Playwriting 101: Script-writing Tips

Playwriting 101: Script-writing Tips

For anyone looking to break into the writing world, playwriting is actually a great way to get started. It may not get your name out there as fast as books or articles will, but it’s a good jumping point and it’ll give you, the writer, a great amount of experience to put under your belt. Though, if you’re going to consider writing plays, there are a few things you’ll have to keep in mind. Though I’m not an expert, I have had a couple of my own shows performed in the past and I can give you a few tips for solid scriptwriting that’ll get your audience feeling whatever you want them to feel.

#1: The Subject

This will always be the most important part and should be the core of your script. You need to know what you want to write about. The theme, length and everything in between will come later. Don’t try and write a story you know nothing about, it’ll be confusing and will take up more time than you have access to. Write about something you know or even something that’s happened to you in the past. Always remember, some of the best stories come out of real life.

#2: The Style

Once you have your subject down, you’ll have to decide how you want to depict it; whether you’re looking for a darker piece, a musical number, a comedy, or anything in between. Remember though, whatever you pick, will have to relate to the overall message you’re looking for. Let’s say your subject is something to do with mental health and you want to depict it in a serious way. You probably won’t portray it in a comedic way, that wouldn’t get the right message across at all.

#3. The Message

Though it isn’t the first thing you should think about, this should always be kept in the back of your mind while writing any script. Obviously not every show always has a message in it, but those that affect the audience the most always do in one way or another. Try and be subtle with it, but always find some places to work it into your piece.

#4: The Characters

Though this is crucial to any show, it’s not going to be number one on the list. Why? Because you need to know what you’re writing about before you pick the people you’re going to portray. Your characters must reflect your message and, in one way or another, express what you’re trying to get across to the audience. This is often the hardest part of scriptwriting, though. Your characters must be interesting but also fit their purposes, be they protagonists, antagonists, or secondaries meant to advance plot. The hardest part is to get into their minds. One-dimensional characters are the worst there are. Your characters need to advance the plot, but they also need reasons as to why they do what they do. You have to try and make them people and humanize them as you write.

#5: The Ending

The final tip to keep in mind, and one some consider to be the most important. The final line/scene of a play will tie the whole thing together and show the audience what it is you want them to see. This is the perfect chance to get your message across. Don’t have a character just blurt it out obviously, but find a way to show your audience what you want them to feel.

Once again, I’m an amateur at best when it comes to all of this, but I hope my advice can help at least someone out there. After all, it’s better to have tried and helped one person than to do nothing and let the whole world pass you by.


A young writer, novelist, and playwright from Ottawa, Dave Coleman covers topics like books & literature, theatre, and the arts.

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