For those coming in late: Diary of a Play #1: Script’s Just Got Real
So, this play thing.
It won’t write itself.
I’ve tried, it doesn’t.
The muse visits infrequently, fleetingly, in a hurry to get somewhere else.
By the time you make the tea, find some biscuits, and settle on the couch, it has naffed off, leaving just crumbs.
Eventually, the time comes to forcibly expend energy on a writing project.
Up till now, that time has consistently been “Meh, tomorrow”. However, May approaches, and I committed to having something in shape for a read-through. Requests to see evidence are arriving, with only gentle passive aggression – so far. Tomorrows are running out.
The story so far …
Five People Walk Into a Bar
The play has five characters, each with their own journey, sometimes intersecting, and hopefully resolving in satisfying fashion.
Equal time for five fleshed out people means quite a checklist of backstory, goals, obstacles, climax, and resolution.
Hopefully with some laughs.
Quick Setting Glue
I won’t go into the premise just yet, as every diary needs some mystery.
But the setting gives the characters common motive to be there, without need for Agatha Christie style shenanigans involving anonymous letters summoning them to adventure.
Hopefully the audience will identify enough to join the dots, allowing me to dispense with copious scene setting.
The stories will be told in a lot of little scenes, mostly monologues, giving quite a fragmented structure. The danger is being too “bitty” and jumping around too much. I’m aiming for a range of scene lengths, from a few minutes to just a few lines.
I also want the monologues to vary in delivery, with perspective changes, parallel and simultaneous conversations. I’m too ADHD to sit through Shirley Valentine or Alan Bennett style character pieces, so I want things to move spritely. There will be minimal movement, so the changing of scenes needs to perform that job.
The Kick Off
Bugger writing in sequence, I start with the funny bits.
One, they’re usually where the idea sparked from, easy to write, and map how things must go to get to them.
Two, they give a critical mass, forcing me to continue – can’t let those good bits go to waste.
Three, they flesh out the basic characters, their reaction to whatever comedic situation giving a feel of who they are.
So off I went, in that initial blaze of glory.
The good bits are done. The characters are taking shape. The journey is forming.
Then along comes the hard stuff: Filling in gaps. Emotional arcs. The pacing is weird! Character or caricature? Repetition. It all sounded better in my head.
Some folk work all this stuff out in advance before starting, using spreadsheets or processes like The Snowflake Method.
These people are sociopaths, and should be reported to the police.
If writing is a marathon, plotters are the runners who plan their training progressively, tracking carb intake, rubbing themselves down with foam rollers, and incessantly posting stats on social media.
They don’t hit The Wall hard or for long because they’ve planned. They’ve girded themselves for the mental challenge when it strikes.
Then there are the pantsers, those happy-go-lucky free spirits who make it up as they go along. They’re the runners dressed in ill-thought novelty costumes, skipping along in gay abandon for the first kilometre or so, until reality and heatstroke strike them hard. Suddenly cavorting about as a giant purple koala seems less of a good idea.
Questions of “Where is this going?”, “What is this about?”, “Why am I bothering?”, and “I wonder what’s on telly” all occur at this point.
Hang around the finish line long enough, the tenacious ones might eventually drag themselves across. But the crowd has long since departed. Though someone might have left a participation medal behind the bins or something.
Pity the poor pantser. They know not what they do, quite literally, until they’ve written it.
I wear my fluffy koala suit with pride.
Wilting, craving fluids, I stagger on, … the finish line far, far off in the distance.