Playwriting

Writing Exercise: Can you say it in a sentence?

This post is inspired by the There are no Rules Blog and this post on the one sentence stress test. They’re talking about novels but the topic applies quite nicely to plays too…

There are two things that often plague writers when they first start out. (or you know they happen to experienced writers too. Problems don’t magically disappear for writers just because they’ve been writing for a long time. It’s surprisingly easy to forget the basics sometimes.)

A writer thinks they have the greatest idea ever and they start writing and that idea is really not that much more than a sketch and things…. sort of….peeter out….. And then the writer thinks they suck and they can’t write and they might as well give up, and all number of negative thoughts.

OR, a writer thinks they have the greatest idea ever and they start writing. And they’re writing and writing and the pages start piling up but the piece doesn’t seem to be getting anywhere or going anywhere it’s just a lot of words on the page. And then the pages start piling up. It’s the never ending draft, which can feel just as sucky as the draft that peeters out.

Both problems usually occur when the writer isn’t able to clearly and concisely define what the piece, be it play, novel, screenplay or what have you, is about. You should be able to describe what you’re writing about in one sentence. If someone asks what your play is about, and you start rambling on about this guy who goes to the store and meets a girl and they go to the coffee shop…. that may be the step by step of your play, but it’s not what it’s ABOUT. What’s at the core. The conflict that needs to be solved. The life changing moment. The reason you’re writing in the first place.

I picked three plays of mine to see if I pass or fail the one sentence stress test:

Football Romeo: Opposing cliques collide when the ‘wrong’ boy is cast as Romeo, even though he’s totally right for the part.

Censorbleep: In a school where obedience is the norm and independent thinkers are punished, a student decides she no longer wishes to be obedient.

The Pregnancy Project: A teenager tries to ignore the fact that she’s pregnant.

Hmm. Not bad. Each one has a character and a conflict. I tried to write a much longer sentence for The Pregnancy Project but what I have is exactly what’s at it’s core. It’s interesting how this exercise makes you look at your work.

What is your play about? Can you describe it in one sentence? Let us know!

About the author

Lindsay Price