Dramaquill's All Things Writing

April 29, 2011

Your play: published or produced?

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As the resident playwright for Slightly off Broadway triple threat studio, I create 6-8 new scripts every school year.  There was a time when I believed that I really hadn’t done justice to my plays unless I managed to get them published or in an anthology collection.

As the years went by, I realized that the greatest pleasure I get from writing my plays and musicals is watching them unfold during the rehearsal process and then seeing the final product up on the stage during the performances.  After all, plays are meant to be seen and heard, not just read.  This is what makes plays different from all other forms of fiction writing.

I know several playwrights who have developed their own publishing companies solely for the purpose of self-publishing their plays.  That way, they don’t have to share royalties when they sell copies to schools and drama clubs. 

Over the years I’ve ordered sample copies of plays from several different publishers.  Some produce a fine product but many others create an amateur looking cardstock cover folded over and stapled to the printed sheets.  I can make copies that look better by doing it myself.  Also, if I have them published with someone else, then I have to share revenue on each sale.  So I understand why so many playwrights choose to create their own company and their own product.

But for me, publication isn’t the forerunner for my plays.  It’s the productions that I crave.  Besides the Slightly off Broadway performances, I have sold copies of my plays to school drama clubs and organizers of summer drama camps.  Knowing that something I have created can be shared with performers and audiences all over the globe is far more satisfying to me than having my play listed in a catalogue.  That’s not to say I wouldn’t love to be listed with the likes of someone like Samuel French – who wouldn’t? 

So how do I get the word out that I have plays available?

I advertise on the Slightly off Broadway website.  I read ezines and forums that pertain to playwriting.  I talk to teachers who are looking for new material.  I do my own networking.

Am I getting rich selling copies of my plays for productions?

Nope.

Am I satisfied knowing that every single one I have written to date has had at least one production?

Absolutely.

Publication or Production…you decide.

http://www.slightlyoffbroadway.com

http://www.samuelfrench.com

http://www.stageplays.com

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April 18, 2011

How writing plays helps me write better dialogue

 
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I’ve been writing plays for kids and teens to perform for about fifteen years now.  Usually, in a typical school year, I write between six and eight new one act playscripts. 

The most enjoyable aspect of being a playwright for a drama department is that not only do I get to write plays and then within a couple of months, see them come to life on the stage, but I also get to work with a wide variety of individuals between the ages of four and eighteen.

Being around such a diverse age group offers up a variety of personalities and also allows me to observe children at so many different stages of development.  Watching the children use their imaginations to create the many types of characters found within my plays inspires me to continue to find new ways to allow them to develop and grow their own creativity.

If one considers that plays are basically made up of dialogue coupled with physical actions performed by different characters, it’s no wonder I can hear the voices of my novel characters speaking as if they were indeed real people.  I attribute this ability to write dialogue that sounds like real people to my playwriting.  Without characters delivering believable dialogue, a play is doomed.  But that goes without saying for novels and short stories, too.

How do I approach writing dialogue?

I also listen to real individuals and try to find something unique about the way they speak.  I’m sure you have friends and colleagues that are known for certain expressions or ways of saying something that immediately differentiates them from others that you know.

I try to hear my characters speaking as real people when I’m writing their dialogue.  What is that particular character’s distinct way of speaking?

Some of the things I’ve found are:

  • expressions/slang
  • sentence length
  • level of intelligence and word usage
  • speed of delivery
  • body language/animated movements
  • an accent
  • specific words that they use frequently
  • vocal tone

Sometimes, I even start developing a new character by writing a sort of monologue first, in that character’s voice.  For example, when I created my villain in my first suspense novel, I wrote an opening speech (BTW, this was an exercise only and never actually made it into the book) letting him vent about his situation.  Just listening to him in my head helped me see a physical being whose details only began to take shape after I’d written this monologue in his voice.

Do you have to write plays to write good dialogue?

NO – of course not!

But it my case, it certainly helped me become a more observant listener and it definitely strengthened my ability to write dialogue.

If you don’t have access to a lot of different people, go and sit in a coffee shop with a newspaper and just listen to the conversations of the people around you or head to the mall’s food court to have a listen. 

Remember – real people rarely worry about speaking in gramatically correct sentences.

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