Observation Thursday

Observation is my number one method of finding play ideas. If you’re ever at a loss for coming up with something to write about, start logging observations. I write down observations on a daily basis and on Thursdays, I’m going to share one with you what I’ve seen and then you could do with it.

Observation Thursday

 

SNAKES!

Observation: Two elderly women alternately talking about their fear of snakes and another woman they don’t like who was getting married.

Date: Monday June 30 2014

Comments: Sitting in the doctors office, I pulled out my phone to document the conversation between two elderly woman. “Some snakes are legal, did you know that? Legal./ I’d be afraid it would get out of the aquarium. I’d have to kill it/She bought two mice. The receipt was in my car/I won’t go in the house. She makes me sick./She had two mice in my car./When’s the wedding? ” They went back and forth between talking about snakes and talking about the wedding of “She.”

What can you do:  This is one of those truth is stranger than fiction moments. You can’t get better than this – a hatred of snakes, a hatred of some unknown woman. To go deeper think about who this “She” is, what’s the relationship between the two elderly woman and “She” and why they really hate her. What’s going on here beyond the snakes? Is one of the women the mother of the guy “she” is marrying? What are they worried about?

Goldilocks is a rotten writer

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Are you a Goldilocks writer? One of those people who has to have everything perfect?

 That idea’s too hot. That idea’s too cold. I’m not ready to write, I’m not in the mood. I need to have the exact right idea to get started.

Goldilocks writers have the best of intentions. They want to write something good. They want to be a good writer. They want to write under the best conditions. They are willing to wait until everything is just right.

Goldilocks will wait forever for the right conditions. They spend their entire lives saying “I’ll write tomorrow. I don’t have time today. I’ll get started when I know exactly what to write about. “ 

The only way to become a writer is to put words on the page. Good words, bad words, ugly words. If you wait to only write something good and perfect,  you’ll never write. If you wait until you have the perfect writing conditions, you’ll never write. If you wait until you have time, you’ll never write.

Is that you? Are you a Goldilocks?

The first  secret to being a writer is that writers know there is no such thing as constant perfect writing conditions. Sometimes you have to scribble notes down in a car. Sometimes you only get five minutes. Sometimes what you’re writing is awful – but you don’t stop. That’s key. You write when the bed is lumpy and when the porridge is cold.

There is no quota or quality control when you’re a writer. No one will come and knock on your door and say: You wrote poorly today. Hand over your writer’s license.

The second secret to being a writer is consistency. It’s better to write every day no matter what.   If you write every day  good moments start to pile up. Five minutes a day is better than an hour once a month. The more you write, even when you don’t want to, the more writing becomes a part of you. The more  you want to write. The more you celebrate your bad and ugly words. Ugly writing is still writing. It’s way better than no writing than all.

Don’t wait for perfect. Don’t be a Goldilocks. Don’t wait for porridge that is just right. And don’t take someone else’s porridge either. Get your own.

Observation Thursday

Observation is my number one method of finding play ideas. If you’re ever at a loss for coming up with something to write about, start logging observations. I write down observations on a daily basis and on Thursdays, I’m going to share one with you what I’ve seen and then you could do with it.

Observation Thursday

 

Staring at the Wall

Observation: Two people in a conversation outside of of store. The man is talking very intently, very quietly. The woman is facing and staring at the wall, not saying anything.

Date: Wednesday June 18 2014

Comments: I walked by this couple and boy did I wish I could be invisible or turn into a fly and find out what on earth was going on here. When I say the woman was staring at the wall, she was nearly face planting the thing. I stopped a little way away to see if the situation would evolve or change. But in five minutes everything remained exactly the same. Man talking intently. Woman staring at the wall.

What can you do:  Create the scenario.What is the relationship here? Are they boyfriend/girlfriend or husband/wife, or exes, or brother/sister, or two best friends? What is the cause of this situation? What happened? Has the woman done this before or is this the first time she has decided that there is nothing else she can do other than face the wall? Write the scene starting with the event or comment or conversation that leads the woman to stop, turn, and stare at the wall.

The Top Ten Rewrite Questions

When you’re working on rewrites questions are your greatest ally. They are practical and tangible. You can answer a question, you can realize the answer is already in the text, you can choose not to answer a question. Being mysterious is okay so long as it’s a conscious choice and not a missing plot point. When you’re asking people to give you feedback don’t ask for their opinion, get them to ask questions.

You can question many different parts of your work – the characters, the story, the structure – just to name a few. If you want your writing to be specific, effective and efficient it’s important to question.

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The Top Ten Questions to Ask of Your Work

  1. Why is the first page a great introduction?
  2. Why is the last page a vivid ending?
  3. Why will an audience find the world of your play interesting?
  4. How does each scene move the play forward?
  5. Why do you leave each scene when you do?
  6. Does each character have a unique voice in their dialogue?
  7. Are your characters living the story or are they telling facts?
  8. Does each character have a want? How do they go after it?
  9. What is the main conflict of the play? What are the obstacles?
  10. Is there conflict in every scene?

