A Step-By-Step Guide to Play Writing


While prose and performs may also be each written and printed, there are a number of basic variations between them.

The play, at the beginning, is meant to be dramatized on a degree earlier than an target market, and in written shape is regarded as a “script” that gives the traces the actors will have to rehearse and memorize and the interactions the director will have to use to plot the total manufacturing.

Secondly, there may be little to no exposition, which is as a substitute changed by means of sparse, italicized directions, comparable to “Sarah choices up glass” and “beverages slowly.”

Thirdly, movements, interactions, and discussion totally elevate the play’s tale, theme, and message with none narration.

Fourthly, internal monologue, or ideas no longer articulated by means of the actors, can’t be expressed within the traditional-print manner. Instead, they will have to be portrayed via motion or in a different way demonstrated via expression and frame language.

Finally, what may also be completed on display and even on a web page in a unique can not essentially be duplicated on a theater’s degree, particularly if this is a small one in a local people.

“It’s onerous to flash again in a play,” wrote Stephen Dorf in his “Playwriting 101” weblog. “Movies and novels can soar round virtually without problems in time and position, however such transitions change into extra sophisticated within the theater, the place are living actors are functioning on a degree. Plays due to this fact continuously tackle a shorter time period.”


Although numerous brief tales, novels, memoirs, autobiographies, and inventive nonfiction books had been tailored into visually viewable films for each ordinary theater homes and tv, performs, whilst to begin with showing in written-script shape and browse, are basically meant to be carried out.

“There is an immediacy and energy about theater,” in keeping with Stephen Sossaman in his e book, “Writing Your First Play” (Prentice-Hall, 2001, p. 2). “Characters are embodied in residing human beings, no longer conjured up in a reader’s creativeness. Compare this to movie, which is an overly distancing artwork shape. The biggest methodology of movie (comparable to soar cuts and ranging digicam angles) range from our herbal belief. We settle for the conventions simple sufficient, and so can really feel higher emotion whilst gazing a movie, however the shape may be very emotionally distancing when compared with are living theater.”

Unlike different written genres, performs most often be offering no narrator, whether or not within the first, 2d, or 3rd individual, or within the type of the omniscient presence. Instead, what happens is the direct results of motion and discussion dramatized on degree.

“Theater essentially makes use of direct presentation, irrespective of whether or not the method is sensible or stylized,” Sossaman additional stresses (Ibid, p. 3).

Despite what can be thought to be a rote memorization of a play’s script, leading to a exactly duplicated efficiency each time it’s run, there are refined diversifications. Actors’ moods and emotional states exchange. On some days, they placed on a stellar efficiency, but on others only a skilled one. They reply to the invisible, but provide power of others within the solid and, to some extent, that within the target market. They now and again disregard traces or improvise. Script adjustments can happen on account of playwright, director, and actor enter. Performances are fleeting and perishable. Once the curtain is diminished, the play can by no means be precisely duplicated the following time.

While the playwright releases his script in what he considers entire, ultimate, and polished shape, the collaborative nature of administrators and actors in are living theater most often grow to be it right into a “residing” paintings that may exchange earlier than the primary efficiency has begun.

“Directors, designers, actors, and others can carry abilities and visions in your paintings that you need to no longer supply,” Sossaman issues out (ibid, p. 4). “If you do not settle for this concept now, you’ll when one among your performs is powerfully encircled by means of a tremendous actor, set dressmaker, or director.”


Although readers pick out up and put down books of any style in keeping with time, passion, consideration span, and interruption, carried out performs are chronic, concentrated, and condensed, leaving the ones within the target market to enjoy them from starting to finish, continuously best with a temporary intermission. Audience participants don’t have any “pause” or “opposite” buttons. Reading at house or at the educate to paintings within the morning may end up in a distracted enjoy. In a theater, the viewer is got rid of from his regimen international, the lighting fixtures are low, and his cell phone is grew to become off.

In order to conform a tale right into a script with the hope that it’s going to be produced, the playwright will have to imagine a number of components.

Scenes, at the beginning, will have to be of a decent period. Short and incessantly changed ones require degree set adjustments, which takes time and might create some distraction and disconnection from the portrayed actuality.

Difficult-to-dramatize movements, comparable to choreographed fist fights, automobile crashes, Civil War infantrymen on horseback, and exploding volcanoes, will have to secondly be have shyed away from, since few, if any theaters, would try to take on such scenes.

Finally, anything else that calls for the technical and/or digital equivalents utilized in films will have to be eradicated.

“Most theaters do not need the equipment, apparatus, price range, time, passion, or enjoy to supply the particular results theater discovered on Broadway,” Sossaman advises (ibid, p. 8).


