Playwriting_Part One

Steps 1- 5

Step 1 – Decide on a theme for your play. There are no rules about choosing a theme but it works best if you choose something about which you feel strongly. Try and describe this theme in as few words as possible as this will help you to clarify what you really want to say.

The theme for a play about Cinderella could be ‘how a member of a family can be maltreated by other members of their family’.

Step 2- Write down all the things related to this theme that you want to include in your play e.g.:

  • The cruelty of sibling rivalry
  • Ill treatment of step children
  • Weakness of a parent
  • Isolation of the exploited
  • Importance of friendship to keep you going
  • Keep believing in yourself even when things are hard

Reorder them into importance if you wish. By doing this you will gain a better idea of what you want to prioritise in your play.

Step 3- Now take each theme and alongside each one write ‘some sort of opposite’, this can be an opposing view or thought.

  • The cruelty of sibling rivalry/ The vulnerability of bullies
  • The weakness of a parent/ How other people can compensate for this
  • Ill treatment of step children/ Kindness from others
  • Isolation of the exploited/ Unexpected arrival of a stranger
  • Importance of friendship to keep you going/ Loneliness of not having a single person who believes in you.
  • Keep believing in yourself even when things are tough/ Give up because it is all too hard and you cannot escape your situation

You now have a series of conflicting ideas.

Step 4- Checking your ideas for viability

Before you go any further it is a good idea to see if the theme that you have chosen will work as a plot. You do this by ‘asking questions of your theme’.

Theme- exploitation of the weak within a family

Who is being exploited?
Needs to be someone who is dependent. Probably female.

Who is exploiting the girl? Someone who has the means to do this?
A family relation?

In which setting are women are often exploited?
In domestic service

What sort of person could get away with keeping a girl away in the basement of a kitchen in a castle and make her work from dawn till dusk?
A family member who resents this girl’s presence. This would be hard for one person to do on their We need collusion- there should be more than one person exploiting this girl.

Why would they do this?
Is the girl someone who has recently joined the family? An adopted child? A sibling from a previous marriage.

Why do her siblings dislike this girl?
Has their arrival meant that they have lost something? Do they now get less attention from one of their parents? Is this girl a threat?

What is behind their fear?
Is this girl prettier or nicer than them? Yes?  Then could these characters be women, possibly unmarried woman who are worried that their half-sister may get the best men.

What do they decide to do?
Keep the girl locked away in the kitchen.

What shall we call these women?
Working title- the ugly sisters

Step 5 – Choose a setting where these themes can be explored and the characters can live.

Familial abuse usually happens in places where the perpetrators have power over the individual, often where the individual is isolated. This play could be set in a family home where the individual is made to work from dawn to dusk looking after the family. The house would need to be to be geographically isolated so that the individual does not leave the house to ask for help nor can s/he run away. The room in which you would be most likely to find this individual is in the kitchen. As the family has servants we can assume that this kitchen is in a substantial property.

Now you have explored the theme, sketched out your main characters you are ready to move on. Click here to move to see Steps 6 onwards