10 months ago I’d never written a play. I wrote a lot of poetry (very bad poetry), some dark short stories, and countless entries in many a journals starting at the age of eleven. But never plays. In addition to writing in middle school and high school, I did a lot of acting and directing. Yep, I was a total drama nerd. In college, I kept it up and was convinced upon graduation I would enter the theatre world and take it for my very own. Then I got knocked up. When my daughter was born, my whole life changed. I had always planned on working, but since I didn’t have any leads, and childcare was more expensive than I was likely to make, I made the choice to stay at home. We had another baby, my son.
This past summer, I had a big moment where I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. My kids were getting older, moving out of baby-hood and they were starting to need me less. I started reading, I started working out, really I was waking up. But, even though I was making all of these positive steps, there was this looming question over my head raining on my days. What was I going to do with my life? Should we have more kids? Maybe I should really do this mother thing and just have a ton of babies. Be the best mom in the world with an army of seven or eight kids. Why not, right? Luckily, my husband recommended I take some time and really think about if I wanted more kids or not. My husband is smart that way.
I knew that what I wanted was to work in theatre, but I had no idea how to jump back in. I hadn’t acted in years, and I was sure that I didn’t have the time to go in rehearse for hours late at night. And I didn’t think it was likely that someone would just let me direct a show for them with only 5 year old references. So there I was, I was stuck.
Then a ridiculous idea came to me… I’ll write a play. So I jumped right in, and wrote my little heart out. After 200 pages or so, I realized that it was going to be much, much harder than I had ever imagined. What was my play missing? It was really bad. I read some of my favorites again, to see if they would give me any clues, but I got nothing.
That’s when I went to Barnes and Noble. I found The Playwright’s Guidebook by Stuart Spencer. I highly recommend it. It breaks down the basic components of dramatic structure; action, conflict, and the event. He also covers character development and his thoughts on the creative process. There are exercises throughout and recommended reading (plays and other theatre books). He also goes through some general advise and insights about writing from the impulse. If you’re curious about these things, pick it up. I found it incredibly helpful, and although I’ve already read it, I find myself re-reading chapters every now and then.
What’s your favorite book about writing plays? I’d love to have more reference books!