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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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Expressing the inexpressible

This exercise is very simple, but it’s an exercise that touches on both the material and language of…

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Writing the unspoken

quicken: to accelerate; to impart energy or liveliness to; to invigorate; to stimulate; to give life to; to…

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New environments for poetry

Many things can be said in literature using words, but they can also be said using other arts,…

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Placing poetry in natural spaces

Your exercise is to write and place your poem somewhere that will surprise and delight the reader, be…

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Write about things that deeply connect with you

In ‘Poetry in the Making’ Ted Hughes said: you write interestingly only about the things that genuinely interest…

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Write from experience

The musician Lou Reed (The Velvet Underground) said of his song, Heroin, ‘I wanted to write something that could…

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