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A Slice of Time….How to Write a Ten Minute Play

I always see the script (for a 10 minute play) as a slice of time. ‘I Can’t Breathe’ was a slice of time before the event that prompted me writing the play. ‘Parkland Requiem’ was during  the event, that is the massacre that happened at Parkland’s high school. We all know what happened immediately after the shooting and not much before the shooting other than it was a normal day of  families getting ready for the day and hopeful young people hurrying off to school. 

For me, the writer, it’s like walking into a room where people are having a conversation (without you) and you are plunged into the story from there.

None of the rules of writing change when writing a ten minute play, just because it’s short. You must still have a beginning, an arc, and an ending(of sorts). You have to introduce the characters through dialogue quickly and concisely. You must attract the empathy of the audience with record speed. Remember, you only have ten minutes.

How do I know when I have ten minutes? Here’s some tips: The typical rule is a page equals one minute.  If a page is heavy with blocking, (movement) it will usually go longer than a minute. If you have a page that is solid with dialogue and movement you can rely on the 1 page = 1 minute. And leave lots of white space; an actor will need some space to write in blocking, from the director, and notes while in rehearsal. 
 

Check out my many “Motivational Moments for Writers” in past posts. 
Want to try your hand at writing a ten minute play? This journal is a great place to start. 
Want to see more of my ten minute plays? Click here 

Do you need help Formatting a Novel? 
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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   May:  Joram Piatigorsky, June: Mike Maden writing for TOM CLANCY. July: Guest Blogger Desiree Villena, August: Carolyn Brown
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Guest Blogger, Desiree Villena, Addresses Writer’s Block (conclusion)

The last two steps to combat writer’s block :

…………In a brief, it’s expected that you provide a synopsis of your book, as well as highlight any important visual elements within it. Don’t be afraid to play around with this! For example, if your project involves an epiphany, a revelation, or solution to a mystery, a cryptic cover that features a clue could be a way to “wink” at readers who have read the book and now understand the hint. Similarly, if an object plays an important role in your story (think of the cut-glass bowl in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s short story ‘The Cut-Glass Bowl’, for example), you should let your designer know about it, as they can brainstorm cover ideas that involve this object.
This is an entertaining and creative exercise to do when facing writer’s block because you’ll see certain aspects of your story in a fresh way after trying to synthesize your plot from a visual perspective. Envisioning a potential book cover for your project is guaranteed to motivate you —
not to mention it’ll probably come in handy later!

“Procrastination is unprofessional and a heinous habit…. If you are not a self starter or you cannot find it in yourself to show up for work on your own and deliver on time you should not pursue a writing career.” ~~Dorothea Benton Frank

#3.    Describe your reader avatar. In marketing lingo, a ‘reader avatar’ is your ideal, perfect reader. It’s a notion that every book marketer will remind you to consider as you narrow down possible target markets. For example, the perfect reader of Roald Dahl’s Matilda could be a bookish, moral, and playful child (just like the protagonist) or an English teacher, parent, or relative who encourages children to read and study hard for school. Once you’ve dreamt up your reader avatar, try experimenting with this “character” in a writing exercise! Narrate an ordinary day in their life, write a dialogue between your reader avatar and a friend, or try some poetry in the form of a dramatic monologue and see what their voice sounds like. Getting to know this avatar is a great chance to practice your characterization and dialogue skills, while also keeping them in mind for when the time comes to reach out to them! 