Because of time and target market passion and a spotlight, maximum performs have two or, at maximum, 3 acts through which a number of scenes happen, run between 90 mins and two and a part hours, and have a unmarried intermission right through which beverages and snacks may also be bought with a view to generate incremental theater earnings.

Except for Sunday matinees and uncommon, mid-week ones, maximum performances happen within the night when actors and audiences alike are loose from ordinary paintings agenda constraints.

Theaters and spectators most often have no real interest in very brief, one-act performs, leaving the viewer lower than happy with their leisure stories and price ticket costs. Some venues steer clear of this potentiality both by means of rejecting such scripts or providing two or 3 one-act performs written by means of other authors right through the similar night.


The playwright can get ready himself in numerous small techniques earlier than he even puts his pen on paper for the primary time.

Vital to without equal human habits and motion game he makes an attempt via his script, he might, at the beginning, want to follow and know how and why other people do what they do. Because performs, greater than works of another style, entail are living, on-stage movements, the playwright will have to be capable to as it should be recreate them.

“As a playwright, you will have to be keenly observant of other people, perceptive about human psychology, and alert to the human situation, together with yours… ,” in keeping with Sossaman (Ibid, p. 12). “You will have to be aware of the techniques through which other people categorical and hide their ideas, their patterns of speech, (and) their techniques of interacting with every different in quite a few eventualities.”

Secondly, the playwright will have to learn, follow, and assess different performs. Learning and inspiration outcome from publicity to his meant craft.

Thirdly, he will have to make the leap and write his first draft. He will have to have little fear for ultimate perfection at this level. Instead, he will have to simply identify a basis upon which it may be constructed. There is not anything that s individual has created that he can not support.

In phrases of his first draft, James Thurber as soon as wrote, “Don’t get it proper. Get it written.”

Finally, he will have to revise no matter that written shape produced.


Whether the foundation of a play concept is inside or exterior, it will have to entail the characters who will dramatize the tale to which it led.

“Writing off the highest of (your) head now and again is excellent to seize a fleeting concept,” wrote Dorf (op. cit.) “But actual making plans and preparation paintings can save the author a large number of frustration and backpedaling at a later date. Outlining and breaking down the dramatic components of a tale are smartly definitely worth the effort. By enjoying contrasts and struggle to most impact, the playwright can stir the primal in us.”

As with maximum genres, performs contain a captivating, advanced protagonist whose movements and hindrances are both supported by means of allies or adverse by means of antagonists, as he turns into motivated to reach one thing. Interesting eventualities are dynamic, no longer static, and entail the conflicts created by means of others, instances, or non-public restrictions, comparable to inabilities, fears, or flaws. What the principle personality does or does no longer do will have to mirror his character and features and result in a climax and a answer unexpected or unpredicted.


Although performs, like works in maximum genres, may also be both plot- or character-driven, the latter is more practical and sensible, because it supplies an individual the readers and spectators can center of attention on and the series of occasions change into logical progressions of him based totally upon his possible choices.

“As you create your plot, it is the most important that you’ve your characters do what is of their natures to do… ,” in keeping with Kelly Boyer Saget, a contract author who lives west of Cleveland and has a keenness for giving voice to other people whose voices had been misplaced in time. “I beg you to create character-driven performs as a result of they have a tendency to be extra plausible.”

Plot-driven ones, however, won’t essentially coincide with the protagonist’s character strengths and weaknesses.

However, the 2 won’t essentially be mutually unique, since plot components surely spread on account of characters’ selections, but occasions, particularly the ones over which they have got no regulate, can form them and expose their inside conflicts and different character characteristics.

Two-dimensional characters may also be fleshed out and may also be perceived as “actual other people,” however working out what makes them tick and therefore motivates or hinders them might not be totally portrayed. Most other people have a number of dominant character characteristics and a couple of idiosyncrasies. The playwright and writer of another style, for that topic, will have to by no means lose sight of the truth that there by no means has been nor ever will probably be a “best” human being on the earth, since nobody is in a state of permanence or perfection in bodily shape on it. Therefore, looking to create one will lead to a false illustration no reader or target market spectator will ever imagine.

Characters, specifically dramatized ones on degree, are dropped at existence via movements, mannerisms, expressions, discussion, and interactions.

They will have to be advanced and those complexities will have to be deep-rooted in formative years, continuously present in dormant, however regularly printed scenes and thru their behaviors and attitudes. The true nature of an individual is maximum as it should be illustrated when he’s faced with a struggle, disaster, or adversity.

When characters first seem on degree, they achieve this best bodily. During the rest of the play, alternatively, their movements and discussion will have to expose what lurks at the back of their facades.