Observation Thursday

Observation is my number one method of finding play ideas. If you’re ever at a loss for coming up with something to write about, start logging observations. I write down observations on a daily basis and on Thursdays, I’m going to share one with you what I’ve seen and then you could do with it. Observation Thursday

An inappropriate Selfie

Observation: Two people dressed in funeral blacks taking an odd selfie outside a funeral reception.

Date: Saturday June 14 2014

Comments: I was driving down a residential street. I stopped at a stop sign and saw a house with many many cars outside. I saw people get out of a car dressed in black, and a few more outside the house dressed in black. My keen powers of deduction decided that this was a house reception after a funeral. I saw two young people standing on the lawn. Both in black. He had a cigarette hanging out of his mouth. She was pouting and toasting with a wine glass. They were taking a selfie of themselves. At a funeral reception.

What can you do:  Create the scenario.Who are these two people and what is their relationship to the dead person? Are they sad? If they’re not, why? Who has died? Why do they feel it’s okay to take a selfie in these circumstances. Write a scene between these two characters. Write another scene where a third person comes up to them and sees what they’re doing. What would their reaction be?

Ask yourself…. how you doin’?

When you’re working on a play or any piece of writing there are some key questions you should ask yourself. Sometimes when we’re in the thick of writing it’s hard to think about why we started in the first place.

What do you want for your work?

By asking and answering some questions you can clarify and focus your goals for the piece. Knowing your goals can be extremely helpful during rewrites. I like to ask these questions after I have a first draft because then I can refer directly to the text and see if my answers are reflected in the text.

If I want my play to be fast paced and action packed, but my play has a lot of complicated scene changes, that’s an issue. Nothing slows down the pace faster than a lot of scene changes. If I want the audience to have an emotional connect to my main character, but my main character spends a lot of time talking in facts, statistics and dates, that’s an issue.

Answer the following questions about the piece you’re currently working on.

  1. What do you want the audience to experience during the performance?
  2. What do you want the audience to remember after the performance?
  3. What are you struggling with right now?
  4. What do you like best about your piece?
  5. What will your audience connect to most in your piece?
  6. Why are you writing this piece?
  7. What do you want to achieve with this piece?

 

 

 

Observation Thursday

Observation is my number one method of finding play ideas. If you’re ever at a loss for coming up with something to write about, start logging observations. I write down observations on a daily basis and on Thursdays, I’m going to share one with you what I’ve seen and then you could do with it.

Observation Thursday

 

20 Rolling Chairs

Observation: A townhouse has 20 rolling chairs out in front of it. Why so many?

Date: Sunday June 1 2014

Comments: I was staying in Toronto for the weekend to teach. The walk from my friend’s place to the class was about 45 minutes. A great way to start the day. On my walk, I happened across this:

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20 rolling chairs. Right in front of someone’s house. It’s one of those situations that combines something so ordinary – they’re just chairs after all – with something so out of place. Chairs are not supposed to be lined up like this. Outside.

And that’s not all. When I came back that night, the guy who owned the place with the rolling chair forest was blow drying one of the chairs. Blow drying  chair. You cannot make this stuff up.

What can you do:  Create the scenario. It doesn’t matter what the real reason 20 rolling chairs are on some guys front patio. What’s your reason? What’s your character’s reason? What’s at stake here? What needs to happen to these chairs and why? And why was the guy using a blow dryer on them?

Observation Thursday

Observation is my number one method of finding play ideas. If you’re ever at a loss for coming up with something to write about, start logging observations. I write down observations on a daily basis and on Thursdays, I’m going to share one with you what I’ve seen and then you could do with it.

Observation Thursday

 

The Pie Plate

Observation: A woman mentions the name of a restaurant 7 times in less than 2 minutes.

Date: Monday May 30, 2014

Comments: Two couple are sitting together on a bench. One of the women is the only voice I hear clearly. Mostly because she’s loud and she’s non-stop. She doesn’t stop talking. They’re discussing where they’re going to go for dinner and she’s off –  “We have to go to the PIE PLATE, it’s really good it’s called the PIE PLATE, John look it up, they have all kinds of pie, the quiche is apparently amazing. The PIE PLATE, are you looking it up John? Search for THE PIE PLATE….” and on it goes for at least another minute. I am not exaggerating, nor am I exaggerating the number of times she named the restaurant. Her husband said absolutely nothing during the whole exchange.

What can you do: Conversation like this should get your spidey sense tingling. Plays are all about characters and characters are all about relationships.  What is the relationship like between this PIE PLATE woman and her husband? Her practically non verbal husband? Is she like this all the time where she has to repeat things non stop in order to be heard? What are they like when no one else is around? Maybe he likes the repetition. How long have they been married? Has she always been like this or has there been a change?

