Extras: GUIDE TO WRITING A THEATER SCRIPT

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by Aveline MacQuoid on August 28, 2021

in Extras

Guide to Writing a Theater Script

If you like the world of theater and are amazed by the classics usually represented on stage, think that there are also current works that even we can write ourselves. It would help if you had some imagination, desire, and this guide of steps to write a script for theater.

Theater scripts are pretty different from movie scripts. Although in both cases we have to detail in detail what elements are part of the scene and what the dialogues are, in the case of theater, we also have to consider that the viewer always sees everything in general shot and all the characters on stage. The skill of writing scripts begins to form in the school years. Many theater writers say, “I realized I wanted to write screenplays when I started to do my essay on literature topics.” From here, you must take into account these steps to start writing your theater script.

How to write a theater script

  1. Think about the story: Any script starts with an idea and a story. You must wait for inspiration to come to you, and from here, start developing the plot of your play and pass it to your script.
  2. Write the plot: When you write the story, it will not yet be the script but the beginning of its development. It would help if you also left the door open for changes and, above all, so that you can introduce new elements in your story.
  3. Write a playbill: Here, we begin to structure our theater script. You must choose whether the text is in two, three acts, or one-act, whether or not it has a prologue and epilogue, how many scenes you want to do, and what their chronology is. We can also assign a title to each location.
  4. Write a detailed outline: Once you have written your system, you must make a detailed summary of what should happen in each scene. It will also be the opportunity to write dialogue excerpts that you may change later.
  5. Write the dialogues: We have reached one of the most critical points in writing a theater script. Perhaps the idea of writing the discussions scares you a little, but you will see that after all the work you have done so far, you will have practically written them in your head. You have to be careful to respect some rules: A theatrical (or cinematic) text is spoken, not written. So everything you write must be read aloud to immediately see if it sounds excellent and believable in terms of the context in which it is found, and therefore representative of what you want to express.
  6. On the other hand, don’t explain things: Despite what you might think, audiences are far less stupid and far more intuitive than you might imagine, so let go of this fear. It doesn’t mean you have to be cryptic, but you should think that the text should be a pretext for the performance.
  7. Be careful with the length: Duration is a fundamental factor for a text that intends to be performed on stage. It is not that the reader must necessarily be short, but it must last just long enough for you to express what you want to say. In addition, you will also have to pay attention to the length of the individual components, such as if the text is one act oriented not to exceed 100 minutes. If it is in two shows, you should make the first act longer than the second (e.g., 50 min-30 min). If it is in three or more actions, it means that the shows last less (this will give the impression that your text has a pressing rhythm).
  8. Take orchestration into account: When you write a text with several characters in a theater scene, there is always the risk of forgetting someone. For example, if you have introduced three characters on stage and two of them have a dialogue of a certain length, you must consider that you will have a third one who will remain silent throughout. It’s not that it can’t be done. It can be an option. However, if you make this decision, you must do so consciously. There is also the risk of a character appearing too often or the opposite. Same speech as before: if you choose it, suitable, if it happens by mistake, bad, and you must correct it. You will see that your text will have an impressive rhythm by orchestrating the lines well and will keep the audience glued even if it is not purely comic text.
  9. The consequences of the fact: This is a fundamental point for anyone who wishes to elaborate a good script. Any text, cinematographic or theatrical that has reasons to exist and intends to last in time should never narrate a fact, but the consequences. This fact must occur before the narrative time or practically at the beginning. You will see that it is enough to read the infinite theatrical literature at your disposal to realize what we are saying.
  10. The key to the twist, in all stories, there is a turning point. The narrative leads to the fact that it seems to have no way out, hence the idea (i.e., the capstone), then the implementation and the conclusions. The problem is that this cornerstone must not come too early or too late. If it comes too soon, the end of the show will seem too far away to the audience, the play will seem long, though brief, and therefore dull. If it comes too late, the show will seem unfinished. The ending will seem rushed (and consequently pretentious). The key is to have it appear more or less after the middle of the text. So if you have a two-act play, the twist should occur near the end of the first half. If it is in three acts, more or less towards the second half of the second act, leaving the third to tell the consequences. And so on.

With these guidelines and steps, you can start writing your theater script, although the most important thing is that the story you have to tell is the main thing and what you give more value to.

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