Playwriting

Observation: What the what?

Observation: What the What?

Observation: What the What?!

October is Observation Month here at Theatrefolk! That means we’ve got a month of Observation prompts for your Saturday exercise.

Observation is my number one tool for finding play ideas. When you observe, you’re not just looking around, skimming the world around you. Observation is the specific looking at people, places and things. You’re looking at the world like a writer. And when you look at the world like a writer, everything becomes a play idea.

What the What?!

Sometimes Observation is all about the “weird” factor. The thing you see, the line you overhear that has no explanation.

Could be a Coke can placed precisely on a stump. Could be an out-of-the-ordinary piece of clothing. Could be a weird piece of graffiti. Could be a dog wearing booties. Could be a fragment of conversation that you just catch – “and that’s how I was banned from Sliders.”

If you’re out in the world paying attention, these “What the What” moments will almost fling themselves at you. You’ll find them everywhere. They are the perfect example of the adage, “The truth is stranger than fiction.”

Exercise: Spend a day simply observing. Look up when others look down. Look under things. Listen to every snippet of conversation that comes across your world view. Observe what people are wearing, what they’re doing. How they act in their relationships. Be aware and see if a “what the what” moment comes your way. Don’t force it, just see what happens. If it does, write it down immediately!

Afterward reflect on the experience. If you don’t get a “what the what” moment, reflect on why – were you too self-conscious to really observe people? Were you tired and didn’t feel like committing fully?

If you’ve been completing these exercises with your students now is the time to reflect on the process. In this week’s download I’ve included a Reflection Sheet. How did it feel to observe like a writer? Did the process become easier? Why or why not? Can you see using your observations in your writing? Why or why not?

Click here to download this exercise and Reflection Sheet!

Observation Exercise- “What the What-!”-page-001

About the author

Lindsay Price