Part 2 – Putting Pen to PaperCamy
This is the hard bit. The nitty gritty. It’s time to bite the bullet and grasp the nettle. You’ve had ideas floating in your head for some time and you’ve got to get them down on paper, or key them in to your word processor. Which way doesn’t matter. Different playwrights have different styles. One will write everything down in longhand and not go near a computer, while another will start typing right away. I prefer a bit of both.
The important thing is to start, to commit something to paper or disc. There will be many occasions when your inspiration will dry up totally. Walk away and clear your mind. But not for too long. Keep thinking about your plot and characters and their interaction. Remember that your characters drive the plot and not vice versa. When your inspiration/muse/flow comes, grasp it/her no matter where you are at the time! Get it down on paper/disc and don’t let go till the flow ceases. It’s a truly wonderful experience when it happens.
I believe wholeheartedly in plot. I’m convinced that audiences love a story. Even if they know it already, they like new twists and situations. Writing down an outline of your plot at this stage is invaluable. That’s one way to start. Even if it’s only the first act, or the first two or three scenes of the first act.
Or, write down a list of your characters. This can often be fun. Let your imagination run riot on comic names: dame, villain, comic duo, principal boy and girl etc. Keep thinking of the main plot line. The first act usually consists of three main scenes plus two connecting scenes played in front of tabs.
So, you’ve got your characters and some kind of plot line. Start writing! Don’t hang around. Write down “Act 1 Scene 1” and set your scene. A typical opening scene would have the chorus singing a song followed by some interaction with a character or characters, for example the dame. It often has an announcement or some news. Don’t bring all your characters on at once, but introduce them either singly or in pairs throughout the scene. In fact you should avoid having all your characters on at the one time except at the end or on especially dramatic occasions.
Here’s an example from “Jack & The Beanstalk”.
Act 1 Scene 1
Rose Cottage, Dame Jolly’s house, is situated R. It has a practical door, a small garden with a white fence, and a number of pot plants. C and L are woods and fields
The chorus of villagers is onstage for the opening number
Song 1: “Another Opening Another Show” (Chorus)
After the song, Dame Jolly appears in curlers from the front door of the cottage
VILLAGERS Hello, Dame Jolly!
DAME Come on, you lot, hop it. Vamoose. Skedaddle. You’re dirtying me doorstep and disturbing me peace. Haven’t you anything better to do? All these shenanininigans. And what a din! It’s worse than (local name) singing in his bath!
FIRST VILL What have you got your curlers on for, Dame Jolly?
DAME (preening herself) Well actually, I am beautificating myself for a special occasion.
SECOND VILL But Dame Jolly, do you really need the mudpack?
DAME (furiously) I am not wearing a mudpack!
She raises a fist at Second Villager
SECOND VILL Keep your shirt on, Dame Jolly. I was only joking.
FIRST VILL Yes, come on, tell us more.
VILLAGERS Yes etc.
DAME All right. Well, I’m having a party. I’ve invited the schoolmaster, Mr Chips, to tea. As you know, Mr Chips is a gentleman and a scholar and is known for his taste and refinery.
FIRST VILL Well, what is he coming to your place for, Dame Jolly?
DAME Sticks and stones to you, and sour grapevines! I’ve made a very special tea. Just wait till he samples my carte blanche.
SECOND VILL At least it’ll be quick and painless!
DAME Right. That’s it! I’ve had enough of your cheek. Out!
She chases them off with a broom