Playwriting

The First Draft Process – One

The First draft process for my new play Faceblind – here we go! So I’m going to keep track of how long I work, what I do, what I didn’t do and so on. Hope it’s interesting!

Saturday – 4 hours – 9 pages of notes

I have a lot of fragments for this play. I know who the main character is, I know that he has a brain injury, I know that he has an imaginary life (potentially talking to a historical character) which clashes with his real life because of the brain injury. Beyond that, everything is fuzzy to the point that I’m not sure where to start with dialogue. It’s important to me that the character has this imaginary life but I’m concerned about it being cheesy and childish.

Today I went through my research note book and transfered everything to the computer. This included notes on the brain, what makes up the brain and how it works; information on prosopagnosia which is the injury the character has – it prevents people from recognizing faces. Then there’s information on the art of reading faces which was a huge thing in the 17th and 18th century. I’m also thinking about having a jelly fish as a character (something without a brain or a face!) so there’s information on that.

Anytime I came across a literary or visual reference I listed it – for example Rene Magritte’s paintings are very interesting. Lastly there are character and story fragments, dialogue snippets and other bits and pieces. It’s not really necessary that I want the information on the computer but it forces me to go through every page and that’s when sparks hit. Now I have three gelled scenes in my head which I will tackle next time.

The last thing I did today was go through some baby name sites to see if I could nail down some character names. I’m mostly looking for the lead girl and boy. I like to look up words that refer to my topic in other language and I also like name sites that give the origins for the name. I’m pretty obsessive about making the names fit the character – sometimes I spend way (way, way, way) too long looking for something. For now, the main guy is Franklin Gale (gale is the Gaelic word for stranger, which this guy is in his world) and the girl is Cara (Portuguese for face) .

Sunday – lots of thinking on a two hour drive

I think best on the move. Whenever I’m stuck, if I go out for a walk or run something always comes up. This is why I am not a good driver – I start to think instead of paying attention to the road. So it was murder today when I was in the car driving through hellish holiday highway traffic and I kept thinking about the play!

Had a great idea for the end – one of the imaginary world characters is an actual 18th century -expert–? on reading faces (Johann Caspar Lavater), but I knew I didn’t want a true-to-life historical characterization, so how to do it? I decided that Lavater was going to be Franklin’s creation – he’s read about the guy and knows his life but he amalgamates events in Lavater’s life so that they are happening at the same time. All the good bits at once. For example, Lavater was shot when he was 60. In the play he will be played as 25-30 years old suffering from a gunshot wound that won’t happen to him for years later. I have this image of him constantly bleeding throughout the play and always needing to change his bandage. I suspect that he will bleed to death by the end of the play. We’ll see how it plays out.

I also think that Franklin will smash the glass in the jellyfish tank at the aquarium.

Monday – 5 hours (3 am/ 2 aft) 7 pages of dialogue

Very much a fits and starts day. Meant to start out out of the gate at 8:00 but computer problems waylaid me. Hard to get back on track when you’ve been derailed. Had 3 scenes set out to start on today but ignored them completely! After yesterday’s think, I started today looking into Lavater’s life. May have to go to the library where I know there’s a memoir, not too much online. Got a flash of what for now will be the beginning of the play based on the continual bleeding concept of Lavater. Also wrote a short scene between Franklin and his younger sister. The younger sister used to idolize Franklin before the accident and now he wants nothing to do with her.

I don’t write for 8 hours at a time. My brain goes numb after 2-3 and I have to walk away from the table. There’s no point in pushing work when nothing is working. The ideas dried up after working on the Franklin/sister moment. It just so happens that I had to go out on errands today and after a few minutes of walking came up with two new ideas to write about. In the Franklin/sister scene the sister asks Franklin if he is going to her graduation. He says no. But since he doesn’t want to go, why not force him to and see what happens? I also want to use a large scrim which, when it’s see-through, will become the aquarium tank, but when opaque can have faces put on it. Maybe Franklin tests himself – pushing himself to recognize people. Hmm. Maybe that’s the beginning and then into Lavater talking about faces, and then he starts to bleed. Hmmmm.

Tuesday – 4 hours (2 am/2 aft) 1 page dialogue, many many pages of notes

Interesting day. Woke up with no idea where to start – went for a run and came up with a great idea for a theatricalization of what Franklin is going through. That was the only dialogue that got written today though. It’s so easy to see where writer’s block can grind work to a halt. If the dialogue has stopped what do you do? For me I push to keep writing. Anything. I write about the relationships, I try to keep defining what the major conflicts are, the minor conflicts, I write stream of consciousness monologues in the voice of the characters, I keep writing until there’s a vein back into the script. All this writing is useful, it helps me to get to know the characters better. It helps me to know what I want from the characters. For example I know I want the major climax confrontation to be between Franklin and Lavater. I can hear them fighting, I just don’t know what they’re saying yet.

One interesting thing I clarified is who the ‘girl’ is. I was going through each character, listing relationships and how they compare/contrast to Franklin I decided that Cara (for now) will be someone who has a superhuman brain – so smart that she is socially inept. But she’s a learning character – she’s left her parents home and their rule to try and make it in the world by herself, something she’s never had to do. Wrote an fun stream-of-consciousness monologue all about how Cara, who’s doing tasks such as laundry for the first time, is in love with the lint tray of her dryer.

About the author

Lindsay Price