Playwriting Exercise: Western Taglines

playwriting exercises

For the month of December we’re pulling our Saturday Playwriting Exercises from the past and adding something extra. We only started including a PDF download of these exercises in August, so this month we’ll be taking previously posted exercises and adding that download. This way you can print these exercises off easily and take them wherever you want.


I was recently in Arizona and visited a most unique museum. It was out in the desert (I love its name – the Superstition Mountain Museum) and on the property there was a wedding chapel that had been moved there from a movie studio –Apacheland Movie Ranch. The Arizona desert was home to many a western back in the day and this wedding chapel (named the Elvis Presley Memorial Chapel, which had a huge life-sized Elvis statue where the alter should be, but that’s another story) had a number of movie posters from projects filmed at the Ranch.

We’re not going to talk about the movies. Let’s say they don’t seem, at first glance, to be great works of cinematic art. (Lust for Gold anyone?) But, what did struck me were the taglines on the posters. They are pretty awesome. We just don’t describe movies the same way anymore. The first thing I thought of is that they would make vivid writing prompts.

Have a look at the taglines below

  • Only he knew it was “a time for dying”
  • On his neck he wore the brand of a killer. On his hip he wore vengeance.
  • Big Jim Cole had come to the rim of hell.
  • He rode in alone… a silent stranger… until the day his blazing guns did the talking.

How can you use these as a jumping off point for writing? Choose a tagline and take the following steps:

  1. Start by automatic writing on the tagline. Give yourself a time limit of two minutes and get anything and everything that comes to your mind on the page. It doesn’t have to be western-themed and it doesn’t have to be a movie. Don’t self-censor and keep writing.
  2. Create a character based on this timeline. Give them a name, an age, a job, and a visual characteristic.
  3. Decide who the most important relationship would be for this character. Don’t leave this part blank, even if they’re a loner all characters want to connect to something. Because this is theatre, the most important relationship could be anything – a loved one, a pet, an imaginary character, a dead relative and so on.
  4. What conflict would this character be in based on the tagline.
  5. Write a scene.

Click here to download a PDF version of this exercise!



About the author

Lindsay Price