Playwriting

Up and at ’em: Day 3, 4

Tuesday November 3rd

Well I was up at 6 o’clock this morning. Really, I am excited and raring to go, but I’d be just as excited and raring to go lindsay smiles with penat 8:00. Oh well. You get a lot done when you get up that early.

Still hunting and gathering for ideas, and trying to drive them forward into ideas that will turn into workable plays. Ended up with three yesterday and three today with still more in the starting block for tomorrow. The brain is working nicely and I might as well push push push while I have the time and the energy.

People ask me all the time ‘where do you get your ideas?’ And in general, there’s no good answer. There’s no store. They just happen. Usually there’s enough time between projects that I’m able to stockpile those happenings. Some people are good at math. Writing is what I do. It’s the same thing. My brain works in an odd fashion and I’m lucky enough to be able to channel that oddness into a living.

But in this current situation, there’s no time to allow for a floaty, ‘oh the ideas they just come to me’ mentality. You got to go after those ideas, go after them hard, and wrestle to the ground. So here’s how an observation, turns into an idea, turns into a workable play project.

The Observation: one place play ideas come from is by being observant. It’s one of the best skills a writer can possess. What’s different about the surroundings? How can the familiar be taken in a new direction? Did that person mean to wear orange today? How come? When I’m at home and I’ve basically tapped my resources in finding the new and different in my work space, I have a number of extremely helpful resource books. One of which is ‘The Book of Lists.’ It’s, coincidentally, a book filled with different kinds of lists:

  • 10 most beautiful words
  • 9 breeds of dogs that bite the least
  • 10 Mothers of Infamous children
  • 18 Famous brains and what they weighed.
  • 234 People born the same day, month and year.

I have two editions. One from 1977 and one from 1995. If you’re a writer, go out and get yourself one of these. You’ll never be at a loss for inspiration again. I didn’t even have to open the book to be inspired – on the back cover I read ’20 Famous High School Dropouts.’

How does an observation become an idea? Famous Dropouts huh? What kind of character would be interested in a list of famous dropouts. And not your regular dropouts, not your movie star dropouts like Keanu Reeves or Jim Carrey. They’d have to be super smart. Maybe the dropouts are used as ammunition. Maybe these characters are trying to convince their parents that they should dropout. Maybe there’s two of them and they’re giving a presentation. ‘Why I should drop out of school.’

How does an idea move toward a play: So the idea is, two students give a presentation to their parents about all the great reasons they should drop out of school. The first step is to decide why they need to drop out of school. It’s a logical to go for a sad reason – but I already have a bullying play in mind and frankly this feels like a funny play. I see two guys who do something stupid and their response is to find a way to drop out of school rather than face the consequences. It’s a knee jerk panic thing rather than a thought out decision.

What if they did something that if they were found out would, to their minds, render themselves the laughing stock of the whole school for the rest of time?Maybe the school had been planning a Guinness world record attempt and these two screw something up. Like the school was raising money for charity and they made up a charity? Or they spent the money? Or the Guinness guy isn’t coming… that’s possible.

Or what if they said they could do a world record, like rolling an orange with your nose, or eating worms, eating jelly with chopsticks or pogo stick jumps, or racing with an egg and spoon, catching grapes in the mouth, eating garlic – the list goes on! World record day is coming up. There’s going to be local media, maybe even national media, and someone from Guinness, and there’s no way they can do it. They want out, and the plan is to drop out of school. That day.

So there’s the idea. I can hear the characters in my head. I see the scenario. I have the opening dialogue. Is it an actual play? I worry that it’s too short, there needs to be an additional twist, perhaps with the second character. Maybe the second character has been planning to complete a record? I’ll let you know how this one goes….

Wednesday November 4th

And how did the above scene go? Meh. Not ready to give up on it, but not ready to sing it’s praises.

An exercise in fits and starts today. And cause I’m wacko like that, the first thing I did after typing that first sentence was go look up the origin and definition of ‘fits and starts.’

I love that the phrase means an sudden onset of emotion, activity OR disease. I think writing qualifies as all three, hmmm?

Nonetheless, I ended up with two male/female duet scenes I really like. Sometimes fits and starts are important, you ride the ebb and flow of crap, to eventually get something good. What a lovely image. Think I’ll stop there.

About the author

Lindsay Price