“Stop procrastinating! Okay, serious answer: Remind yourself that your book isn’t going to write itself. It doesn’t do you any good to sit around dreaming up every single detail of your plot and all the action and every line of dialogue. You’ll forget most of what you dream up, anyway, unless you write it down, and if you’re going to write down notes, you might as well just write the damn story.” ~~ Olivia Hawker 

#4. Write a review for a similar book.
If you really need to escape your project, you might even read another book in your genre and distill your thoughts in a review. You don’t have to publish it if you don’t want to, but do consider making it public since all writers appreciate getting a book review. Reading someone else’s work can be a uniquely revitalizing experience for a tired mind, and if their project is somewhat similar to yours, you might find yourself inspired to return to your work in progress. As for the writing part, it’s one of the best ways to support other writers and still train that word-generating part of your brain! Every piece of writing is an opportunity to structure your thinking with eloquence, so no writing effort ever goes to waste. No matter what you find yourself writing in your attempt to move past writer’s block, as long as you’re producing words, you’ll soon find your way through. Hopefully these four writing tasks can renew your excitement for crafting your book, while also inspiring you to think about its future marketing prospects. The key is to just keep going, one word at a time. Don’t lose hope!

Did you miss part 1?

 More good information, click here
Additional post about writer’s block
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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   May:  Joram Piatigorsky, June: Mike Maden writing for TOM CLANCY. July: Guest Blogger Desiree Villena, August: Carolyn Brown
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Celebrating Black History Month!

Billie Holiday, black history month, African-American, people of colorBillie Holiday, jazz singer,one woman cast,segregation      A Tribute to Billie Holiday, in celebration of Black History Month.  It’s always a joy to hear Billie’s music again.

Scent of Magnolia” by Trisha Sugarek.……’tells the story of a young woman who rose above poverty, rape, bigotry, prostitution and imprisonment to become one of the most memorable and celebrated artists of the twentieth century. The one woman show portrays the life of a black jazz singer in America during the 30’s. The script does not dwell on the sensationalism of her addiction to alcohol and drugs but chooses, rather, to celebrate the whole woman and her music.

Billie tells not only her story, but our nation’s story. She interjects her tale with her most famous music as well as some of her more obscure songs. In her own words, she talks about her struggle to succeed in spite of the segregation of that time and the billie Holiday, black singers, musicians, jazz,difficulties she experienced singing with the great bands, most of which were white musicians. Without self-pity , she talks about the

(Note: Original song written by Gary Swindell, for this stage play.) daily slings and arrows that are a part of bigotry. Billie takes complete responsibility for her life, her choices, and her actions. Her triumph was her music and her songs that will live on forever.’                                          

Billie Holiday, jazz, stage play, one act play,

Latrelle Bright as Billie – 2004

black history month, billie Holiday, people of color,…….Ben Rafuse as the ‘piano man’

 

We have much to celebrate this year with people of color serving our country in the   military abroad, serving the community and nation in the political arena.  The many musicians who gave ‘birth to the blues’.

The giants and philosophers, playwrights and politicians…..authors, writers, Walter Mosley

It’s taken us over eighty years to evolve to this point, t williamssince Billie Holiday struggled as a black woman to survive in this country. …….we still have a way to go but we, as a nation, have much to be proud of. Did you miss the post about Savannah’s black orphan kids

James Baldwin, writers, authors

(Hank Aaron,  Kamala Harris, Corey Booker,

Tennessee Williams, Walter Mosley,Martin Luther King, Jr., Spike Lee,   James Baldwin, ) and thousands of others who fill our world and our history. 

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~black musicians, jazz, Billie Holiday, music

 

Start your month off right!! DON’T MISS UPCOMING BLOGS. “The Writer’s Corner” INTERVIEWS with other best-selling AUTHORS! March: Olivia Hawker, April: Dan Sofer 

 

So come along with me; we shall sneak into these writers’ special places, be a fly on the wall and watch them create!
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To receive my posts sign up for my blog, blogs, blogger, writer, author, playwright, books, plays,fiction  Go to the home page; On the right side you’ll see a box where you can enter your email address. Click on “join my blog”. You need to confirm in an email from ‘Writer at Play’ . Thanks!

Happy New Year!!

Petey watching Live PD

I’ll end the year with a little poetry about the love from dogs and affection from cats.  Don’t groan….ewww, poetry...I think you’ll find the poetry funny if you have either cats or dogs. I’m blessed with both.  Rescued of course. 

 

Molly & Barcode

Cat Love

Don’t ruffle my fur that direction! You’re doing it all wrong! I’ve got it looking just the way I want.

