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What Are the Best Tips for a Playwright?

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  • Written By: Sheri Cyprus
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 20 August 2016
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A playwright should always keep in mind the highly visual aspect of his or her medium. Dialog is important, but without interesting action on the stage, an audience can end up being bored. One of the best tips that beginning playwrights should remember is to concentrate on being a good writer, not a director. Studying successful plays in script form is an essential tip for a playwright to learn to improve his or her craft. It's also crucial to be able to create plays of the length desired by a certain theater or festival.

Playwrights should practice writing in different lengths and formats, such as one- or three-act versions as well as those with or without a break for intermission. Ten-minute plays are popular in some festivals, while a theater may require productions of one and a half hours. Typically, a one-act play runs less than an hour, but in all cases, a playwright should follow the times set by a particular venue.

Aspiring playwrights should see plays regularly as well as study scripts. Learning how something written in a script transfers to the stage is a skill new playwrights may easily overlook, yet it can make the difference between being successful in the profession or being considered mediocre. When viewing and reading plays, playwrights should examine both what they think works and what doesn't.

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Being original is crucial for a playwright to get noticed in a good way. He or she should have something to say that is fresh and distinct from other playwrights' works. When trying to accomplish this, it's necessary to still produce an acceptable script format that doesn't give excess direction. For instance, it's the director's job to instruct actors on what emotions the characters should be feeling and how these should be portrayed in detail, but the writer can and should note the tone of lines within a dialog or action such as to say, "Maria: (annoyed) "Well, just go then!" (slams door).

Mentioning actions in the script, such as slamming a door or an actor moving from one room to the next, is key for playwrights to add in the form of stage directions, but these should not be in detail. A playwright should always "show" rather than "tell" wherever possible, while at the same time providing strong dialog that is realistic for each character. The cost factor as to the necessary stage sets should be in the playwright's mind while he or she is writing, but the idea of a visual spectacle of compelling action is still what must drive a successful playwright.

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