“Stereotypes don’t seem to be fascinating,” in keeping with Sossaman (op. cit., p. 23). “The distinctive is fascinating. The abnormal is fascinating. Uncommon mixtures of pursuits and concepts are fascinating. Combinations of strengths and weaknesses are fascinating. Contradictions and inconsistences, if believable, are fascinating.”


A play’s primary characters most often come with the protagonist and antagonist.

The first, the protagonist, may also be thought to be the principle or central character-the one round whom the tale revolves and the person who, via an inciting incident, units the play’s plot in movement and in the end ends up in its climax, answer, and conclusion.

The 2d, the antagonist, is the individual and even the instances that oppose him, offering hurdles and conflicts he will have to conquer to succeed in his purpose.

Since few occasions in actual existence happen in a vacuum, toughen characters in a play encompass those that are instrumental within the tale.


Since motivations gas a protagonist’s or even an antagonist’s movements, working out what they do is essential to making and illustrating unique, plausible other people. Integral to the previous’s quest towards a purpose is the burning query that initiates it.

“… You will have to perceive sufficient about your characters’ international to have a query you already know you wish to have to reply to,” wrote Kelly Boyer Saget (op. cit.). “Identifying that burning query is helping you keep on target as you write your play, serving as your guiding mild.”

In order to as it should be illustrate this dynamic, the playwright will have to be cognizant of a number of information.

Every personality has a significant motivation or goal.

Each may additionally have a number of minor ones. If an individual’s main goal is to force to paintings after a storm from snow, as an example, his minor ones might entail shoveling the driveway, clearing the windshield, and leaving early as a result of he anticipates larger visitors.

Characters won’t essentially totally perceive their motivations because the play’s plot unfolds.

Motivations may have greater than a unmarried stage or reason why, best essentially the most superficial one among that may be obvious to the nature. He might, as an example, cite the explanation at the back of his quest to reach excessive grades because the want to be authorised right into a prestigious college or reach a high-paying place, however his deeper motivation is also the vanity he seeks or the need to thrill and end up himself to the dad or mum who by no means praised or validated him right through his upbringing.


A plot may also be thought to be a play’s tale, subdivided into acts and scenes. It is the representation and demonstration of the characters’ adventure from curtain upward thrust to curtain fall, and includes their movements, discussion, interactions, or even songs and dances if the manufacturing is a musical. Like a sequence, the plot’s occasions are related by means of cause-and-effect, every trigger sparking a consequent or succeeding motion.

Plots themselves can comprise two components.

Suspense, the primary of those, helps to keep the audience , as they watch for the result. It accommodates obvious motion and discussion.

Emotion, the second one, might not be at once said, but it surely comes to the human situation components that gas and play out right through the plot’s series of occasions.

Because of time and passion, no longer all occasions are enacted. If a scene ends with an government in search of the next place inside of his corporate, as an example, the interview and efforts he undertakes to reach it don’t essentially need to be demonstrated. Instead, the following scene may contain a relative recradlling a phone receiver and pronouncing, “Martha, I’ve glorious information. That was once William. He was once simply authorised for the vice presidency place.”

“Oh, I’m so glad for him,” she may reply.


Several plot components, as possibly already alluded to, are integral to a play’s tale.

The inciting incident implies the motion or circumstance that shatters the stasis or establishment of the characters’ lives, developing a metamorphosis and a brand new purpose. It may also be thought to be the spark that ignites the tale and units the plot in movement.

The second the incident has befell, most often in the midst of the characters’ day by day, regimen lives, can be utilized because the play’s opening. Inciting incidents, which will have to be integral to the individual’s existence, are a lot of, together with the analysis of a deadly sickness or the firing from a role or the invention {that a} partner has been secretly concerned with any individual else.

The manufacturing’s dramatic query may also be thought to be the predicament that synopsizes the adventure, comparable to “Will docs treatment me in time in order that I will revel in my inheritance or will I die earlier than I obtain it?”

Tension, specifically in a drama, will have to frequently upward thrust, as one tournament ends up in any other, transferring the plot towards its answer and the solution to the dramatic query itself. Suspense will increase because the climax nears.

Circumstances, antagonists, delays, and sudden occasions, as happen in actual existence, create the headaches and hindrances that obstruct the dramatic query’s a success solution and function rigidity and suspense creators.

As the occasions achieve a fever pitch, so, too, does the play achieve its disaster. Will the dramatic query be responded and can the protagonist’s purpose be reached?

The climax marks the the most important second when the result is printed.

The denouement, or falling motion, follows the top of hysteria. The spectators unwind, their questions had been responded, they usually slowly emerge from the dream or alter-reality of the staged international, attaining answer, closure, and delight. The play’s ultimate line may also be specifically necessary whether it is resonant, since it will possibly depart the target market with one thing to contemplate, imagine, and remove, particularly whether it is related to their very own lives, comparable to “How necessary is luck when it is completed on the expense of others?”


