All About Theater

Common Play Writing Mistakes

The young dramatist will inevitably run into several serious errors if he is not forewarned to avoid them.

In the first place he will waste a great deal of time in smart writing, and will put a great many sayings, that he things will tell well, in the mouths of his characters. After all the pains he takes in this direction, he will find these cut out remorselessly by the stage manager, who knows by long experience what the public will suffer and what it will not.

In the second place, he will be apt to introduce a superabundance of characters, in his anxiety to present novelty. If any of those persons are not necessary to the development of the plot or to the action of the drama, let them be sacrificed at once. They merely tend to rob the principal characters of  their interest, ans as dramatic companies are constituted, it is only the principal characters that are properly represented. The oddities of the minor characters, as imagined by the author, are enver given as he fancies them on stage -- in fact, if he have one word spoken out of ten that he has written, he will be more fortunate than his predecessors.

In the third place, beware of interrupting the interest by a sub-plot. It requires a very practiced writer to introduce an audience to witness two plays at the same time. Almost all unpracticed writers fall into the error of thus dividing the interest, partly because they desire to give employment to the herd of characters whome they crowd into their dramas, and partly because they think the main plot wants support.

Supposing you to avoid those those errors, then, before you commence to write your play, make a complete and perfect skeleton  of the affair.

First, get your story.

Second, determine the nature of your characters.

Third, divide the stages of progress of the story and determine the business of each act.

Fourth, consider how to end each act with effect on the audience,

Fifth, write out a summary of the action, act by act and scene by scene. Sixth, set it aside for a week.

Now, when you pick it up again, read it like an account written by someone else; and you should have sense enough to see whether a play, such as you have sketched out, would interest you as a spectator, and observe where the interest would lag in any act, or be checked at its close. Otherwise you will make a poor dramatist. If, after having seen there is a defect in the machinery, you can not manage to correct it, you will not be apt to make a dramatist at all.

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