Some things I’ve learned about script-writing

Over Christmas, I’ve been deeply immersed in researching and writing my latest theatre project, for LGBT History Month with Inkbrew Productions. More on my Lesbian Liberator very soon.

A quick teaser for the play I’m writing. Burnley Plays will be staged in February 2017

But, having just got through a shaky first draft (literally, I stopped typing an hour ago), it’s got me thinking about some of the things I’ve learned about writing drama that they never taught me on any playwriting courses.

They’re my own rules, and you may despise all of them. But, in case one or two might be useful to someone else, here’s a list.

  1. People never say what they mean in drama. If a character says: “I’m annoyed with you because you don’t pull your weight around the house” and that’s really all that’s going on – that isn’t drama. That’s just your parents arguing.
  2. Use some specialist script-writing software. You can usually try them out for free. It saves loads of formatting time, and it makes you feel like a real professional in a way that selecting a ‘typewriter’ font in a Word document just doesn’t.
  3. If you haven’t heard your script out loud, it isn’t ready.
  4. ‘Write what you know’ is boring advice. So is the favourite slogan of theatre literary departments: ‘Tell us something about the world we live in now.’ Write what interests you instead. Look things up if you need to. The only commandment is ‘Thou shalt not bore’.
  5. Constantly ask: ‘Do I need to write that?’ It goes for everything you put on the page: dialogue, stage directions, the dreaded ‘notes on performance’. You are not Tennessee Williams. Leave space for the other creatives who will hopefully bring your work to life.
  6. Always submit a script as an uneditable PDF. Seriously. If an actor or director has to make handwritten changes, they’ll think about them first.
  7. Be kind to your characters. Be kind to your story. Be kind to your audience. Be fucking brutal with yourself. (Cut that speech.)
  8. Give people names. Be specific in everything you do. If anything is purely symbolic, you haven’t done your job yet.
  9. Don’t let anybody in your script actually say the point you’re making. Lie, conceal and cheat. Then we might believe you.
Tennessee Williams
This is Tennessee Williams. You are not Tennessee Williams. *describes curtains for four pages*

Other stuff

If you thought this post was a bit self-righteous, you might prefer this list of all the bad things I’ve ever written

Should you wish, you can read some of my stories for free online here

As it happens, I’m currently putting a playlist together of songs that the characters in my play (a group of feminists living together in 1978) might have listened to. I’d love to hear suggestions for anything I’ve missed – let me know in the comments below?

I’m funnier on Twitter: @AbiFaro

Happy New Year, everybody!

One thought on “Some things I’ve learned about script-writing

  1. If your characters are from Burnley in1978 they would have gone to the Cats Whiskers encountered the sticky carpet and danced to the Likes of Boney M The Michael Zager Band Lets All Chant, Plastic Bertrand and Blondie. I know I did.I agree is make your characters lie but how much? That’s the problem I have when I write


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