Most fresh performs are subdivided into two acts, with an interspersed intermission. Shorter performs of, say, an hour in period, most often have just a unmarried one. While maximum adhere to the previous structure, the primary of the 2 acts is most often slightly longer than the second one of the 2 and will have to have, if in any respect conceivable, a logical level, and even subclimax, that precedes a brand new set of instances. Intermission is most often scheduled there.

“A brand new personality’s front straight away earlier than the tip of the act is helping stay your target market right through the intermission, as do this act’s ultimate traces… if they provide a marvel, a brand new construction, or any other new trigger of hysteria,” in keeping with Sossaman (op. cit., p. 42).


A scene most often coincides with a metamorphosis in time and/or position. The latter too can entail a suite exchange. Scenes, which can be integral components of the play’s total plot and may also be thought to be its important stepping stones, most often comprise the sides of the standard tale arc-that is, struggle, emerging motion, disaster, climax, and denouement.

Each main personality in every scene will have to have an goal towards which his discussion and movements lead.

In order to do away with useless sides and scale back the period of every one, alternatively, the playwright will have to start them at their the most important issues. Instead of getting characters inquire as to how they’re feeling and commenting that the elements “is getting slightly nippy,” as an example, they will have to soar into the problems, as in “Did you listen from the legal professional concerning the property?”


The playwright will have to supply data regarding the bodily components of his paintings, which theaters will use whether it is produced.

The set, after all, is the bodily location or places through which a play’s scenes happen. They can come with a front room, a cafe, a park, an place of work.

The props, comparable to furnishings and timber, are the weather required to recreate the scenes, however they may be able to additionally come with lights and costumes. The director will possibly take quite a lot of license in figuring out the optimal scene-applicable setting based totally upon availability, price range, and degree dimension.

“Stage places, (any other component), have other ranges of significance and tool,” in keeping with Sossaman. “For instance, the middle of the degree has extra power than upstage spaces.”

While the playwright will have to come with pertinent degree instructions, but any other side, the director will usually take the helm right here.


Dialogue, as in maximum different genres, serves a lot of functions in a play: it unearths personality, portrays temper or emotional state, demonstrates and adjustments in keeping with personality’s relationships to one another, supplies exposition, and foreshadows occasions.


Before the playwright captures his first phrase, nonetheless with an preliminary concept in thoughts, he will have to imagine whether or not the play it ends up in is relevant for degree manufacturing or if it could be extra appropriate to different genres, comparable to a brief tale or a unique.

In order to be suitable for a degree, it will have to be theatrical in nature or be offering some extent of human struggle between two or extra other people. It will have to moreover come with emotion to emphasise its dramatic component, in addition to containing a spectacle in order that its visually embracing components grip audience. Any concept or theme it makes an attempt to painting will have to discover some side of the human situation.

Some concepts or subject matters, regardless of good judgment on the contrary, don’t seem to be at all times understood by means of the playwright, however his sheer exploration of them via degree enactment and will make clear them.

“One of the nice pleasures of writing, serving to to make amends for its issue, is the enjoyment of discovery,” in keeping with Sossaman (Ibid, p. 76). “Writers uncover what they have got to mention by means of writing, no longer earlier than writing. For this reason why, you’ll almost certainly receive advantages maximum from writing about the most important topic that you have not fairly found out but.”


Ten steps may also be useful in making plans, plotting, and writing a play for a degree manufacturing.

1). Transform an concept right into a plot that may be reproduced on degree.

2). Be cognizant of the will for a struggle.

3). Choose a running or ultimate name.

4). Stories may also be transferred into plots by means of subdividing them into their main occasions.

5). Select a protagonist or primary personality.

6). Identify the dramatic question—that is, the query that the target market hopes to have responded by means of the tip of the play.

7). Determine the inciting incident that launches the plot.

8). Subdivide the plot into scenes and decide the only through which the disaster will happen.

9). Based upon the collection of scenes, decide the collection of units required.

10). Finally, write your first draft.


Unlike prose, which accommodates paragraph formatting, discussion encapsulated by means of citation marks, discussion tags, comparable to “John mentioned,” and expository writing, scripts for performs seem with capitalized names of the speaker targeted and positioned after skipped traces. A line will have to even be skipped between it and the discussion of the speaker to which it refers.

Director and different data, which seems in italics, is minimum intimately and no longer essentially in entire sentences.

Article Sources:

Dorf, Jonathan. “Playwriting 101.”

Sossaman, Stephen. “Writing Your First Play.” Saddle River, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 2001.