When writing a play script, your script should include the settings, dialogue, and actions that take place throughout your play. This type of script outlines who says or does what when and how as well as describes the setting of the stage, like backdrops, lighting, and props. It is specifically for live visual stories on the stage, including dramas, comedies, and musicals.
Before you get started, it’s important to understand the proper formatting of a play and what story elements you need to include. Follow these steps to write a play script:
The first step is to read and watch as many plays as possible. During your research, take note of what other playwrights do well. If you notice dialogue you especially enjoy or useful stage directions, consider emulating them in your own play script. Reading a play first and then seeing a live performance of that play is a great way to see what a script can turn into.
Picking a theme for your play can help you write a play that audiences can connect to and understand. Consider the following when deciding on what kind of story you’re telling:
The plot of your play is the events that take place and lead the entire story. You need to decide if you want your play plot-driven, meaning the story pushes characters from scene to scene, or character-focused, where characters’ actions direct the story. You may choose a combination of the two. Either way, many playwrights create a plot that leads to character growth.
When creating your plot, consider these key components:
Plays are made up of acts. Within each act are multiple scenes. When writing your play, you need to decide which kind of structure you want. As a new playwright, you may want to begin with a simple structure, such as a one-act play. These are the most common play structures:
Before writing the entire play from scratch, create a general outline of your play. Include the following in your outline:
Once you have a solid outline, you can start writing your play script. Filling in the outline with your actual script is a smart way to stay organized. You want to start giving your script depth and move it along with the following components:
After writing your first draft, it’s time to read through the entire play script and start making adjustments. For instance, if your dialogue feels a bit flat, you need to rewrite it in a way that sounds more natural. Consider how people talk in real life, and try to make your characters feel human and emotional. Things such as interruptions and tangents can make it sound more realistic.
Have someone else read through your play to see if it makes sense to them. Ask them to note anything that is a bit confusing or needs more development. Since the story is in your head, you may not realize that it’s not as straightforward on paper.
Follow these formatting rules when writing a play script:
Here is a brief example of a play script:
Midwestern high school. Teacher’s office. Right after school lets out.
SAM, an eccentric history teacher, sits at her desk. She sorts through a stack of papers and struggles to find what she is looking for.
Talking to herself.
Why is my life such a mess?
GEORGE, a put-together looking man, enters.
Because you’re Sam.
GEORGE chuckles as SAM rolls her eyes.
Writing a play script takes a lot of effort and practice, but it is worth it when you see your vision come to life on stage. Check out Nashville Film Institute’s other blogs to learn about writing a script for film or television.
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