Have you ever entertained the thought of writing a story?
Or even more, dreamed about having your story come to life on stage? With actors taking the words you crafted, and bringing the characters you dreamed up into existence.
What is stopping you? As someone who has done a little script writing here and there, I often say the biggest hurdle is time. But if I’m being honest, it is scary!
However, opportunities to get our scripts read are all around us here in the Metro Detroit theatre community. With so many theatres hosting One Act Festivals that embrace local playwrights, it is a great opportunity to try your hand at writing.
So a few weeks ago I reached out to a few Rosedale Community Players members that write, and have had their shows performed, for advice and inspiration to get those of us teetering on the edge of writing and procrastinating to just sit down and put pen to paper.
Meg Berger’s first script, “Sisters Before Misters” is special to me personally, because it was the first time I auditioned and performed at RCP.
Meg was motivated to write this script when RCP put out a call for one act scripts for their annual One Act Festival and fundraiser in 2018. While she had written novels before, this was her first script, so she wrote what she knew. Her script was inspired by her own life.
Script writing has provided a good outlet for her to achieve her goal of seeing more women’s stories created.
“Too often women get cast as the romantic interest or the mother and that’s their point in the show, they are there to move the plot forward for the male lead.,” says Meg. “And women aren’t just love interests or mothers. We’re so much more than that. I really make a point of focusing on that when I write.”
A One Act Festival was also the motivation for playwright Maureen Paraventi to write her first script. She made it her goal to write something to submit. It was accepted and even won an award for being an audience favorite.
For Maureen, script writing allows her to see how people respond to her work.
“It’s a format that allows you to actually see the audience’s reaction to your work,” says Maureen. “I write fiction and nonfiction as well. When someone reads a book you’ve written, you rarely find out what they thought about it.”
Those reactions took time to appreciate. In the beginning it was tough to watch and see what people thought
“I felt so self-conscious the first time I sat in an audience and watched a play I wrote be performed. It was excruciating!” says Maureen. “But when I realized that the audience was responding to the characters and conflicts, I started to relax. Now I’m pretty Zen about it.”
Dave Durham also got his start in script writing with RCP’s One Act Fest. An avid writer that writes poetry, song lyrics and even creates and writes board games, he considers writing his way of painting.
So it was natural that when RCP member Heather Hudson was spearheading our very first One Act Fest, that she asked Dave to consider submitting something.
“I procrastinated and fretted right up to the deadline, then handed in barely enough to be considered,” reflects Dave. “ That play, Royally Touched, was such a great experience, I haven’t stopped. “
In 2020 Dave’s full length play Of Divine Interest won First place in the Community Theatre Association of Michigan’s Annual Playwriting Contest. And RCP is excited that we will be producing this show in our next live season.
New playwrights tend to have a lot of excuses not to start. For instance, how do you find the time to write?
Dave suggests scheduling time, just as you would s doctor’s appointment. Make that time a priority and stick to it.
Maureen also points out that you do not need huge blocks of time to write. She suggests squeezing in time whenever you find it.
And Meg says it is important to know what will work best for you.
“If you’re a morning person, get up early and write. If you’re a night person, try to sneak in a few pages of writing at night,” she suggests. I have even written during my lunch.”
Like many newbies, I always claimed I didn’t have the time. But then the pandemic hit, and I had a lot more time. So I had to come up with a new excuse. I couldn’t get my creative juices flowing.
And the pandemic seemed to stunt Meg’s creativity too. She ended up turning to writing prompts to get her started again and has made it her goal to write at least once a week.
For Maureen, inspiration happens everywhere. She observes, listens and imagines all of the time. The biggest issue for her is finding the time to develop the ideas she comes up with.
Dave is inspired by stories he hears on NPR, or even through friends.
And when writer’s block hits, he advises that you step away and work on something else.
“I often have three or four artistic projects going at once. My best script ideas hit me while driving or doing household chores,” says Dave. “ I immediately hit the record button on the phone’s voice app and blurt it out in one steady stream. When I sit down again to write, I listen to all the ideas and pick out the best.”
Meg once told me, before I started a script, that to get started writing, I have to just start writing. She said I shouldn’t expect my first script to be good, but I will never get better until I get through that experience.
With my lowered expectations, I was able to finish a script. And it wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it would be!
After you finish your first script what do you do with it?
Personally, I sent mine in to a One Acts Fest. It did not get selected but I did get useful feedback to create a better second draft.
But that is part of the process for a writer just starting out. Maureen said that if she could go back in time to give herself advice in the beginning she would tell herself to “learn how to take constructive criticism earlier. I’m fine with it now, but as a beginning writer, I was sensitive. Everyone is going to have an opinion. Take everything in, but take it all with a grain of salt. Not every bit of feedback is useful, or fits your intentions for your play.”
And Dave says that while it is important to get other eyes on your script, but be selective at first.
“Don’t be so quick to spread around your work to everyone you know as soon as you have a first draft. Find reader’s groups, or get a group together to read it out loud, then work on what didn’t quite sound right,” says Dave. “There are so many wonderful groups in the area, and they are hungry for new scripts to peek at. Many of them have actual actors among them so you get an interpretation, instead of just a critique at the end.“
Rosedale Community Players has a script writing group that will resume meeting when things get closer to normal that does just that. The group is composed of both readers and actors (many of us are both) and we provide encouragement and guidance for script writers both new and seasoned.
So to be a writer, all you really have to do is to start writing. What are you waiting for?
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