Friday, September 16, 2011

What Writers Are Missing: The Playwriting Process

Writers are definitely missing something. No, this isn't an editor ranting about the deficiencies of writers. This is a writer admitting to more than a little envy for what playwrights have that writers don't dialogue with their characters.

Some of you will instantly respond, "But I do talk to my characters, and they talk to me." I used to think such talk was crazy doodle until those conversations started for me, too. But what I mean here is different. I recently met with playwright Joanne Hudson to go over a piece of flash fiction I wrote called "Days of Obligation" that she's adapting into a play. As part of the process, she asked questions about what I hadn't included in the piece, which is mostly dialogue what writers call backstory and what actors call motivation. She also said I'd meet with the actors because they'd have questions, too. Playwrights, she said, use this process to hone their work, sometimes even after a play has begun its run. I paused midsentence. "Wow," I said, "We writers are missing a whole side of the creative process."

What Joanne described seems different to me than my sitting down to create characters that originate within my head and are typically developed and nurtured there. The playwright sits down with actual people, a far more interactive and challenging process than one constrained the limits of the individual.

So I got to thinking, wouldn't it be fun to take a scene you're working on and get a couple of people, maybe people who aren't writers, to act it out and to let them, in preparation for acting the scene, sit down with you and ask questions. I'd love to hear how it turns out. I've got a rehearsal with my actors in a couple of days. I'll let you know how things turn out here.  

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