I love you but I’m very busy today.

Don’t move, this is my lap time and I’m very comfy.

Scratch right there, no a little more to the left, a little higher, to the right.

Petey & Barcode

Look what I’ve brought you–isn’t it beautiful? I killed it in the garden.

That’s what we’re having for dinner?

You need to work on how you pick your friends. I don’t like that one and besides he had the nerve to sit in my chair!

I could find a better human, you know, if I put in some effort…

But I guess you’ll do…for now.

Dog Love

Stack Dogs

Pet me, pet me, pet me! Oh boy! A butt rub!
I love you to the ends of the earth and beyond!

I’ll just lay here quietly, I won’t bother you, as long as I can touch you.

In memory….Gus

Throw the ball! Throw the ball!
Again! Again!

I love my dinner, you’re such a good mommy!

‘Walkie’, ‘go outside’, ‘go for a walk’, ‘let’s go pee-pee’. Yippee! Where’s my leash?

In remembrance, Sam

I love your friends. That one scratched my ears and told me I was a good dog.

You’re home! You’re home! Why were you gone so long….it doesn’t matter now…You’re home!

You’re the best human ever….I love you!

Fiona & Petey

Molly & Petey

Petey

Write Your First Play

Over the many years writing my blog the stats report a recurring key phrase,  How  to write a play’, and I thought my readers might find it interesting to read about what inspired my play scripts. 

The short answer is:  A true story…. something that caught my attention that was someone else’s story.

The long answer:  My first play ‘Lost Child back in 1994 was based on a true story of a Dad dealing with his gay son.  Back then HIV and AIDS was a death sentence.  The father was homophobic and macho.  He rejected his son.  To make the story complete I added another set of parents that were  totally supportive of their gay son.  Sadly this story did not end well and the script was lost on my hard drive  ….someday, I may finish it.

Next came ‘Cook County Justice‘ based upon a fifteen minute segment offered on one of those TV magazines like 20/20. Bill Heirens had been incarcerated for over 40 years (even though his sentence included parole) for a murder I came to believe he didn’t commit.  This story took me on a six year journey; letters from Bill (inmate), support from his team trying to set him free and several productions of my play.

While visiting Bill in the Illinois state Prison for Men early one Sunday morning,  I sat in the reception area waiting to be WOW.play. cover4_20march2014‘processed’ through into the visiting room.  I was surrounded by women of all ages and their children.  Mothers, sisters, wives, daughters….as I sat there they figuratively took me by the nape of my neck and shouted….’you must write about us…tell our story!’   That was the birth of ‘Women Outside the Walls’ a full length play and later a novel.

 

 

book_shop_BillieScent of Magnolia A Tribute to Billie Holiday was conceived in 2001 when a very talented jazz singer/actress out of Chicago asked me if I would write her a one woman show as Billie Holiday. I used, as my inspiration, the early years of Billie’s career before she succumbed to alcohol and drugs. 

 

NEXT! A Hollywood Tale  was based on my own experiences as a young actor in Hollywood and all the story swapping we would do in the green room, waiting to ‘go on’.  There was nothing worse than going to a cattle call audition and in the midHollywood, actors, stage play, actors playing actorsdle of your monologue or reading have the casting director yell:  ‘Next!’  That was your cue line to exit right.   The razor sharp teeth of the machine known as Hollywood chew up aspiring actors and spit them into the gutter.

 

I grew up on my mother’s stories about growing up in the forests of Tumwater, Washington with her 13 siblings.  Back at the turn of the twentieth century life and its entertainments were simple.
Alaska, sisters, adventurers, gold rush,

‘The Guyer Girls’ is a cross between Little Women and I Remember Mama.  The first act is almost all based upon her stories.  The second act was my creation of what happened when the six sisters come back home fifteen years later. With this age of technology I didn’t want these stories to die with her or with me.

