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Writing a Play

An Introduction to Writing a Script

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If you have a great imagination and you think you would enjoy telling stories through dialogue, physical interaction, and symbolism, you should really try your hand at writing scripts. It could be the beginning of a new hobby or career path!

There are several types of scripts, including scripts for dramatic plays, television shows, short films, and full-length movies.

This article provides a summary of the basic steps you can take to write your own dramatic play. At the basic level, the rules for writing and formatting are flexible; writing is, after all, an art!

Parts of a Play

There are certain elements you’ll want to include if you want to make your play interesting and professional. One important concept to understand is the difference between the story and the plot. This difference is not always so easy to understand, however.

Story pertains to the things that really happen; it is the chain of events that take place according to a time sequence. Some of the story is fluff—it’s the filler that makes the drama interesting and keeps it flowing.

Plot refers to the skeleton of the story: the chain of events that shows causality. What does that mean?

A famous writer named E. M. Forester once clarified a plot and its relationship to causality by explaining:

“'The king died and then the queen died' is a story. 'The king died and then the queen died of grief' is a plot. The time-sequence is preserved, but their sense of causality overshadows it."

Plot

The action and emotional ups and downs of a plot determine the plot type.

Plots have been classified in many ways, starting with the basic concept of comedies and tragedies used in ancient Greece. You can make up any type of plot, but a few examples might help you get started.

  • Episodic: Episodic plots involve episodes: several events are linked together with each event or “episode” containing a possible climax.
  • Rising Action: This plot contains a conflict, tension, and climax to resolve the conflict.
  • Quest: This type involves an adventurer who sets off on a journey and reaches a goal.
  • Transformation: In this variety of plot, a person changes character because of an experience.
  • Revenge or Justice: In a revenge story, a bad thing happens, but eventually everything works out evenly.

Exposition

The exposition is the part of the play (normally in the beginning) in which the writer “exposes” the background information that the audience needs to understand the story. It is an introduction to the setting and characters.

Dialogue

The dialogue of a play is the part that allows you to show your creativity. A play is carried along through conversations, called dialogue. Writing dialogue is a challenging task, but it is your chance to flaunt your artistic side.

Things to consider when writing dialogue are:

  • Habits or accents that provide insight to the character
  • Actions or behavior the character displays while talking

Conflict

Many plots involve a struggle to make things interesting. This struggle or conflict can be anything from a concept in one person’s head to a battle between characters. Struggle can exist between good and evil, between one character and another, or between a dog and a cat.

Complications

If your story is going to have a conflict, it should also have complications that make the conflict even more interesting.

For instance, a struggle between a dog and a cat can be complicated by the fact that the dog falls in love with the cat. Or the fact that the cat lives in the house and the dog lives outside.

Climax

The climax happens when the conflict is resolved in some way. It is the most exciting part of a play, but the journey toward a climax can be choppy. A play can have a mini-climax, a setback, and then a bigger, final climax.

If you decide you enjoy the experience of writing scripts, you can go on to explore the art in college through elective or even major courses. There you will learn advanced practices and proper formatting for submitting a play for production some day!

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