…when you enter a student playwriting competition, like the playwright Individual Event at a Thespian festival. I recently judged such a competition and wanted to pass on some things to keep in your brain before you submit.
- Follow the rules. All the rules. If you’re supposed to have a character list, make sure it’s there. If you’re supposed to have a certain number of pages, make sure you don’t go over. If you’re supposed to follow a certain format, that’s the way the play should look. It’s makes the judges take an extra unnecessary step when rules haven’t been followed. Whether or not it’s true, it makes it look like the playwright didn’t really care.
- Shorter is better. If there’s a 40 page maximum……think shorter. You want to make sure your story is told, and you want to be sure you’re happy with the journey, but there’s no need to go to the maximum just because. Remember that the judge is sitting in front of a pile of plays. The shorter plays have a better chance of getting read first.
- A strong style is not impressive. Plays need balance. A balance between character, story, AND style. Some writers like to pull out a fancy bag of style tricks thinking that’ll make them stand out. What makes a writer stand out is a well written play with three dimensional characters, an interesting story AND a unique style.
- Think stageable. It’s amazing how often this gets left by the way side. Long involved scene changes that happen every half page. Characters who change costume in every scene. When you’re writing, think about putting your play up on your high school stage. Visualize it. Are your scene changes doable? How long does it take actors to exit and enter? You could even go to the extreme of trying to make those costume changes and time them. If they take longer than 10-20 seconds, you’re leaving your audience in the dark for too long. It’s not stageable.
- Have fun! Don’t get caught up in trying to write ‘a winner.’ You have no idea what judge you’re going to get, what background they’ll have, and whether or not they’re going to like your play. You can hope they’ll be fair, but that sometimes doesn’t even happen. So, bottom line, enjoy the process. Enjoy getting that play on the page and be satisfied with your efforts. Know that you’ve done a good job and then whatever happens is purely extra.