Playwriting

Writing Reflections: Invisible Visual Flow

This past week, I worked really hard getting Oddball into a first draft shape. The upcoming week is a doozy with trying to recover from Texas, more travel, prepping for upcoming projects, two days of teaching workshops and a dentist appointment. Not a lot of time for writing.

If I wrestled everything together it would afford me some free time to put the script aside – the dentist takes a lot out of me. :) I’ll have 10 full days in Feb for second draft re-writes. It’s always good to be able to put writing aside for awhile. After a break, it’s easier to see issues, to properly assess the dialogue, to look at the big picture/small picture. I’ll have nice fresh eyes when I return to the script.

Aside from the big picture/small picture elements to Oddball there are two also two states of overall flow to the piece: the flow within each individual scene, and then the flow of the whole thing. You can’t have two monologues back to back, or two long scenes. The overall flow has to roll like a coaster within each individual moment, as well as over all ups and downs. Flow is so important in scene plays, because if you’re not careful the play can be choppy, or can lose it’s over all steam too quickly.

Once I had the majority of scenes written, I spent the better part of a day shuffling the order working on the overall flow, I try to hear the dialogue in my head, try to sense the rhythm, to see the flow in front of me.

This visual flow is an important part of my writing process. It’s somewhat hard to explain. Intangible artsy-fartsy stuff. You see, there’s an invisible, visual rhythm to dialogue that if I can make right in the air in front of me, will then sound right when said aloud.

I’ll pause for a moment while you take that in and voice the obvious ‘What the hell is she talking about?’ question. I tried to explain this invisible visual flow to Craig once. He decided not to ask me anymore about my process.

And in the end, of course, the visual flow is somewhat arbitrary – only when the piece is worked out with actors does the flow slide into it’s final place. That’s why plays are never finished till they’re on their feet. Having said that, this process is a great way to cut out the middle man; more often than not when the flow is right in the writing it’s a direct line to being right in action. Again, it’s awfully artsy-fartsy but when the rhythm is right, all is right in the world.

After watching invisible rhythms all day, I’ve figured out I still need two full cast short scenes and one mini monologue to fill in a couple of spaces. To make the rhythm complete. That I’m comfortable leaving till next week.

About the author

Lindsay Price