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Tips&Tricks (1 Viewer)

Elysia19

Senior Member
Hey Everyone,

I have been really tempted to write a script just for fun really, while i am waiting for NaNoWriMo 2007. Anyways, i have never written a script before, sicne im more of a novel person, so i was wondering if there were any tips or tricks you could tell me about? I was thinking it would be a stage play, and i really am interested on learning more about the process.

Any help would be highly appreciated!:alien:
 

Eiji Tunsinagi

Senior Member
Hey Everyone,

I have been really tempted to write a script just for fun really, while i am waiting for NaNoWriMo 2007. Anyways, i have never written a script before, sicne im more of a novel person, so i was wondering if there were any tips or tricks you could tell me about? I was thinking it would be a stage play, and i really am interested on learning more about the process.

Any help would be highly appreciated!:alien:

I don't really write plays, but I know some tips, I suppose.

Keep scene descriptions to an absolute minimum, and only mention specific objects if they actually apply to the scene about to occur. Only tell what can be seen on the stage as well, no insider information.

Always have two characters in a scene, and make sure that no matter what, they disagree with each other. Even if it seems like they agree, make sure they don't.

Make sure each character has a specific "action" or, something they want in the scene. Make sure other character's actions prevent another from getting what they want.

Yeah. That's all I got. You can pretty much make it up from there.
 

Elysia19

Senior Member
Thanks Eiji!

That really helps, some of those i havent ever heard before, but i will take into consideration!
 

vangoghsear

WF Veteran
WF Veterans
Not bad at all Eiji for a person who doesn't write plays. I do write plays, my latest is being produced this fall by a professional theater company.

One of the common beginner errors is also to try and direct with the script. Just like in Eiji's comment on descriptions, keep action descriptions to a minimum. The tendency is to want to tell the actors how to act. Leave the action description out unless the action, voicing, who a line is said to, is crucial to the play. For instance JAMES and ANN are alone on stage:

Bad Example said:
JAMES - (Walks over to lean against the mantle, takes out his pipe and lights it. Then he say to ANN) We need to talk.

ANN - Yes we do.

First of all, ANN and JAMES are alone, you would not need to say who the line is delivered to. If, however, JAMES, JOHN and ANN are in the room you may need to add, (To ANN) so the actor can tell who the line is meant for.

Corrected for 3 characters said:
JAMES - (To ANN) We need to talk.

ANN - Yes, we do.

JOHN - Shall I leave?
Notice that ANN does not have (To JAMES) written next to her. That is because 'To JAMES' is understood; he started the conversation.


Going back to the first example, the action described would only be necessary if referenced in the play, otherwise the director will give stage directions to strengthen characterization. The author should only say what is necessary, as above Corrected for 3 characters. The exception to this is for instance:

When you need stage direction in the script said:
JAMES - (Takes out his pipe and lights it.) We need to talk.

ANN - Apparently we do. So why do you insist on infuriating me by lighting your damn pipe, then suggesting that (mockingly) "we need to talk." Then I have to stay in the room with you while you smoke the stinking thing! You know how I hate that disgusting habit!

Notice that the directions are trim, tell the actor and director the author's intent, and add to the story/characterization.
 

Linton Robinson

Senior Member
DON'T get in the habit of including direction in parentheticals like that. Seriously. This is a newbie trap, a quick reject-bait...and limits you.

Use a direction line:

James lights a cigarette.

JAMES
We need to talk.

Use parentheticals very sparingly. There is a beginner tendancy to want to try to get their vision across in detail, but actually that kind of "directing by the writer" is frowned on.

A legitimate use s of parens would be when it's necessary to know that the line is read other than straight. (sarcastically, etc)
Or something like (To Alice) indicating that the character has changed the object of his speech.

MIKE
Alice, I think you know better than that and
(To Jane)
you should, as well.

Keep description minimal. Nobody cares what color eyes your hero has...they'll cast who they want.

Keep action terse and concise. Try to keep it blocks of under 5 lines, break it up to avoid long grey passages.

Don't drive up and go to the door and knock and sit down and tell the news:
start the scene sitting there on the couch telling it. Better yet, start with her crying, then show why in subsequent dialog.
Same way, cut straight out of the scene when the meat is done.

Remember to STAY GENERIC
This is a common beginner problem.
EXT. PENNSYLTUCKY STATE COLLEGE, BIOLOGICAL SCIENCE BUILDING - NIGHT
is useless...they will film it where they want to.

Hero drives up in 1978 Camaro with headers and the DynoPack. is out, they wil do the car. You just tell us if it's an old wreck or a hotrod or luxury sedan or whatever.

Don't use all the camera directions and CUT TO and CU and all that crap you see in the How To books. Your format should be lean and up to date.

Practice writing scenes. Post them for review on screenwriting sites to get the format ironed out early.

Good luck
 

Linton Robinson

Senior Member
Always have two characters in a scene, and make sure that no matter what, they disagree with each other.

Ignore this. You have seen lots of scenes (perhaps even entire plays and films) with only one character, haven't you.

The "disagree" thing is a stylized piece of sophistry of the kind that come up around theater. Obviously MANY scenes will involve agreement, consummation, falling in love, etc.
 

vangoghsear

WF Veteran
WF Veterans
I believe the OP is writing a stage play Lin. Lin's recommendations are screenplay format and will serve you quite well in that capacity.

Guide To Stage Play Format said:
DIALOGUE
It’s interesting to note that the dialogue is the only element of a playscript that will run all the way from the left margin to the right margin. See the example pages.

Don’t rightjustify the dialogue text. In fact, don’t right-justify any element of your formatted script. Don’t hyphenate words that are not spelled with a hyphen... move that word down to the next line.

