So, you’re wondering how to write a play. Well, the good news is that while writing can be tough, it’s also extremely cheap. You have everything you need to get started. Download a free playwriting software like Celtx or just go ahead and get started in Microsoft Word or a notebook. Pencils are a dime a dozen! All you need is to be passionate and ready to get to work. And of course… you need to know how to write a play.
Below you’ll find all the steps you’ll need to figure out how to write a play. We’ll walk you through the process, so it is delivered to you in easy to complete steps. Remember: the most important tip is to make it to the end of your first draft.
What is a Playwright?
First things first, make sure you know what a playwright is and that this is the medium you want to work in. A playwright is someone who writes plays to be performed on the stage, regardless of genre.
This is different from a screenwriter, who writes scripts to be acted out as a feature film or television series. A playwright can be a screenwriter and vice versa. However, each title refers to the medium in which the content will be performed.
Writing comes in all different forms: novels, poems, music, television, films, and of course, plays. Consider why it is that you want to write a play specifically. Is a play the best medium for your story? All mediums are great to work in but consider which will be best for your interests, writing style and story.
Job Roles & Duties
The playwright is the very first step in the creation of a play. They are responsible for coming up with the idea or bringing someone else’s idea to life.
Once they have a concept, they must form it into proper play structure to ensure the story feels balanced and each storyline pays off.
Not only do they have to make sure the story and the characters are strong, but they must also keep in mind the feasibility of the performance of their play.
How much money will they have to pull off stunts? What is possible for the actors and crew and what just can’t be pulled off on stage?
Playwrights go through rounds and rounds of edits, perfecting both the content and ease with which the play can be made. Then they go about getting a director and producer attached.
From there, they must undergo more edits, forming the play into a project that includes the director and producer’s notes as well. A playwright’s responsibilities become a bit lighter once the director and the producer are happy with the script. At this point, the writer passes the story off and gets to work on his or her next project!
How to Write a Play
1. The Idea
The first step when learning how to write a play is figuring out what you’re going to write about. This can be done using writing prompts, doing free writes, or tapping into one of your particular interests.
Some people are inspired by news stories, while others are inspired by the artwork. You may already have an idea in mind, which is great! You’re off to a head start. This being said, a little free write on your idea never hurt. You may find something even more fantastic buried in your current idea.
Once you have an idea, you can’t just dive straight into writing your play. You need to brainstorm your idea out. This is where you will uncover the twists and turns you want to include in your play.
This is where your idea begins to come to life and expand into something much stronger than you would’ve ever found if you delved straight into typing up your play.
Unfortunately, it is not yet time to write your play. Try and be patient, because right now writing is all you’ll want to do. The research stage is where you make sure you aren’t falling into an obvious pitfall.
It’s where you make sure your play feels realistic. If you are writing about a doctor, you talk to a doctor. If you are writing about Albert Einstein, start reading up about his life. This is how you’ll figure out the small details, which will really matter when it comes to telling a story that feels real and relatable to your viewer.
You’ve made it step 4 of learning how to write a play. You have your idea, and you’ve researched any relevant places, historical people, professions, and time periods, but you need to make sure your characters are just as thorough.
Break down their motivations, interests, aspirations, and fears. Consider how your characters will complement and play off of each other. Try and get into your character’s head: what types of choices would they make? How will these choices actively play into your plot? Nobody likes a passive protagonist.
You’ve done all your basic preparation to begin your play. Now you can get to the actual plot! Do a little research on how you want your play to be structured, then break your idea into plot points following that structure.
Start with something as beginning, middle and end. Once you have that keep breaking each section into more subsections. The more you plan ahead, the easier writing will be.
Turn your lovely bullet-pointed outline into a 2-3 page treatment. This is the synopsis version of your play and will serve as an even more detailed outline. Add detail to your plot points. Throw in a few key lines if they come to you.
This will be extremely helpful when you are writing your script. The outline and treatment stages are where you make sure you don’t waste your time by writing yourself into a corner. Remember that planning is key and resist the urge to just start writing even though you feel so close to that step (and you are).
It’s time for you to read a play if you’ve never read a play. Take in how the story is told, but most of all this is when you will learn the format of a play.
In order for your work to be viewed as professional, it needs to follow the proper formatting rules. Make sure you have a good understanding of how your work should be laid out before you start.
It’s okay if it’s not perfect; once you’re done, you can always show your play to someone with a bit more experience to get help with any formatting questions. This being said, it is good to be ballpark accurate with the play’s formatting. It’ll save you time in the end.
8. The Vomit Draft
Okay, now you can write, and writing is exactly what you should do. Follow your outline and your treatment and get it all out. Don’t be particular, don’t get discouraged, just get to the end. That’s the most important part.
There’s always time for rewriting, but having the stamina and confidence to finish a full-length play is what’s really difficult at this point, so that’s what you’ll focus on. Even if it’s not the best play, keep in mind that this is your first round of writing and that you should be proud of having finished.
Go through your draft, start thinking about what you want to edit, and get the notes of the people you trust most. From there, go ahead and get to work fixing the kinks in your play.
Make sure everything makes sense, plot points pay off, characters behave in a believable way and cut any extra words. You don’t want a 4-hour play; not only will the audience be unforgiving, but longer means more expensive and much harder to get produced. Rewriting is a delicate process.
Don’t give up because it’s difficult, but also don’t let perfectionism destroy the charm of your work. Writing a joke over and over can only make it a certain amount funnier. There comes a point, where you beat a joke over the head too hard with edits.
Your rewriting is done, and you’re ready to go out and find people to make your play. This is when you give you work one final look over. Make sure the grammar is perfect, and there are zero typos. There’s no reason to let something so small makes people negatively judge your work.
How to Write a Play – The Conclusion
Now you know how to write a play! The first step now is to get started. Finding an idea can be hard, but it can also be a lot of fun. Start playing around with freewriting and research.
If you already have an idea, great! You’re already one step in, but don’t skimp on research and character development. An idea is a great start, but properly building it will make your playwriting process so much easier.
Good luck and remember to enjoy the process! Writing is difficult, but when you’re done, you’ll feel a huge sense of pride.