 

‘Sins of the Mother’ was also partly biographical.  Again stories told by my mother of her years in San Francisco (1920’s) as a bar owner, women’s basketball player, flapper, and mother.  She used to say,  “I’d work all day and dance all night!”  This full length play developed into a novel, ‘Wild Violets’.

There’s more but this is where I will stop. Every play plot has conflict. The trick is to solve it within two and a half hours.

This post is a re-run from 2014 but well worth the read. 
Want more? Click here for Part 2 

 

A Journal/Handbook to Start YOU writing! 275 blank pages for your work; each margin with an inspiring quote from a famous actor, writer, playwright, or poet.  Sections on ‘how to’ will get you started.

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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!     
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Inspiration in the Check Out Line…really?

Back in 2015 I wrote this post. It’s been getting some ‘clicks’ lately from visitors so I thought I would reprise it. When something or someone inspires you, grab hold and don’t let go?   

inspiration, writing, story telling, blogging, blogs, short stories,, short plays, life     The other day I was standing in line at the grocery store, minding my own business…preoccupied that I was leaving my dogs in the car too long….when I suddenly became aware of the man in front of me being checked out.  I had picked that line because it appeared that he only had maybe six items, (boxes of something) and I was eager to get checked out.  (the dogs…remember?)

Well, it turned out that in front of the ‘boxes’, and out of my line of sight, were two dozen very tiny cans of dog food.  It seems that you can buy three tablespoons of dog food in individual cans for your darling pet.  Two bags of doggy treats and then we were ready to ring up the boxes.

Those six boxes were actually fifteen (yes I counted every one of them; the dogs in the car, remember) boxes of Healthy Choice ‘nutritious, packaged dinners; microwavable, ready to eat  in just twelve minutes’. Fifteen boxes of over-processed, heavily salted, flavor enhanced, empty food.  The nutritional value in the dog food was probably better. I wanted so badly to take my bag of fresh spinach out of my cart and give it to him with my best wishes. But, wait, he wouldn’t know how to steam the spinach or for how long.

Well!  That made me take a closer look at the customer.  And by the time he paid ($86.13 for the dog food and the TV dinners, OMG!) I had half of a short, one act play written in my head.   

The man in my story is a newly widowed senior who was married for forty years and never cooked a meal in his life. 

He goes home with his sad little boxes of food.  He puts his delicious, processed dinners in the freezer to be enjoyed later in front of his fifty-two inch high definition television.  DogSpeaking baby talk he rips open the doggy treats and gives his overweight  shiatsu a goody.

If this sounds as if I am making fun…..no, no, no…it’s written with love as this is the typical existence of the widowed male.  A snapshot of life that gave me a great little story. And  the lesson to be learned, fellow writers, is to keep your eyes and ears open.  You never know when inspiration will strike!
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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   May: Boo Walker, June: Anne D. LeClaire and July — Catherine Ryan Hyde
 
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Join My Blog for the Latest in Books, Writing Tips….

It’s easy. Use this link  http://www.writeratplay.com/ to sign up for my See the box on the right hand side? 

You’ll receive (in an email) weekly posts with the latest book reviews, tips about creative writing, and once a month an in-depth Interview with a best selling author or a new, upcoming writer.  Generous folks, famous and not so much (yet) have given of their time to answer my probing questions about their writing process. Fun and interesting candid photos, of the author, are sprinkled throughout the interview. 

Sometimes a post about something I thought was interesting…..But, ALWAYS to do with books, authors, writing, words, and live theatre.

My best selling post (over the past six years) has been my free tips about ‘How To Write a Play’. Thousands of people have Googled this phrase and come to my website to begin to learn this craft.

When I’m not busy with my blog, I am writing….every day. I practice what I preach! 
Short plays for the classroom, general fiction, children’s plays and fairy tales,  poetry and a true crime mystery series. Diversity is the
spice of life!  
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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   December:  Jayne Ann Krentz (Amanda Quick)  January: Molly Gloss.  February: Rick Lenz. March: Patrick Canning and April: Poet, Joe Albanese

 

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One Candle Can Light Another…

   Happy anniversary, ‘A Writer’s Take’ Blog.  Six+ years of trying  (hopefully) to find relevant and interesting topics (motivation, poetry, interviews, reviews, books, how to write a play).  And then  writing about them. I can’t believe I have found this much to write about.  