Write the scene the very next time the two are alone.

See you next Thursday!

 

The Writing Process

What’s my writing process? Let’s find out.

This is my first experience with a bloghop. The idea is to share the writing process of participating authors.  The Struggling Writer passed the baton to me and you can read his response to the questions here. You can also see which writer he got the questions from.

Here are my answers…..

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What are you working on?

I have a habit of doing too much and as I answer this question I feel a little overwhelmed just looking at the list. I have a middle school play in rehearsal and it opens next week so I’m at rehearsals making final tiny changes. I also have a full length play going into production next February but the theatre company is gearing up for a workshop at the end of September so that’s my deadline. I’m also doing a lot of educational writing – lesson plans, articles,  rubrics oh my! My writing life is really varied. I just would like to be doing less things. But there’s so much to write…

How does your work differ from others in your genre?

What a great question! My work resides squarely in the theatre in education genre and because of that I have a pretty specific focus on process over production. What I mean by that is the process that the students acting in the play go through is just as important (or more important) to the students watching the final production. Connecting to an audience is always key and you have to write with your audience in mind – but – I’m also thinking about the student actor experience: having enough good parts so that an entire class can put on the play, easy staging and costuming, creating a theatrical experience.

Why do you write what you do?

I love writing for the school market. I feel there’s no group more enthusiastic, open, daring, or energetic than the high school drama production. It’s a joy to watch them work. Further, I don’t know if I believe theatre in the adult world actually has any impact or influence. Does theatre change lives anymore? I do know theatre has impact and influence at the school level. Just being in a production can change a student’s life. And it doesn’t matter what the play is either. It could be intense and dramatic, it could be fluffy and total fun. It’s the act that matters.

How does your writing process work?

I always start with pen and paper. I haven’t got to a point where I can create on computer. Call me an old lady but the act of writing with a pen is just so utterly satisfying. I feel more creative with a pen and paper. When I start writing it’s all scrawl. There are notes, point form lists, snatches of dialogue, ideas, lines crossed out. There is no rules and there are no bad ideas. It’s a true honeymoon stage. It’s my favourite phase of writing.

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Having said that I wouldn’t give up my lap top for the world. Because there always comes a time when I’m tired of writing things out and I want the structure of a formatted play. Once I transfer to the computer I focus on getting from the beginning to the end of a cobbled together first draft. I’m still  not worrying about plot holes or character questions but I do want to put together a first draft that makes some sense. This is my do draft. I just get’er done.

Then I move on to the why draft where I question everything. Why does this happen? Why does this character act in this way? This is the most painful stage because one question can derail the whole writing process. Once I get through the first why draft I’m ready to start showing my work to others.

I have a trusted reader who I show my work to and he’s the first person who sees anything I write. If I get the thumbs up from him then it’s time to start seeing the work on it’s feet. A play is not a play until it is produced. And that means first a reading and then a workshop and finally a fully staged production.

And then the process starts all over again….

The Next Step

I have passed the baton to Bradley Hayward a fellow playwright. When he answers the writing process questions you’ll be able to them on his blog. Enjoy!

 

Observation Thursday

Observation is my number one method of finding play ideas. If you’re ever at a loss for coming up with something to write about, start logging observations. I write down observations on a daily basis and on Thursdays, I’m going to share one with you what I’ve seen and then you could do with it.

Observation Thursday

 

Baby Headbands

Observation:  A woman at a church bazaar selling teeny baby headbands that seem totally inappropriate for babies.

Date: Saturday May 24, 2014

Comments: So I walked into this bazaar, the whole town I was in was having garage-sales-a -polooza event and I was wandering from one to another. This one was in the basement of a church. You can tell at a glance if the bazaar going to have tables with interesting crafts, or crochet toilet paper roll covers.  This was a category B bazaar. At one table a woman was selling these very small headbands for babies. I guess it’s important to dress up a baby. I don’t have one, I don’t know. But the thing that struck me was that they had feathers, and beads, and tiny shiny things attached to the headband. I have a five month old niece. EVERYTHING goes in her mouth. I can just image her getting hold of this headband. Sticking it in her mouth. And you know the rest.

What can you do: You always want to think of the person or character who could be connected to an observation. And in this case, my thought was – everybody has a job. It could be mailman, teacher. It could be something less stable. It could be glamourous or anything but. School is a job. Doing everything or anything possible not to work is a job.

So who’s the person who decides to turn baby headbands into a job? Are they changing careers? Is this their first stab at making something? Is this a hobby that’s getting some traction? What about the relative of this person – your sister makes inappropriate baby headbands and wants your baby to wear one. What does that scene look like?

See you next Thursday!