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Make sure everything you write is focused on
the story you’re telling
Ask yourself whether every scene and every
section of dialogue is essential and be prepared to cut anything that’s getting in the way of the story.
Characters need to be clearly defined and well developed
What drives them? How do they speak? Why are
we interested in them? They each ought to have a distinctive voice – their lines shouldn’t be inter-changeable.
Don’t write too much
In a play, less is usually more – it often takes
longer than you think for dialogue to be read out loud and if you write too much an audience will get bored. Also remember that your words will be acted, not just read, so not everything needs to be stated
Think about the kind of cast you are writing for
Is your play suitable for them? If you want your script to have widespread appeal it will need to
be approachable by less experienced actors.
Have realistic expectations about what can
If you write a play requiring a cast of 100 and a huge set it’s unlikely to be performed very often! The more flexible your expectations, the more easily your play will adapt to the needs of a company.
Don’t overstate any message you may have in mind
Treat your audience as intelligent – meaning is always more powerful when people are allowed to
work it out for themselves.
Avoid faux-Bible language and dialogue that is too 'literary' in style
Listen to the way people speak in real conversations and try to imitate the same style in the way your characters speak. Real people don’t often use complex and lengthy sentences full of long words.
Try it out
Get some friends together to read or act through scenes so you can get a better idea of how what you’re writing works – it’s often very different in practice than it is in your head!
Don’t tell the actor how to act or the director
how to direct
Playwrights limit their stage directions to those which are absolutely essential, whether aimed at the cast or the crew. If your stage directions are long and wordy you’re probably writing too much.
Make sure your script is well-formatted and clear
Lines of dialogue should be indented and double spaced, stage directions distinguished with italics. Don’t make up your own complicated system – if in doubt, look at a published play and do exactly the same. Simplicity and clarity are vital for anyone using what you’ve written.
Never written a play before but always wanted to? In this video, James Lark gives you five writing tips that cover script layout as well as the dos and don’ts when “telling the story”.
Whether your play is biblical or contemporary, you need to get the background right. In this video, Sean Lang tells us that "all drama is period drama" and demonstrates how to use character and dialogue when dramatising a story set in the past.