How to Write a Script for a Play

Instructor: Joe Ricker
Writing a script for a play requires inspiration and a clear understanding of how to tell a story that won't put the audience to sleep, make them walk out, or shake their heads in confusion.

Be the Next Great Playwright

If you want to write a play, first you have to have a story. A script is the set of directions that the director and actors will follow to bring your play to life. Before you can begin to write the script, you have to have a fundamental understanding of the basic components for the content of a play-- the characters and the story. You'll also need to know how to structure your play so the story unfolds in a logical and compelling way.

If you think about the play as a set of directions like those you would use to drive your car, you can see how important the script is. If you get the wrong directions or confusing directions, you might end up lost. The same applies to the script of your play. If you start too soon with the storyline, the audience might become bored. If you start too late, the audience might be confused. So, make sure you have the details worked out before you begin to write the script.

Story

A play is simply a story that is acted out for an audience. The plot is the sequence of events that carries the protagonist from the inciting incident, to conflict, to rising action, to climax, and finally, resolution.

There wouldn't be much to a story without characters, and the most important character is the protagonist. He or she is the character that drives the story along, and that the audience can root for during his or her struggle. Another important character is the antagonist, whose role in the play is to oppose the direction of the protagonist. In other words, the antagonist is somewhat of a nemesis to the protagonist. Plays aren't limited to just a protagonist and antagonist, and there are often multiple characters in a play that support either the protagonist or antagonist.

For you to establish roles for the antagonist and protagonist, you have to have an inciting incident, which is the event that creates the conflict for the protagonist and antagonist. Conflict is the issue in the play that the protagonist is trying to resolve. For the protagonist to resolve the conflict, he or she moves through the rising action-- the events that lead to the climax of the play. The climax is the last stand, so to speak, between the protagonist and antagonist. It's the pinnacle of action between them, and the event that determines how the protagonist will resolve the conflict, which is called the resolution.

Structure

Plays are broken up into parts, or acts, that contain various events that take place in the play, otherwise known as the storyline, or arc. The most basic play structure is the three-act play. In Act 1 the audience is introduced to the characters; the exposition, or background information; the inciting incident; and the conflict. Act 2 is where the rising action shows how the protagonist and antagonist are acting against the conflict. Act 3 contains the climax and resolution, where the protagonist either succeeds or fails in resolving the conflict.

Here's a breakdown:

ACT 1 - Exposition, Inciting incident, Conflict

ACT 2 - Rising action

ACT 3 - Climax and Resolution

Writing the Script

Now you're ready to write your script. There are three main parts to a script: dialogue, stage direction, and scene description. These are the instructions for the director and the characters to follow to perform the play for an audience.

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