How To Write A Play…7 Tips…and more


Hollywood, actors, friendship, stage play, film, success,Ideas have come to me in the visiting area of a state prison, a haunted lighthouse, my days in Hollywood, or listening to  stories of my mother, growing up with 13 siblings ….. the ideas come to me in a little kernel of truth and I am inspired to write.

I am frequently asked ‘how can you be so prolific?’,  ‘how do you write so many plays?’ ‘where do you get your ideas?’

So I thought what a perfect time to give my readers seven tips about writing their first stage play.  After all, 45 play scripts ago and seventeen years earlier I began writing my first script.  And that led me to create the Creative Writers’Journals and Handbooks which includes ‘how to write a play’ and ‘how to create exciting characters.’ I went on to create a book of writing tips. 

        SEVEN TIPS TO GET YOU STARTED  … and more 

1.  Format is very important.    If you submit your new play to anyone they will not read it if it is not in the proper format. There is software out there that

offer auto-format but I found them lacking.   Sample.playwrite.format
Notice character name is in CAPS and centered. Blocking (action) is indented and placed in parentheses. Setting, Rise and Dialogue are justified left. Single space between character’s name and first line of dialogue.  If one word it is placed next to character’s name in parentheses.  A ‘beat’ is a dramatic pause to enhance the pace of the speech and is placed in the dialogue where you wish the actor to pause for a beat or two. Or buy a play script from a publisher. Samuel French is the best.

2. Each page represents approximately one minute of time on stage.  So if you have a play that is 200 pages long, that won’t work.  Audiences aren’t going to sit for more than one and a half hours unless you are providing a circus, a fire drill, sex, and an earthquake.  Audiences are even reluctant to sit through “The Iceman Cometh” a classic by Eugene O’Neill.  It runs close to 3 hours.You should keep your full length script to about 100 pages which equals 1.6 hours of stage time.  For a one act divide that by 2.  For a ten minute play your script should be from 10-15 pages.

3.  Leave lots of white space on the page.  One day when your play is being produced, actors will need a place to make notes in the script during rehearsal.  This is a sample of an actor’s (mine) working script. The    how to write a play, Trisha Sugaek, inspiration, actor usually ‘highlights’ their lines and writes the director’s blocking in the margins. (in pencil, as blocking frequently changes)

4.  The blocking is indented. This is where the playwright gives the characters instructions on when and where to move.  But, keep it short and sweet.  Remember there will be a director who has their own ideas of where he/she wants their actors to be.  Be aware of costume changes in your writing.  An actor can’t exit stage left and enter stage right, seconds later, if you haven’t written in the time it will take to give them the time to accomplish a costume change.

42 Tips about Creative Writing

5.  Your script has to work on a stage If your story takes place in more than one locale, you have to be aware of the logistics of set changes. So keep it simple to start.  If you are ambitious in your setting buy a book on set design to research if your set is feasible.  There are some wonderful ‘envelope’ sets that unfold when you need to change the scene.  But you have to consider the budget; would a theatre have the money to build it? Always a worry.

6.  Dialogue: Now here’s the, sometimes, hard part:  everything you want the audience to know, about the story and the characters, is conveyed in the dialogue.  Unlike a short story or a novel, where you can write as much description as you’d like, a play script has none of that.  NO description.  Here is a Sample.Dialogue.Sugarek of dialogue demonstrating how to move the story forward.

7. How To Know When to Change Scenes. When there is a date/time or character/scene change is a good guide. But be careful, if the time/day changes and there is a costume change needed, always remember the audience isn’t a patient creature and they will not sit and wait for very long.  A director can and will set up an area backstage for those quick changes and often the costume mistress will be there to help with shoes, zippers, etc. To save time, you should write the actor entering from the same side as they exited (when possible) to save the time it would take for them to hurry to the other side of the stage.

Did you miss my post about Publishers?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Visit my Home page to see current book reviews and Interviews with other authors.
Want to see some original plays? Click here. 
47 Short Plays to choose from. Click here.

Want to try writing a ten minute play?Click here

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Instruction on:
How To Begin
How to Write a Play
Formatting your Play on the Page
How to write Dialogue
How to Create Rich, Exciting Characters
Stage Terminology

How To Write a Play available NOW. Click here

  ‘How To’  Journals and Handbooks for all of your Creative Writing, including how to write a stage Play! 
275 blank, lined pages for your writing.  Tips and famous quotes from authors, playwrights, directors, actors, writers and poets to help inspire you. 

WANT TO LEARN MORE?? … These new Journals/Handbooks offer a total of 14 points of ‘how to’.
 Available on Amazon.com    B&N, and all fine book stores.

If you’d like to try writing a ten minute play?  Click here
How To Format a Screenplay
How to Format Your Novel
How to Format a Stage Play

  Order here

This new, exciting, instructional book is a sharing of over twenty+ years of experience. This writer has honed  her craft of creative writing and ‘is still learning.’ 

Thirty-five writing tips that include:
That first, all important, sentence
How to develop rich characters
Writer’s Block
Procrastination
Writing process
What Not to Do (when receiving a critique)

 Takes the ‘scary’ out of writing!
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

DON’T MISS MY  blog, blogs, blogger, writer, author, playwright, books, plays,fictionwith weekly posts.  Also featuring INTERVIEWS with other best-selling AUTHORS! with me once a month . We shall sneak into these writers’ special places, be a fly on the wall and watch them create!  

 To Purchase

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
6 Responses
  1. John says:

    Hey Trisha, thanks for your post on properly formatting a stage play. It seams to be one of the very few I’ve found online to be correct. I have BOTH Final Draft AND Movie Magic Screenwriter. BOTH have Stage Play templates, but the templates are NOTHING close to proper stage play format! Where can I get a proper stage play template?
    Thanks a bunch!

    • Trisha says:

      Hey John. Sorry, but I don’t think I got this message from you. So better late than never. I used Final Draft for awhile but found that they are really focused on TV and screenwriting. Same with Magic Screenwriter. So I manually set up my format because then I know it’s correct. One tip: When a scene includes the same characters (whether it’s two or six) I type, cut and paste their names over and over so it’s ready for me to continue. (Example)
      SALLY.
      JOHN.
      SALLY.
      JOHN. (of course in bold. then I cut and paste over and over as I need it. Works pretty good.)

  2. Tricia Gude says:

    funny my name is Tricia is there a big difference from a musical and play

  3. Tim Brown says:

    I’m going to say WOW, thank you very much this has been truly helpful. my wife and i are writing our first play together. we are extremely excited about it. there was some things that we didn’t know and we learn from you. I learn to keep each page approximately one minute long, I learned to keep the play time approximately one-and-a-half hours, ; I also learned to keep my playbook approximately 100 pages that was so many good pointers that my wife and I learn from you. so we thank you very much. Our play is a gospel play that would touch so many expects on life. It also reminds people that God is always there for them and never give up on payer! Thank you and God bless you, keep up the good work. …..

I love to hear from my readers! Tell me what you think of the web site and the content.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.