Sunday, September 21, 2008

Playwriting

Yesterday I took a day-long play writing course at the local arts center, Writers & Books, from Paula Marchese. It was a lot of fun. She began by having us write a short scene between two characters, with two restrictions. First, no speech could be longer than four words. Second, the scene should start with "I'm here" and end with "It's not right."

I do a similar exercise (with fewer restrictions) when I teach fiction, but it's much different sitting on the other side of the desk! Stripped of the additional narrative tools available to the fiction writer (description, action, thoughts, exposition), I produced a scene but not one I particularly liked. The characters were clich├ęs (well, we did have only ten minutes). We then went on to cover other aspects of play writing that differ from fiction writing, including how to use the space on a stage. We discussed short scenes from A Streetcar Named Desire and Closer.

Several SF writers I know also write plays, many of which have been produced, including Jim Kelly, John Kessel, and Craig Delancey (I'm sure there are more). I'm not saying I want to do that. But the course was a fresh perspective on story telling, and that is always welcome.

3 comments:

Annie said...

Taking courses sometimes frustrates the teacher in me, but I usually enjoy the role reversal.

gdtownshende said...

I believe Orson Scott Card has written some plays and has had them produced, too. I seem to remember reading that somewhere... maybe in an About the Author in one of his books. I'm not sure.

One of the best books I've ever read on writing was a book by a playwright, THE ART OF DRAMATIC WRITING, by Lajos Egri. I found Raymond Hull's HOW TO WRITE A PLAY helpful, too, but nowhere near as much as Egri's. While many authors' books have done a lot to help my own writing, Egri's book stands at the top of the heap of the most recent books I've read. It helps also that I've an interest in writing plays, as well as fantasy fiction.

cd said...

Ted Kosmatka has done a full length that got a full production....