crucible, if you never have. I thought that play was hilarious. They were all running around screaming, "WITCH!! :O" The paperwork I did on it for English class wasn't so funny, though.

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