Creativity # 21 - Start your play at the Beginning!

Just recently, I read a play which was given to me to read by a very gifted playwright. The dialogue in this play was wonderful, clever and witty. The characters were multi-dimensional, funny and complex.

But as I was reading it, I realized that there was something very wrong with this draft. It didn't start until page 9. 

Yes, there was witty dialogue and wonderful characters but there was no problem. No dilemma. No challenge.  No inciting incident until page 9.

By page 9, without (to coin ALLISON SHERIDAN of the Nosillacast Podcast,) "the problem to be solved," your audience will be asleep or checked out or on their phones responding to email within minutes if not seconds.

Mind you, this is just my belief, but a great play will present the problem within the first 1 to 2 minutes, setting the context and pacing, and through-line for the rest of the play.

I love to start a play within the first 30 seconds! My auto-biographical dating play, THE MATCH GAME, which ran for 4 months at the now defunct INDEPENDENT THEATRE on 8th St way back in 2003, started with an arguement on a blind date that escalated into a full out stage fight between a powerhouse biker chick and the rather wimpy character playing yours truly. Did the audience get that the main character was having a bit of trouble finding the right mate? You bet! And that crazy stage fight set up the problem and powered up the through-line which would propel the play to its romantic conclusion.

So how can you start your play (or novel) sooner? Do you really need all that set up or can you start your play with a bang and fill in the back stories later?

How can you set up the "problem that needs to be solved" sooner?


Answer these questions, and you will be on your way to creating an awesome new play!




Ken Wolf