- Use stimuli such as music, photographs, a newspaper article, an object etc…to help you come up with the idea for a character or story.
- Start off by trying to write a stream of consciousness. With paper and pen (or computer) give yourself 15 minutes, and just write anything that comes into your head. Try not to censor or stop certain thoughts, just give your mind and pen freedom to wander. You may surprise yourself as to what you come up with. Some, or most of it, may not be of any use to you, however, you may find that you stumble across an idea, or a little nugget of inspiration that you could develop. This may be a good exercise to do each time you start writing, or even when you hit a brick wall and don’t know where you should go next.
- Listen to the way that people speak. Eaves-drop on conversations and note the differences in their voices and the way they speak e.g. accents; repetition; interruption; pauses; volume; vocabulary; what they say; what they don’t say; length of speeches etc… These ‘things’ are the tools that a playwright uses to create individual voices for their characters. It’s important that each character you create has a distinct voice.
- People watch. Whenever you are out and about observe other people, how they act and interact. Make notes, and attempt to write down an exchange you have witnessed, or think you may have witnessed, even though you couldn’t actually hear it. Think about them as characters and try to work out what their stories might be. Consider the 5 ‘w’s – who, what, where, when, and why? One of these characters, or situations just might provide the spring board for your play.
- Write a piece of dialogue between 2 characters, in which each character can only speak 3 words per line. The purpose of this exercise is to force you as a writer to focus on exactly what your characters want and are trying to say with each line of dialogue, and doesn’t allow for any rambling or exposing back story.
- Write a scene with 2 characters, in which the first character (A) wants a physical object from the second character (B), but B doesn’t want to give the object away. Create characters and decide why A wants the object and why B doesn’t want A to have it. Think about not only what they say, but what they don’t say, how they relate to each other physically, how they move etc…
- Re-write the above scene in a totally different location. What setting would raise the stakes for one of or both the characters? Could you switch from a private to a public setting or vice versa? Think about how this particular setting affects the dialogue, what is said and what is left unsaid, and the way the characters move /relate to each other.
- To develop a character, (or all the characters in your play), try to write a list of 50 things about them, without letting your pen leave the paper. You can write about anything, such as where they live, who with, what they like, what they dislike, what makes them angry, what they had for breakfast…absolutely anything. Try to let go of your imagination and write whatever comes into your head. You want to get to know them, and the world they inhabit, inside out and back-to-front.
- With a character you have developed, think about what it is that they want most in life. Think of a moment or event in their life when this ‘want’ is magnified for some reason – the stakes are heightened. What obstacles stand in their way (may be other people; something in themselves, such as fear; or a physical obstacle, such as being trapped in a room). Decide which other characters are in the scene and develop them (exercise above). What do they want? Write this scene.
- Once you have written a scene, read over it, or even better ask friends to read it out, and ask yourself the following questions: does the dialogue wander aimlessly, or is it driven by the characters need for something? Does the dialogue contain lots of back story? Are the characters believable as people? Do you think the scene will leave the audience wanting more? Answer as truthfully as possible and then re-draft as necessary. Be ruthless, even if it means cutting large chunks of writing you feel attached to.
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