Create a visual map of your play

Exercises / Comedy, Film & TV, Radio, Theatre / All, Editing

I like to use cue cards when I do this exercise as it’s more tactile. But it works just as well in a notebook or on the computer.

Go through each scene of your script. (Or if your script is all one scene, break it down into units for the purpose of the exercise.)

Write a sentence of prose for each scene, one per cue card. This should concisely tell you what is happening in that scene. It’s difficult, so don’t rush it. And make sure your sentences are ACTIVE. That they have drama in them. “Sue talks to Erin about the tree” isn’t dramatic. “Sue confronts Erin about cutting down her tree” is. If you’re really struggling with some scenes and what is actively happening, just put the scene number on the cue card and leave the sentence blank.

Now lay out your cue cards in a line – it should give you a visual map of your play.

What would happen if you took a card away? Would the script fail to make sense? This should be the case. Because if you can take away a cue card and the story and script hold up, then probably you should take it away. Or make its purpose clearer.

Are there cue cards that are almost identical? Are two scenes actually doing the same thing and serving the same purpose?

Where are the gaps? When you read through the sentences as a whole story, where does it feel like bits are missing? Probably this is where you might need to add a cue card – and a scene in redrafting.

For any scenes you left blank, what should be the sentence there when looking at the whole? Is this what the scene is already doing? Or is the reason you struggled to come up with a sentence because it’s not?

What happens if you move around cue cards?

For me, I do this exercise as it helps me to see the story structure underneath my script. The skeleton. And if I can’t communicate a scene in a sentence to myself, then how am I doing it in a whole scene?

As I go back through scenes to rewrite, I keep my cue cards close, making sure the scene I’m writing is feeding and nourishing that sentence.

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