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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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Shall we dance, fight or both?

STEP 1:     Cut small squares of paper or card. Divide these into three stacks of up to…

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Walking around a scene

Whenever you write a scene it’s a good idea to rewrite it – perhaps in note form –…

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What if?

Start with a scenario – this might be a random picture, a very short scene from a novel,…

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