Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Writing Advice

Writing (whether scripts, poems, non-fiction, or fiction) is all about making choices. We can run into trouble if we are too unfocused, unwilling to make a definite choice, or are too critical--freezing us in our writing tracks because we are too worried about the outcome (the choice we could make). That is why writing or planning a scenario can be helpful to some writers.

Writing a little at a time without a filter may be the best "choice" a writer who cannot seem to move ahead can make. If you are spinning your creative wheels or have not decided on the WHO, WHAT, and WHERE of your scene, go back to the brainstorming process and decide WHO, WHAT, or WHERE.

Some tips based on your concerns (in no particular order):
Being specific: diction is an important element to good writing. A writer who has not made choices cannot be specific. Abstraction can be harmful to a play's theme, plot, characters, setting, etc. Without specifics characterization and theme cannot occur. Write about specifics by choosing a specific character with a specific problem. Avoid characters that are general or non-specific in this case: the waitress, man #1 or woman #2. Instead of the setting taking place at a house, choose a specific room. During a first draft abstraction can be written in if you don't know what you want yet. During a second or third revision our focus should be clearer. For a first draft, don't worry too much about being non-specific.

Characters: If you planned for a certain character and then realize that you don't need that character, you can change your mind and remove the character. Do not be a slave to your scenario. If you feel the need to change something that doesn't fit or use a character that is not essential to the plot, you may remove them.

Tone & Comedy: When trying to be funny, witty, clever, or what-have-you, try not to force the issue. Some writers are funny and use excellent comic tone, seeing the potential for comedy in the serious or the ordinary. People who are trying to be funny rarely are. Comedy is based on clever wit & word choice, understatement/hyperbole, irony, sequencing, farce, and a host of other subtle elements. There are different types of comedy and you should decide the kind of comedy style you want to use in a play. Sentimental comedy, for example, is not the same as farce or absurdist comedy. Also, an actor can also provide much of the comic timing and skill needed to be funny. As a writer, focus on telling a good and compelling story. This is largely developing your characters so that they are round, dynamic people.

Writing Yourself into a Corner & Getting Stuck: if you are happy with a scene or two, but then continue to write a section that traps you or where you want to go back, there are two things to consider: 1. are you trying to be too controlling, forcing the story into a predetermined box? or 2. can you keep on and allow your story to grow organically? It is important for writers to listen to your instincts. In any case, as a first draft, anything can be changed, cut, or developed in the next draft. If you answered #1, and wish to proceed, go back to the offending decision or moment where you realized you went off track and start again from that point. Careful not to constantly reboot your work or you will get nowhere.

Stage Directions: if you don't like stage directions or find they are getting in the way of the flow of your writing, don't use them. Limit stage directions only to absolutely essential information or action. It is customary to provide a basic description of the set or setting, characters' entrances or exits, and indicate transitions between scenes or acts. Nothing else is needed.

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