Friday, June 29, 2012

Five Reasons to Find the Novel in Your Full Length Play

In the first post I declared that there certainly is a novel to be found within your full length play.  But it won't be an easy job pulling it out. The effectiveness of the story told in a play depends so much on the director, the cast, the set, lighting, and sound -- all of the collaborative elements of the art form.  I'm not sure I completely agree but it's been said that a play is a 'blueprint" of a story.  Unless your name is Arthur Miller or David Mamet you probably are not going to have much to say about what takes place on stage.  Many grad schools in their MFA program teach that the playwright often does not even know what the essence of the story is. It takes the collaborative process to allow it to emerge. Now, that's another discussion altogether.  Let's get to the reasons to find your novel in your already completed full length play.

Reason One:  You've already tackled the hard parts.  In putting your play to paper you've decided on the central characters and the setting.  You've arrived at the essence of the story that you want to tell.  You decided long ago that this was a story worth telling.

Reason Two:  Chances are your novel will go farther than your play ever will. This is not exactly the golden age of the stage play with theaters all across the landscape eagerly awaiting the next new play. Professional theater has an extremely hard shell that few playwrights ever crack. Amateur theater groups in this country rarely if ever do anything new. It's an actor's medium, especially at the local level. Meanwhile, the publishing industry is undergoing radical change.  There's no need anymore to wait for publishing lightning to strike.

Reason Three:  Revision is easier and more fun.  You've developed a manuscript of 80 pages or more that contains your story. Now, it's fleshing it out, tweaking it, "opening it up".

Reason Four:  Your story's structure is in place.  You know what's at stake in the story. You've already created an arc.  You know what the climax is.

Reason Five:  Your characters already have their voice.  Probably more than anything else, you labored over a distinctive voice for each of your characters. Lots of the dialog can be lifted right off the page.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Can a novel be hiding out in your full length play?

The answer is yes, of course. But do you really want to go there? The proposition raises issues all over the place.  What issues?  A story is a story, play shmay, right?  Well, if you've written a full length play, you've spilled your blood all over the pages. You've chosen the stage as the place where your story will be told perhaps because you could not imagine a more satisfying experience as a writer than actually seeing your heroine alive and walking about before your eyes, and she's saying your words.  You will sit in a darkened theater and suspend your disbelief along with the audience as the story unfolds in three dimensions. Wow.

You crafted scenes that taken together are the essence of your story. You've implied back stories for all your characters that are revealed in their dialogue and their motivations. It's all clear to you and you have supplied stage directions for the director, cast and crew to make sure of it. But is it really crystal clear? Or have you surrendered absolute clarity to a collaborative conception? Above all else a play is a collaboration for sure. I mean, would a novelist ever leave the heroine's physical presence up to someone else's vision? That's exactly what happens when auditions and call backs for a play have been completed and your heroine is cast.

You see what I mean about issues. Do you really want to go there?

Monday, June 18, 2012

About My Blog

This a  place to talk about the process of  'getting there' in the worlds of playwriting and thrillers.