Monday, February 7, 2011

Short Form vs Long Form

When I first started my full-length play last year, I was a little nervous about the prospect of writing in long form.  All the plays I'd written thus far had been 10-page shorts for my play-writing class; a form I had grown to know and understand pretty well.  The idea of writing something 10 times that long was more than a little daunting.  But I embraced it and grew to love having the time to develop the characters and to let their backstories creep in, little by little, throughout the scenes. 

This week when I undertook a 10-page writing assignment to submit for the new "Detention" series at ESPA, I discovered that I have gotten so used to having time to explore and develop characters, that I was having trouble getting to the real action of the scene in just 10 pages.  I mean, I was just barely introducing who these people are!  And they don't even really know themselves yet!  I wrote too many pages, and had to cut out a lot of things that I really liked, but that only showed character and didn't move the story ahead.  In the end, I think I was able to condense most of what I wanted into the 10 pages, by careful choosing words and letting go of things that were fun but not integral.  If I had another week, I would streamline it even more, but alas it was due at noon today so I had to submit it as is.

This process has made me realize that I'd like to get back to the short play form -- I think it is a very important writing exercise, to get to the crux of the conflict instantly, to be able to reveal who your characters are in as few words as possible. Plus there are countless places to submit short plays to for festivals and such, and I feel I'm a much stronger writer now than I was a year ago.  I need some new material so I can take advantage of some of those opportunities.

And thus I add another goal to my list for the year: to write 4 new short plays this year (one per season).  Now I just need some subject matter....
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