Monday, December 21, 2020

What's the Problem? (Motivating Yourself; Using Aristotle's 6 Parts to Focus Our Writing)

Work on writing your play draft, using your story outline as a guide. [If you don't have an outline yet, please catch up with us or you will be in danger of not completing or having the time to complete your play draft project. Get going with that creative process, please!]

No matter where you are with your process, you're going to get stuck. When that happens, think about what problem you're having moving forward. The answer or solution to your problem might be described below. Drama = conflict. Put simply, anything that makes a character's objective difficult to achieve, an obstacle, that gets in the way of a character's needs, wants, or expectations. Obstacles, of course, can be person v. person, (an argument or clashing objectives); person v. self (a flaw, a bad decision or action with unseen consequences, a contradictory belief or action); person v. society (a conflicting belief or philosophy, a problem, a lack of resources); or person v. nature (setting, environment, fear or neglect of natural forces); or person v. fate/god (a spiritual or ethical failing, ignoring human nature or the natural order of physical or metaphysical laws). When building your scenes, you want to remember that each scene (long or short) should include a problem (big or small) for the protagonist(s) to confront. It is likely as we begin writing the play, we will run into certain problems (conflicts) of our own as writers. Take a look at what problem(s) you might be having and use the prompts for each section to help you move forward with your scene, act, or play. Plot/Conflict: --Your first scene should present a problem for one or more of your characters. Don't avoid introducing your conflict. Get it going, get it described almost immediately. When you find yourself in a dry patch (unsure where to take the scene next), consider how your characters are reacting and trying to solve a problem. If needed, start a new problem (possibly connected to your initial problem that starts the play or scene...!) --It's okay to build more slowly (particularly in a longer play), but remember that your inciting incident should begin your rising action. From your rising action, your characters should reach a turning point (dark moment, enlightenment) before rising to your climax. After your climax, you need falling action and a resolution. Exposition and backstory (or subplots) can release the build of tension in a scene, act, or play. If you find you have nowhere to go, allow a release of tension before building again. [Notice how Albee does this masterfully in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf!] --Give your character(s) a strategy to try (and fail at!) before they succeed. Usually, good conflict is not easily solved. The first couple times we try to solve a problem, we may not be successful. Consider how an action or approach to solve a problem can "go wrong"--and then let it. --For each scene or act, divide it into 3 parts (beginning, middle, end). In a single sentence for each part of your scene, define what happens or what the "main event" of this part of the scene or act will be...[First, this will happen...; then second this will happen; then, finally, this will happen as a result...] Character Development: --Answer: What's at stake for your characters? What does your character want in this scene? It's okay if they talk about it! What do they want? What do they fear will happen if they don't get what they want? Have characters talk about their strategies to get what they want (or their fears about not getting it!) --Describe each of your characters in one word. Then try again in one sentence. Finally, describe your character as a metphor or simile. --Give your character a secret. What "secret" does the character keep? What will happen to the character if this "secret" is revealed? [Note that at some point, the audience MUST learn this secret and so should the other characters...!] --Give your character a prop (an item or costume piece they use to help define who or what they are or want). Give each of your characters a different prop. Setting/Stage, Music & Spectacle: --Draw a sketch or picture of your set. You can also make a character rendering (an artist's sketch of a character's costume). See attachments as an example. --Give each character a musical theme to help define them. Everytime they show up on stage, what song might play? How does this contrast with the style of song or music already playing for the other character's on stage? --Turn off the lights (figuratively--or literally). If we could only HEAR the scene or act, what sounds would help "tell the story"? --What theatrical conventions might you want to try in your scene or act? (Asides, masks, stage combat, cross-dressing, farce, multiple roles for actors, choreography, musical numbers, choruses, lighting effects, etc.) Dialogue & Language: --Give each character a different or unique manner of speaking. (Maybe your character speaks using a lot of proverbs or cliched sayings; maybe your character stutters or pauses a lot; maybe your character never speaks directly, but blathers on and on, maybe your character says very little or doesn't respond to other characters easily unless forced to. Etc.) --Subtext is the meaning and intention under every word or line spoken by a character. Actors study a character's subtext, so give your actor something to work with by providing subtext for your characters when speaking their lines. --Dialogue and beats in a scene should sound natural, yes, but our dialogue in a play is often heightened other words, it should sound good and provide a mental picture for the audience. Use imagery! Describe abstract ideas through concrete comparisons (metaphor, similes, personification; for sound imagery use alliteration, assonance, consonance, euphony, onomatopoeia, rhyme, meter, kenning, or other musical sound techniques). --Characters can lie. Have them lie about what they want, then, eventually, reveal the lie. This can work with a character's actions as well. A character may go to great risk and length to do some action that shows others that what they really want is contrary to the action performed. Theme: --What's the big idea in your play? How do the actions, plot or conflict, props, set pieces, or characters help indicate the message you want to leave your audience? --One of the biggest problems writers have is that they expect a theme to just show up without introducing it (or don't know why they're writing a play in the first place). Have your characters talk about the theme or main idea you want to communicate or talk about in your scene or act. --Include a debate involving an issue and its other side(s) between your characters. --State your theme for the scene or act in one sentence. If this were a chapter title, what would it be? --Create a title that connects to your theme. [You can even temporarily name your characters as allegorical ideas that support your theme...Mr. Lecherous might date Miss Innocent, or Angry Guy might argue with Sad Guy.] These are just some exercises and bits of advice to try when you get stuck. Come back to this as needed while you write your play draft. Also, take a look at the attachments here for more help. Most of these ideas also work for short story writing, poems, film scripts, and essays.

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