How to Write a Script for a Play – Part 2
This is the 2nd part of the CWN series about how to write scripts for a play. Click here to go to the first Part of the CWN series. This is one of many pages on this site with creative writing advice and ideas. Also at the bottom part of the page, you will discover links related to pages about how you can write plays or write a screenplay.
Show the story in speech and action
” Silent tears come down Cinderella’s cheeks just as she removes a very long black hair from Prince Charming’s bedside. The thought of having committed murder burns through her mind just as she flings the hair into the fire. 2 years ago, she caught Prince Charming behind their barn with a maid, and he vowed that he isn’t going to stray again. She chooses to believe him then, but now, she will not be betrayed a 2nd time.”
Sure, but the theater audience can not see any of that.
What can they see? Cinderella leans close to the pillow, then moves to the fire and empties her hand.
* They cannot see the silent tear.
* They certainly cannot see the single strand of black hair.
* They do not know the memories or thoughts that are inside her head.
This is not a film, where cameras can zoom out/in. And also this is not a novel, where a narrator will describe the thoughts of the character or fill up background information (most players have narrators, but I do not advise the use of this option, which really looks old-fashioned).
Instead of the hair, we can have Cinderella find the nightgown of Petunia. Not very subtle, but, the audience will see it.
Or instead of weeping silently, we can have her summon her fairy godmother into her room and tell her about the strand of hair. By turning Cinderella’s thoughts and discovery into speech, we are letting the audience in on them.
As a play witter, your major tools are actions and speech (and by actions, I mean the ones that the audience can possibly see from where they are). Is our Prince Charming a nymphomaniac? Does Cinderella look like a ruthless social climber who’s going to trample on anyone that crosses her path? Think about the actions and words that you will reveal to the audience. Is Cinderella suspicious? Is Prince Charming planning to kill her? Reveal it with actions and words..
How to write a script – Pare it down
Should we include the stepsisters of Cinderella in the play? Or Bring in friends of the Prince? Or The royal army? Or Should we include a subplot with a neighboring kingdom attacking the palace?
Let us think twice before we get things complicated. Instead, we should try and simplify things.
If our play consist of many moving parts, it is going to be very hard for us, the play writer, to be able to successfully manage everything . Having many characters, scene changes and costume changes can make the play be more expensive and very difficult to produce.
How to write a script – Write and rewrite
Most writers take months, even years in developing their ideas, drafting notes, writing profiles of their characters, brainstorming. They always want to know where they are headed before they begin. Many others write as a form of exploring things, discovering their path as they go on. Once they have seen where they might end up, they begin a 2nd draft, and maybe many more drafts, revising it until they’ve gotten it right.
There is never a single writing approach that works for all. But here are some general advice:
* Watch and Read a lot of plays if you have an interest in writing them.
* Write consistently, even if you do not feel inspired. When you sit down in the morning at eight o’clock to write, sooner rather than later, you will get the inspiration. If you begin to wait for inspiration before you pick up your pen, you might have to wait for a very long time.
* Do not expect your 1st draft to be your final. Things never come out well on the first trial. So do not be scared of the blank piece of paper. Write down anything. Then return to improve on it. Reading your draft out loud will assist you to hear where the revision is needed. Are there areas that do not sound natural? Conversations that are too slow? Areas that will be hard for an actor/actress to pronounce or for the audience to comprehend?
If you have followed the 1st piece of advice and you have read lots of plays, that means, you now have a general idea of how scripts look. However, be aware that the format of published plays is a bit different from the formatting that you are going to use for your script. You will find a an in-depth guide to script formatting on playwright Jon Dorf’s site, Playwriting 101.
Or, utilize any free software formatter that you can find. Celtx can be used to format because it has a free editor, used to format stage play scripts. Note that it is set by default to international format, However, if you require American format, you can make changes through settings easily.