Once or twice a week without fail!  When I looked back to 2012, my first blog surprised me ….it was about lighting someone else’s candle. 

I recently received this critique/note from a fellow author and fan. 

“Trisha! Thank you for including me on your blog. It is one of the nicest I’ve ever been on. Often, a blog is laid out clunky or the pics don’t go with the interview. This is top notch. I have the Wolfe Pack sharing it on FB and am proud to sent it out to my readers. Great job on a great site.    What a personal piece. I don’t think I’ve every had anyone go to this length to show my writing and my life as a writer like you have. Thank you so much, Trisha!!  Manning Wolfe

We writers can all agree that writing is a lonely job. A comment once in a while keeps me going, helps me to write that next post. Manning reached out and
lit my candle. 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~                                Looking Back:  One Candle Can Light Another…My first post May 6, 2012.

‘ A good friend called me the other day; He was reading my book of poetry, Butterflies and Bullets. He’s a very accomplished pianist and songwriter. He went on to say that while reading my work he kept hearing music in his head. And could I give him permission to use my poetry for lyrics. What a compliment! He said he was especially taken with, “Hair-cut…Two Bits”, about a down-and-out cellist, gambler and barber in New Orleans.’

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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!  April: International adventurer, writer, Tal Gur.  June: Manning Wolfe. July E.K. Ecke. August: Susan Mallery. Coming this winter: Jayne Ann Krentz (Amanda Quick)

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Curiosity Killed the Cat? The real Story!

Curosity.BookCoverPreview.do      Oddly, (I think) many searches/views on my web site contain  the phrase, ‘curiosity killed the cat’.  I thought it would be fun to tell my visitors where this story actually came from. (Part of my collection of 10 minute plays for the classroom)

By now you  know that I write frequently based on family stories….true ones.

This (short play) comedy is true which just goes to show, once again, that ‘truth is stranger than fiction’.

My auntie Ivah had been grubbing all day in the garden of her brick mansion in the Laurelhurst district in Seattle.  While she could afford a gardener or two, she was an avid gardener herself and could be found there, bare foot, in shorts and a sun hat every fair day.  Ivah wore shorts whenever she could because she had ‘Betty Grable legs’  (An actress circa 1940’s-1950’s whose legs were insured for a million dollars) and Ivah was quite vain about hers. She was eager to show them off at every opportunity…even if it was just to her flowers abounding in her gardens.

Around dinner time her husband, Arthur (an attorney) arrived home and announced that he had a client stopping by to sign some documents on his way to the airport.  Ivah, dirty and smelly from the garden said she’d hide in the kitchen, putting final touches on dinner, until the client was gone.  more »

What’s in your St. Valentine’s Day Box?

writers, interviews, valentine day, authors,                  My St. Valentine’s Day box is full of authors willing to take time out and be interviewed!    This month, we digress a little with a charming interview with a book narrator.   Audio-books are all the rage now, what with our busy lives,  and professional actor/voice over artist, Tavia Gilbert will let us into her world.  March’s guest author will be Susie Drougas whose modern day mysteries takes us into the wilds of Washington, atop a horse.

Three years ago I began interviewing best selling authors and to my ever-lasting gratitude, they accepted!   Dean Koontz, Sue Grafton, Patrick Taylor, Sheryl Woods, Mark Childress have all graced the pages of my blog!

It doesn’t really surprise me that the authors are relating similar experiences that I have had in my writing life. Characters taking the story in a whole different and unexpected direction.

Dean Koontz: “…if I give characters free will, if I don’t plot out the story and instead present them with a problem and watch them deal with it, they begin to take on a life of their own, frequently surprising me with the choices they make. This is mysterious and exciting.” more »