What should my play be about?
It’s up to you! We suggest you write about
– Something you know, or have a lot of knowledge about (eg you can set it at school or where you live, with characters familiar to you)
– A small incident that created a change – you can’t give a life story in a short play!
How to start?
What are you wanting to explore – bullying? A funny thing that happened on the train? A conflict with parents? You need to be able to write yoru idea in one or two sentences. Think of writing your idea in one or two sentences eg if you can’t write it like that, you may need to rethink… eg A young girl finds out she’s pregnant and confronts the father who wants nothing to do with her. However, with a friend’s help, he faces his responsibility and they work out a plan together.
What’s the structure?
You need a beginning – where we get to know the characters. Then something needs to happen that causes the conflict, or the climax. And at the end there needs to be some change, some resolution.
How can I make believable characters?
Choose characters that are familiar to you – and before you start, write a little description of each of them. Even if you don’t use all the details. It can give depth to your character. So you can work out:
What is their greatest secret fear?
• What is their greatest hope?
• Where do they live? How do they feel about where they live? Where were they born?
• Who do they feel closest to? Why?
• Which relatives have played a big part in their lives – in a positive or negative way?
You can convey a lot about character from the words they use. Make sure your characters sound authentic – and different from each other. Who uses slang? Who uses three words instead of one? Who uses half-sentences? All of these details can also help to give a picture of the characters.
In novels you can describe people’s emotions. However in scripts your characters have to SHOW us their feelings outwardly. For instance, they could yell to show they are angry, sob to show they are traumatised, or giggle when embarrassed. You can also give directions to the actor on how to say the line – this will change the viewer’s response:
Eg PHOEBE (confidently): I would love to come with you!
PHOEBE (shyly): I would love to come with you.
You can also make your character storm out the room, or raise their hands or do any action that conveys emotion as well. Actions are a powerful tool for a playwright!
How must it be formatted?
Read here to find out how to best format your play.
Remember too that everything in your chattalogue needs to be there for a reason – either to show us more about your characters, or else to move the plot along – preferably both. As Chekov, the famous Russian writer says, “If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off.” So don’t have characters giving long greetings or chatting about something that is not important to the story…
Read examples of chattalogues to see what worked – and also what didn’t. Here are links to some that hopefully can inspire you.
Here is another simple but powerful chattalogue about teen pregnancy – Sixteen and pregnant.
– Notice how this has only four characters.
– See how the situation – the teen pregnancy – is introduced in a natural way through friends talking – the scene is set…
– Notice how the actions of the characters help us to get a picture of their personalities and emotions. (eg Sindi cries, Karabo puts her arm around her).
Rivalry has an interesting little twist to the tale.
– Notice how the writer set the scene to then build up to the ‘showdown’ where all is revealed….
Status update is a very effective chattalogue that uses social media in a creative and original way.
– You may want to think of different ways to incorporate social media into your chattalogue as it does play a major role in relationships these days…
You need to format your play correctly. Read here for instructions on how to do this.