On writing

We are only 24 hours away from opening submissions for the Collaborations festival. Maybe you’re already scribbling away every night with only black coffee and a little background music for company … if so, congratulations, I hope you’re pleased with the outcome.

But if you’re still staring at a blank page chewing on the end of your pencil; here are a few hints I have picked up in my travels …

A little writing inspiration from Charlie Kaufman:

Don’t let anyone tell you what a story is, what it needs to include. As an experiment, write a non-story. It will have a chance of being different.

The point is: it’s very important that what you do is specific to the medium in which you’re doing it, and that you utilise what is specific about that medium to do the work. And if you can’t think about why it should be done this way, then it doesn’t need to be done.

From the recent screenwriter lecture series by BAFTA and the BFI. Read more in The Guardian’s article ‘Charlie Kaufman: why I wrote Being John Malkovich‘.

Words of wisdom adapted from Gavin Kostick’s advice to aspiring playwrights:

  1. Write about what you know and/or feel passionate about – explore characters or a subject matter about which you feel strongly.  Don’t be afraid to state the obvious, if you think the obvious needs to be stated; or to take us somewhere unexpected, if you think that there is something that needs to be made public.
  2. If in doubt, keep it simple – a small play can have a big resonance, but can be confusing if it is crammed with too many thoughts.  A play does not need to deal with a big issue. Simple encounters which might capture a turning point in one of the characters’ lives, or during which a character is changed by the experience, can work best.
  3. Read and watch other people’s work – not so you can copy another writer, but to consider what is possible.
  4. Think theatrically – a play is not just about words, of course, it is about how the actors and audience connect, so consider this relationship.  Think of yourself as the first audience of your own work.  Plays can be set anywhere and there are lots of ways to create environments on stage (without necessarily using complicated sets etc) …  think as imaginatively as you wish.
  5. Don’t be afraid to break the rules – a lot of groundbreaking plays do not necessarily follow the suggestions listed here.

Applications for the Collaborations festival open tomorrow (October 12th) and close Monday, October 24th at 6pm. We wish you all the best with your applications, and can’t wait to hear about all your ideas!!

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