We are thrilled to launch 40 Plays/40 Nights in partnership with our good friends at NHB and HighTide alumni.
Starting on Tuesday 24th March, we will tweet out 40 simple standalone playwriting tasks, the traditional period of a quarantine. We invite writers to share their responses online for feedback, discussion and celebration. All tasks will be uploaded to this blog post and on our social channels and we encourage you to share yours with us via our Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. We will be sharing our favourite responses each day.
We can’t wait to see what you come up with and to get to know some brand new voices!
Thursday 26th March
Write a one page page monologue about a character remembering a party. Put the parade at least 10 years in the past. What kind of party was it? Why is the character remembering this party now? Does the character often remember this parade or is this a sudden flash of memory? How does the character feel now as compared to how they felt watching the party?
2. Rewrite the monologue and cut out half a page. What can you remove and still have your character share their experience?
3. Rewrite the monologue and cut out three more sentences. At this point the monologue will be very lean. How can you make sure you say what you need to in the space you have?
4. Rewrite the monologue so that it is only one sentence long. What is the heart of this monologue? What is at the core of the character? You should be able to distill this into one sentence. When writing monologues, keep this exercise in mind. The words Efficient and Effective should be at the forefront of your mind as you work. What about your monologue keeps an audience on the edge of their seats, yearning to hear every word your character says? What exactly does your character want to say? How clearly are you able to word your character’s want?
Tuesday 24th March
You can actively improve your ability to create compelling characters by consciously enhancing your observation of everyday life. Examples of the clash between the personality presented to the world and the inner reality are available to us all the time. If you are walking down a street or on a bus or train, or sitting in a café, it is a useful exercise to pick out a real person and to think how you would describe them as a character. First of all observe their physical features. What are they wearing? What is their hair like? What about ethnicity? How do they sit or stand? See if you can write down in fewer than ten words a description of them, which, if it were a stage direction, would engage and illuminate a reader of the play.
Next, try to develop the character a bit further. Make some guesses about this person’s life. What is their occupation? Do they have a partner? Do they have children? How do they feel about their life? Imagine where they have just come from and where they’re about to go. Give them a name. Create from all the evidence you have accumulated or imagined a dramatic dilemma for this person.
This material for characters is available to us all the time. By playing this simple game you will not only be exercising those muscles which bring characters to life, you may actually be able to transpose your observations into a character in a play. If you look at what the character appeared to be, and what they really were, and there was a contradiction there, then that is a very fertile area for developing an idea for a play.
This exercise is taken from Playwriting: Structure, Character, How and What to Write by Stephen Jeffreys. You can save 30% on your copy when you order direct from publishers Nick Hern Books – use code HIGHTIDE30 at www.nickhernbooks.co.uk/