STAGE DIRECTIONS
All stage directions appear in parentheses, 2.75 inches from the left edge of the page. Each line of stage directions on the page should not extend past approximately 2.5 inches before wrapping to the next line.

The above is from the PDF file listed in the format for stage plays post at the top of this forum section. If you follow the guidelines listed, you will be fine for a stage play.

I personally have my own style which conserves paper for the theater groups that I write for. It has not stood in the way of my getting published, and definitely has not stood in the way of my stage plays being produced.

In fact, what I do is contact the publisher I am sending work to and ask for a guide copy of the script format they want to receive and that is what I use for submissions to that company.
 

mammamaia

Senior Member
In fact, what I do is contact the publisher I am sending work to and ask for a guide copy of the script format they want to receive and that is what I use for submissions to that company.

since there's a lot of variation in theater script format, unlike the more rigid rules established for film/tv, that's not a bad idea, though involving a lot more work, i should imagine, in having to change a whole script over... several times, if you submit to a variety of different style-using publishers... good news i guess is that there aren't that many companies publishing stage plays, vs the countless number that produce films...

elysia...
paul argentini's 'elements of style for screenwriters' has a very good section in back for playwrights... it's what i recommend to aspiring ones who come to me for help... you can get one for a couple of bucks up, used/new on amazon...

Amazon.com: Used and New: Elements of Style for Screenwriters: The Essential Manual for Writers of Screenplays

love and hugs, maia
 
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Linton Robinson

Senior Member
believe the OP is writing a stage play Lin.

Whoops. Right you are. I'm just use to seeing "writing scripts" apply to screenplays, not plays. Sorry about that. I think some of the dramatic writing principles I mentioned would apply to plays, however. But I don't know for sure because I don't write plays, just movie and TV scripts.

I can't IMAGINE anybody buying a book on how to write scripts, plays, novels ANYTHING. There is SO much available free on the internet.

And with screenplays in particular it's better than books because it keeps changing and the books get obsolete.
 

vangoghsear

WF Veteran
WF Veterans
Whoops. Right you are. I'm just use to seeing "writing scripts" apply to screenplays, not plays. Sorry about that. I think some of the dramatic writing principles I mentioned would apply to plays, however. But I don't know for sure because I don't write plays, just movie and TV scripts.

The other dramatic principles you listed still apply.

Actually, Elysia19, for both Stage and screen formating you can use a writing program that automatically sets the margins, ALL CAP areas, Parenthetical statements, etc. for you.

This one is free and quite good:

celtx - media pre-production software.

Post a few pages when you get something started.:thumbl:
 

Elysia19

Senior Member
Thank you to everyone who posted, im sorry for not responding sooner, i was on vacation. For a newbie this info really helps, thanks for your imput and hints, i will take them all into consideration.

:D
 

paroma

Senior Member
..i read all the advice and even im writing my forst stage play...so thank you...and to elysia...just write!!..that almost always works..hehehe...you can check out my first rough scene for a play...its posted a little before yours..please read and tell me what you think..thanks
 

vangoghsear

WF Veteran
WF Veterans
A few more tips.

1. Paroma mentioned one: just write. My goal is a bare minimum of ten minutes a day writing. I usually manage much more (several hours a day) when working on a new piece. Some days you may just get through one tough scene or one difficult piece of dialog, or maybe just one line, but often that is all you need to move ahead.

2. If you get stuck, let your characters decide what direction to take. This sounds impossible, but it isn't. In order to write convincing dialog, you must be able to put your self into each character. Say the line to yourself as you think the character would say it. You'd be surprised where this can lead you.

3. Give every character, no matter how small, something of interest (some 'meat') to do, or say in their part. This goes for large parts too. Read your play as if you are an actor that has to play each of the parts. Ask yourself, Would I want that part? Is it interesting or boring? If it is boring to you, it will be boring for the actor and also for the audience.

I have punched up one small role by making the character a stutterer, I then played with that characteristic to make the entire play better for it. He was a former suitor of the female lead she had a hard time explaining that it wasn't his stuttering, but that he just wasn't her type. He made appearances to make announcements to the family, and have conversations with the father, not making fun the stuttering, but using it comically. This one change in a character, from a straight part to a part with a unique characteristic made the part and the play that much better.

4. Visualize. Imagine the staging. Plays are a visual medium, you may need to drastically change your play to make it work. My latest play is an adaptation of a novel about a bunch of wounded soldiers. Three of the main characters can't move and one lays on the floor! In order for this to work as a play, I created a character that moves in and out of the scene and I staged a dream sequence and flashbacks where the characters all can move again.

5. Make sure timing works. In plays, characters come and go, change costumes, props, scenery changes, etc. Just make sure there is time to make these adjustments without pausing the play too long. You can use vignettes, or dialog, or action, or monologue, or make the changes part of the story, just make sure they can be done (you can't have one character exiting one side of the stage and entering the other without some time lag to get there).

6. Set up a read-through. Assign family and friends that are good readers to read the parts and assign someone to read the actions. Try and just listen and take notes. Listen for timing issues (for example, that character entering in the Santa suit just left two lines ago, he wouldn't have time for that costume change, or characters saying lines when they have already exited a scene). Listen for out-of-character lines or lines that just don't sound right. Listen for drama, humor, emotion. Do the scenes designed to make you laugh, or cry, make you laugh or cry?
 
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Elysia19

Senior Member
Paroma,
i looked for it...but it eludes me...can you pinpoint me to where your script is posted? I'd like to see it :D
Thanks!
 

Elysia19

Senior Member
Paroma,
I looked for your script, but it eludes me. its probably right under my nose, so im sorry for the inconveniance...could you pinpoint me to the link? I'd really like to see it :D
Thanks :p
 

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