Student Guide to Playwriting: Scenes
In the run up to the launch of The Student Guide to Writing: Playwriting book, here is the fourth in a series of blogs on top tips from the lesson plan writers.
This blog is from Jennifer Tuckett, Course Leader of the MA Dramatic Writing at Drama Centre London at Central Saint Martins, one of the UK’s leading script writing courses, and Director of Writers at Work Productions, which manages London Writers’ Week and University Women in the Arts amongst other projects.
This lesson plan is focused on Scenes, which are the building blocks of plays – once you have your overall structure, scenes are what hold your overall structure together and break it into manageable chunks.
- WHY THIS AREA OF CRAFT IS IMPORTANT
Scenes are important because they are what divide your overall structure into sections and allow us to control our plays and how our plays work – this is why they are the building blocks of plays.
Most plays are divided into scenes, which are marked with scene headings for example:
Sometimes scenes are unmarked in a play (so the play seems continuous but really the action is made up of hidden scenes, there are just no scene headings).
In either situation, scenes are important as:
- They create your overall structure and put it into practice
- They hold our attention by providing changes from one scene to another to progress the action and take us in new and unexpected directions
- As writers, they are also important as they allow you to control your play by breaking it into manageable chunks
- A SIMPLE EXERCISE OR EXERCISES USING THIS CRAFT ELEMENT TO DEVELOP YOUR PLAY
- If you are using this lesson plan in a class or working on your own, begin by brainstorming what scenes are and why you think they are important
- Once you have done this, look at a couple of examples to see scenes in action – I recommend the first scene of Laura Wade’s play Colder Than Here and the first scene of Adam Brace’s play Stovepipe as good examples of scenes – make a note of what you notice about these opening scenes?
- We are now going to do the best exercise I know in terms of scenes which is:
- This is what I have found to be a great scene structure which you see in a lot of successful scenes, for example
Colder Than Here, scene one:
Want: Myra wants to know if this is a good burial ground
Conflict: Jenna doesn’t want to be there
Event (this is a change which happens at the end of a scene to send things in a new direction to make us want to read or watch on): At the end of scene one, they decide this isn’t the right burial ground and to find another burial ground
I believe these are the key ingredients for a good scene as:
The want makes us want to read or watch on to see if the character is going to get their want or not
The conflict puts in jeopardy the want so we think the character might not get their want so we want to read or watch on more
The event changes things at the end of the scene to make us want to read on…..
This the end of our blog on top tips. To finish reading this lesson plan and to also read advice on characterization, dialogue, theatricality and stage directions, rewriting, how to get your work produced and the business side of being a playwright, written by those leading the way in the industry, the lesson plans continue in The Student Guide to Writing: Playwriting book which will be published on 9 May. The book is for writers, students, teachers and anyone interested in playwriting. It will provide permanent access to leading industry training on playwriting which has never been published before.
Next time, blogs by the 5 student winners of The Student Guide to Writing: Playwriting competition on who they are and their showcase, which will also be part of the event on 9 May.
For more information on and to attend the launch of The Student Guide to Writing: Playwriting book on 9 May click here. The event has now sold out.