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Emotionally Engage

If you think about plays you’ve enjoyed, that stay with you, and try and work out why they were memorable, the likelihood is that it’s because they were emotionally engaging. Good plays make us feel. They make us care about the characters, and they usually do so by putting the characters in compromising positions. The stakes need to be high, i.e. the characters must be making decisions which effect their lives in a major way. There’s a knock at the door. If your protagonist doesn’t answer, then what? Make the stakes high. It can’t just be that he’ll miss his amazon delivery…. unless the Amazon delivery is life saving drugs.

Let’s look at a bigger example. A play in which two teenagers falls in love in adverse circumstances, where they’re threatened with banishment if they stay together makes us care because the stakes are high. Loss is imminent. They must make a choice- stay together and lose their families or be apart forever. That is a good play. It is, of course, Romeo and Juliet. In contrast, a play in which two teenagers fall in love and no one objects, in which the biggest dramas are the usual trivial tiffs one might expect in real life, is not a memorable story. In simple terms, they are not risking enough. Of course, this is not to say plays ought to be full of life-threatening scenarios. However, they ought to grow towards a climax where we feel the characters lives will be changed fundamentally by the outcomes.

In this exercise, we look at how to ensure your characters have enough to battle against to give them an engaging journey, and to make sure the audience are drawn in to the story.

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Gas Ring – the game

A quick exercise to show the importance of writing high stakes for your characters when writing a play….

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The sounds of your world

Writing audio drama is about identifying significant sound. You need to identify and create the sound world that…

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It is all about the sound

Radio drama is all about the sound. Think sound before you think dialogue – the two are not…

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Exaggerate to accumulate

This is an exercise in what the comedian Stewart Lee calls “exaggerating for comic effect.” He was being…

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Drawing out the comedy

Somebody famously said that writing comedy is harder than writing drama because in comedy you have to do…

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Mark’s 3 top tips – Critical, forensic and persistent

Click on the video below to hear Mark’s top three writing tips…

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‘Heart’ words vs ‘Head’ words

As writers in English, we are in a uniquely privileged position, being able to choose between two languages…

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Head language and heart language

The short story, in its own kingdom between the novel and poetry, gets the best of both worlds….

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Valuing the ordinary in our poetry

My tip is to never underestimate the importance of the everyday. Root your poems in the reality of…

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Make the words work harder

Arm yourself with an action scene. That is, a block of writing that describes something physical going on….

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Write about things you don’t care about

Generally, when you sit down to write seriously you sit down to write something you really care about….

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