Tag Archives: script

What Writers Can Learn From Playwrights by Noah Baird

I was recently invited to sit in a local playwright group. They were working on an original comedic play, and asked me to help polish some of the humor. While sitting in was great fun; something occurred to me- all writers should sit with playwrights. Why? I’ll tell you why:

  • They make every scene count. Playwrights don’t have time to waste describing how the grass feels under a character’s toes. They get to the point.
  • It’s dialogue driven. While most of the dialogue comes in the form of monologues; the story moves along through characters speaking to each other. Because of this, they tend to have a great ear for how people speak.
  • The group includes actors. If you want to see how your dialogue flows, have the actors read it. Most are happy to help, and you get a sense of how a reader may interpret your words by hearing it spoken. I thought differently about the dialogue I had written after hearing how the actors said my words. I began to think of dialogue in lyrical terms- focusing not on just was said, but how it flowed.
  • They use visuals to describe the characters. Pat Bertram wrote a great blog on using color to symbolize and describe a character. Playwrights use costumes, gestures, tics, etc. to define their characters. They don’t have time to say how a character grew up in a conservative, middle-class background. They need to show those character attributes through dress and mannerisms.
  • They are aware of how the characters occupy space. I read an article once on how we should allow children to build forts because it helped them see how they fit in the world. They learned – sometimes the hard way – that they couldn’t use cardboard for the floor of their tree house, or that they couldn’t fit through a six inch hole. Playwrights also have to be aware of how each character fits into the scene. Characters aren’t just talking in the kitchen- they write where each character is in the room.
  • They aren’t afraid to let the audience tell the story. Mark Twain said “A successful book is not made of what is in it, but of what is left out of it”. In a one act play, the background and motivations cannot be developed enough to tell the story. It’s up to the audience to fill in the gaps.

Noah Baird is the author of Donations to Clarity, and has no intention of writing a play.

http://www.amazon.com/Donations-Clarity-Noah-Baird/dp/1935171445/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1311518859&sr=8-1/

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Staccato: Script vs Novel – by Deborah J Ledford

As I mentioned in a previous article to the series Staccato: Inception, the novel actually began as a screenplay. Staccato was the third script I wrote back in the ‘90s. After the visual of the hands hovering over a piano keyboard, clasped in handcuffs captured my attention (a rendition of what is now the cover of the book), I knew I had the basis for a great sub-plot. Motion picture scripts are ideal for my way of writing—captivating visuals, intriguing characters and most of all, dialogue, dialogue, dialogue.

Those of you versed in screenplays know that you cannot go into too much detail, especially how the characters react to situations because this is the actors job, and even the mention of “ticks” or body language is not to be implemented within the pages of the script. Your job as the screenwriter is to merely provide the locations, vaguely set up the characters, and give them lines of dialogue to propel the action.

Novels are another beast and the major reason I switched to writing novels. Composing full-length prose allow you the freedom to create the characters and scenes as they come to you. It is important to completely flesh out locations, especially setting the scene at the top for the reader so they can put themselves there. The way you the writer indicates body language is also acceptable and necessary to make the characters come to life.

Hidden clues are also much easier to show. For example, the mere foreshadow of a clothes hamper which will later contain a bloody shirt can prove to be a captivating visual. Images are more lasting and hard-hitting when used with finesse as well. If you thoroughly give the reader mouth-dropping images, they will remember your book, and look forward to your next.

Most of all, it is a must for the novelist to convey realistic, lasting characters. Characters the reader can connect to, those with heroic capabilities, as well as human flaws, rife with ticks, fears and foibles. The screenwriter must rely on performers, directors and editors to convey these elements.

The novelist has more “power,” if you will, to present the complete picture that comes to them, an ideal representation of their original concept.

I plan to re-write the original screenplay for my second novel in the Steven Hawk/Inola Walela series, Ice on Fire, but not before this manuscript is available in printed format—the fleshed-out, full blown, complete version of the “Movie in my mind.”

Deborah J Ledford is the author of the debut suspense thriller novel Staccato, now available from Second Wind Publishing, Amazon, Kindle, and independent book stores.

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