I’m working on a play right now that keeps tipping over from imbalance. If I write too far this way, the main character becomes unlikeable. If I write too far this way, she’s not striving to pursue what she wants. If I write this way, I don’t know why this character acts the way they do. if I write this way, everything becomes very depressing which since I’m writing a comedy is not helpful. So it feels a little bit like fishing; the line goes out sometimes it comes back empty, sometimes with a fish and sometimes an old rubber tire. Over and over again.
But I’m not discouraged. This is what the writing process is all about. The path from beginning to end of a play is not a straight line. It’s a maze, filled with twists and turns. Sometimes I write myself into a dead end and have to backtrack. Sometimes I get really far only to find there’s a water feature in my way and I have to figure out how to traverse it.
The best way I find to deal with these dead ends and water features is to ask questions of the characters and story and then answer them.
- What makes Elly likeable?
- What does Willow want?
- How does changing Elly get Willow what she wants?
- What is the final straw for Elly?
- What are the characteristics for each group?
- How can Willow help in a positive instead of a negative manner?
And so on, and so on. I sit with a pad and a pen and just figure out the answers. I don’t worry about dialogue or where these answers fit into the story. I just make sure there is an answer for every question I come up with. The great thing about Q&A in a theatrical context is that the answers can be whatever I want. This is not a historical drama, there are no facts that need to be correct. There only needs to be the answer that gets me out of the dead end and across the water. And the more I Q&A, the more specific the play will be. The better the journey for the characters. And the more satisfying the process.
How do you write out of roadblocks?