A Downloadable PDF of this exercise is available below!
Action in plays centres on characters pursuing a want. The manner of pursuit will devise a comedy, a tragedy, or something absurd. What builds the twists and turns in that pursuit are obstacles – the conflict. You never want a character to get what they want by traveling in a straight line. That’s how boring theatre (or boring anything) is created.
When I came across this post on the seven types of disagreement, I knew there was a playwriting exercise in there. A disagreement can act as both a method of pursuit and as an obstacle depending on who is involved. And why not know and practice more than one type of disagreement?
Paul Graham defines the seven types as:
- refuting the central point
- Refutation finding a mistake and attacking that.
- Counterargument you back up your disagreement with supporting evidence
- Contradiction you disagree with no supporting evidence
- Responding to tone you focus on how the speaker talks
- Ad Hominem this is where you attack the authority of the speaker
- Name calling
What a great list of prompts for scene work!
- Use each one of these disagreements as the starting point for a scene.
- Write a two person scene (two best friends, husband and wife, sister and brother, mother and teenager) that takes place in a kitchen.
- Use the same subject matter for each scene. For example: the flu shot. There are a lot of different angles and misconceptions about the flu shot that would be excellent fodder for a disagreement.
- With each scene focus on following one of the disagreement types. Keep the scenes short, between half a page and a page.
- Afterwards, reflect on the process. Did you have a favourite and a least favourite type of argument? Was there one type of disagreement that was easier to develop beyond bickering? How can you use these disagreements in future writing?
BONUS! Write a two character, one location scene in which a character tries more than one disagreement type to win their argument.