Playwriting

The Six Elements of Aristotle

Aristotle wrote in his Poetics his theory of drama. It is still a major part of looking at what is essential in drama throughout history. They are held in various levels of importance. They Include:

Action or Plot: Plot is the order of events that tell the story of the play.

   Actions are things characters do that move the plot forward. Good.

   Activities are things the character does that keeps them busy. Not as productive.

   Plots move the story forward while subplots lead away from the main action of the play. You need to make sure that those subplots do not draw too much from the focus on the main plot. Don't take too many steps away from the plot. Subplots offer a step away, but they draw the story forward with its own actions towards its own miniature climax and conclusion. It also should provide a connection and relevance to the main plot.

   The main type of plot is the standard plot triangle, though reverse plot, circular plots, flashback plots, and other non-standard formats do exist.

Character: All your characters must compel the audiences attention, they can't be dull. Anyone can be compelling, it depends on what they do. They have the greatest needs, the problems, and the potential. Do they interest you? If not, why should they anyone else? Characters are defined by what they want, when the wants of different characters are in opposition, you have conflict.

    Character Goals

       Concrete goals are better that abstract goals.

       Positive goals are better than negative goals.

       Active goals are better than reactive goals.

   Characters should be likable, does not mean they have to be nice.

   Characters are defined

      What a character says about themself

      What other characters say about them

      What the character does

   Character needs

      Strong goals

      Difficult Obstacles

      Talents and opportunity

Thought or Ideas: Now often considered the theme. It has to be something that people will care about, not just you. But you do need to care about it.

Language, Diction or Verbal Expression: Be mindful of how people talk. The use of slang, accents, dialects, vocabulary, speech patterns, and other factors all play into how the character is perceived.

   Monologue: When one person speaks for an extended period of time.

   Dialogue: When two or more people are talking

   All dialogue must be both expressive and economical.

Music or Song: This element also deals with sound and silence. The world is a crazy place and the use of music, song, or sound can help draw in the audiences attention. Not just for musicals.

Spectacle, Image, or Visual Adornment: Things that make the audience go "WOW".

   Stage combat

   Elaborate sets or costumes

   Innovations to theatre

   Unorthodox ideas

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Major Questions to Start With

Drama and Story

Drama and theatre are not truly interchangeable. Drama is characters in conflict and in action while Theatre is the place it happens and the audience sensing the action. Actions must come together to create a story, one action causes another, and so on to create. Stories happen, plots are cause and effect.

Drama vs. Theater

Drama and theatre are linked but not the same thing. Drama helps us look for a deeper connection to human nature.

Suspense and Plausibility

Suspense is the audience having questions. What's going to happen next? Who is that? What do they want. All characters must compel the audience's attention. All major questions must have high stakes. You must provide answers for your audience or you  run the risk of making the audience upset. Suspense must be believable as well though. Shock and awe with the big twist can often backfire (think M. Night Shamylan.) Make sure the stakes are high, questions important and outcomes believable.

Space time and Causality

SPACE refers to the rooms, landscapes, and settings of the play. It also can refer the space you are in. You as the writer can define how the space is defined. It can be done:

   Realistically: A full set

   One or two suggestive elements: A couple elements that help lead to belief of the space

   One Scenic Element: Something that can suggest the space

   One Hand Prop: Something an actor carries

   By costume only: Costume can suggest the set

   Dialogue only: By simply adding in dialogue that suggests the space.

   (The director may choose to change much of how space is presented)

TIME: Refers to the length of the play and the length of the plot.

The three unities (from Greek and Neoclassical drama.) These are helpful but not always applicable in modern drama.

      Unity of place: Everything happens in one place

      Unity of action: Everything is focused on one main plot

      Unity of time: all the events take place in a single time period (no skipping around)

   Try to avoid pauses on stage. Someone should be engaged in advancing the plot at all times.

CAUSALITY: Why do things happen? Look strongly at the idea of cause and effect.  Be a kid again and don't be afraid to ask why.

Playwriting v Screenwriting

Playwriting

Fewer, extended scenes.

Setting is often described extensively in the stage directions.

Language and character more important than the visual spectacle.

Screenwriting

More of a visual medium

Higher number of scenes

More fast paced

Playwriting Resources

Books

The Art and Craft of Playwriting by Jeffrey Hatcher

The Playwright's Guidebook by Stuart Spencer

The Dramatic Writer's Companion by Will Dunne

Playwrights Teach Playwriting by Various Authors

The Playwright's Workout by Various Authors

Zen and the Art of Screenwriting by William Frougt

Playwriting Standards

Playwriting 1

1.0  To reinforce and apply the steps in the writing process.

2.0  To formulate well-developed and coherent ideas in the script form.

3.0  To demonstrate understanding and tolerance for the ideas of diversity by responding to a wide variety of scripts.

4.0  To develop writing skills as they apply to script writing: play form or film form.

5.0  To explore the universal development of modern drama and film.

6.0  To extend expression through the playwriting process.

7.0  To judge the validity of literary works utilizing critical thinking skills.

8.0  To create characters and develop relationships among them in the script form.

9.0 To assess the impact of film and drama as literary experience.

10.0  To recognize the career possibilities of script writing.

11.0  To apply artistic discipline in collaboration with others.

12.0 To recognize what playwrights seek to convey and how this is intensified through theatrical production.

 

Playwriting 2

1.0 To continue application of the steps in the writing process.
2.0 To develop believable characters within the structure of the play script or screenplay.
3.0 To explore and write within diverse themes.
4.0 To demonstrate understanding and tolerance for the ideas of diversity by responding to a wide variety of scripts.
5.0 To further develop writing skills as they apply to script writing, whether in play form or film form.
6.0 To explore the universal development of modern drama and film.
7.0 To extend expression through the playwriting process.
8.0 To judge the validity of literary works utilizing critical thinking skills.
9.0 To create varied characters and develop relationships between them in the script from.
10.0 To assess the impact of film and drama as a literary experience.
11.0 To recognize and explore the career possibilities of script writing.
12.0 To apply artistic discipline in collaboration with others.
13.0 To recognize what playwrights seek to convey and how this is intensified through theatrical production.
14.0  To express original ideas through production of their own work.