Student Guide to Playwriting: Ideas

In the run up to the launch of The Student Guide to Writing: Playwriting book, here is the second in a series of blogs on top tips from the lesson plan writers.

This blog is from Ola Animashawun, founder of the Royal Court Theatre’s young writers programme, who shares his top tips on Ideas.

Ola Animashawun bush theatre playwriting tips

  1. FOCUS

This lesson plan is about Ideas – focusing on writing about something you feel passionate about, as the source and inspiration for the bedrock of your play.


Your passion is important because if you choose to write about something you really care about, it will be likely that its something you’ve already thought about a great deal and therefore the chances are it will be a subject you already know a lot about.  Plus, writing from your heart greatly increases the chances of you completing your play, because you’ll be using your play to say something you think is really important to be said.


The following exercise is based around the principle of automatic writing.

Some pointers before you start:

You should find a quiet space and a moment in your day where you know you are not going to be interrupted or disturbed.

Take a minute to try and empty your mind of the clutter and tensions of everyday life – relax, try and breathe deeply and evenly and only start when you’re ready.

When you write you are writing for your eyes only – you will never be under any compulsion to share anything you’ve written in this exercise – you are doing this writing purely for yourself.

Thus, don’t censor yourself at all, be brave, challenge yourself to be as honest and open with yourself as you can – if you think it, write it down – and make this note to yourself – if there are any areas you know you are straying away from or being cautious about – you don’t have to go into them, but simply make conscious recognition that this is what you are doing.

Try and write for the full amount of time without stopping or taking your pen off the page – if you get stuck, simply write I am writing about…. (the given subject) over and over again….until the next new thought comes to you or you run out of time.

So now spend a minute of free writing on each of the following prompts:

1) What makes you angry?

2) What frightens you?

3) What gives you hope?

4) What do you think that you’d never say out loud?

5) What makes you sad?

6) What makes you happy

Remember, this writing is private.

Save this writing for your own and future reference…

Keep an eye on this blog for more top tips from the lesson plan writers. These  continue in The Student Guide to Writing: Playwriting book which will be published on 9 May. Next up is John Yorke, founder of the BBC Writers Academy, former Head of Channel 4 Drama and former Controller of BBC Drama Production, on structuring your plays.

For more information on and to attend the launch of The Student Guide to Writing: Playwriting book click here.

P.S. Need a cosy place to write? Our Reading Room is stocked full of playtexts and theatre books. We’re open 10am-11pm with coffee, cake and croissants to keep you going.