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Playhouse Playmaker - the final Big Push

Playhouse Playmaker - the final Big Push
posted 19 Apr 2017

Playhouse Playmaker Phil Darkins writes about the final push to get the first draft of the Playmaker plays finished…

Putting the ‘pro’ into ‘procrastination’…

We are all on the cusp of having a first draft completed, oh the joy! Now the pressure is truly on to plant our bums on seats and hands to the keyboard. It always amazes me that when I have a deadline I suddenly become a master at procrastination. I find myself looking for any reason not to write, like noticing a minute amount of dust on my skirting boards and thinking “Yep, that skirting need a good old scrub.” And because I’m doing something productive I trick myself into thinking that I’m not just wasting away my valuable writing time. But that deadline isn’t going anywhere and it looms overhead like a cloud that is gradually growing darker and darker. So now is the time to stop cleaning and actually do some proper marathon writing sessions.

Structure – your safety line through a maze of words.

This month’s Playmaker meetup focussed on plot structure and the importance of planning your play. The day kicked-off with Renata Allen introducing us to Kate Forsyth’s plot graph. It explains (in great detail) how she structures her novels. Although Kate is a novelist, her plot graph works for any medium of writing; whether it be a novel, stage play or screen play. It shows that you need a beginning, middle and end, but in between these three points Renata stressed that there needs to be some sort of ‘rising action’ and this starts with the ‘inciting incident’ (what does your protagonist want or need to overcome that will propel the story forward?). This usually comes within the first ten minutes. Next there needs to be a crisis or turning point, followed by an ordeal or revelation. This continues throughout the plot until there is the main ‘climax’ where the protagonist has to confront what they want, or they are forced to confront what the inciting incident was. Then you have the ‘falling action’ that leads to a conclusion and ultimately the end of the play.

Renata then got us to all draw out a similar plot graph for our own plays. This is a great exercise to try out and I would recommend it to anyone who is thinking of or already in the process of writing a play. It forces you to ask critical questions of your plot and weens out any flaws it may have while also giving you a visual image of how your plot will pan out. This ability to see your plot in front of you or as a graph or storyboard should never be underestimated. It is too easy to just have a few characters and an idea and start writing, hoping you will find your way to the end. Sure, you can try riffing it, but the chance of you getting lost in a maze of words is highly likely. A plot graph or storyboard is your safety-line.

Things start to approach their final form…

As always, after lunch we gathered back at the table to read through our own writing. This workshopping process allows us to hear our work read aloud and get much-needed feedback to help us in the next phase of writing.  Though we are at different stages, everyone’s work is starting to take shape and resemble a first draft of a play. And now we have 6 weeks to finish our first drafts, so the pressure is on.

The Playmaker effect…

Being a part of the Oxford Playhouse Playmaker programme is a once in a life time opportunity for me and I feel it has been another step-up from my previous writing experiences. Getting tutored by John Retallack and Renata Allen is invaluable for all the new techniques I’ve learnt. Also having the other five writers, who are all very talented and bring their own skills and knowledge to the table makes it a very enlightening and creative environment to be in.    



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