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NEW Journal…How To Write a Play

My newest Journal created for aspiring and established PLAYWRIGHTS has just been published and can be found in your favorite bookstore. 

245+ lined, blank pages for your writing PLUS Sections with instructions on ‘how to‘. 

Section 1……How to Begin… 
Section 2……How to Write a Play… 
Section 3……Creating Rich Characters…
Section 4……Story Telling 
Section 5…… How to Block… 
Section 6…… Snappy Dialogue… 
Section 7…… Set Design… 
Section 8…… Formatting your Play… 
Section 9…… Terminology..

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Other custom journals for your journaling pleasure: 

What Other Writers are Saying…

TS. I am currently developing a new journal for creative writers who are or want to be writing plays. If my fans and readers are familiar with my journals, it is traditional for me to embed quotes from other writers, authors, actors, directors, etc., into the blank pages of the journal. These are meant to inspire the owner of the journal with their own story writing.

Louis L’Amour

So I am always looking for new quotes as I hand pick every one when considering them for my journals. Here are what other writers have said about the joys (and heartbreak) of being a writer.


“Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.” Louis L’Amour

“Write hard and clear about what hurts.” Ernest Hemingway 

Mary Y-Arr

“What would you write if you weren’t afraid?” Mary Y-Arr


“The thing all writers do best is find ways to avoid writing.” Alan Dean Foster

Alan Dean Foster

“You can always edit a bad page. You can’t edit a blank page.” Jodi Picoult

“The desire to write grows with writing.” Desiderius Erasmus

“I must write it all out at any cost. Writing is thinking. It is more than living, for it is being conscious of living.” Anne Morrow Lindbergh

“As a writer you try to listen to what others aren’t saying…and write about the silence.” N.R. Hart 

MJ Bush

“Step into a scene and let it drip from your fingertips.” MJ Bush 

“We write to taste life twice. In the moment and in retrospect.” Anais Nin

Anais Nin

“I think new writers are too worried that it has all been said before. Sure it has but not by you.” Asha Dornfest 

“An opening line should invite the reader to begin the story. It should say: Listen. Come in here. You want to know about this.” Stephen King

Stephen King

“Be courageous and try to write in a way that scares you a little.” Holley Gerth


MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   May: Boo Walker, June: Anne D. LeClaire and July — Catherine Ryan Hyde.  August: My interview with Susan Wiggs and in September: Alan Dean Foster (sci-fi)
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New Short Play: Drop the Phone

Newest in the collection of ten minute plays for teens and the classroom. 

                        What would happen if you put down your phone for a half an hour and had a real conversation with another human being? Now lets mix it up further; sit down and talk to someone in your class who you don’t really know that well or at all. Are they who you thought they were? Were they surprised about who you are? This one act play, styled for the classroom (no sets, no costumes, no props), has a group of teens who do not tweet, email, Facetime or chat on their mobile devices for one half hour. They must TALK to each other, face to (real) face.  What did you learn about the person? What did you learn about yourself? 

5f. 4m.

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Click here to see all 40 short plays


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Best Seller


Jackpot!! My Children’s Play Produced in Ontario, Canada

Euphoria!!  My full length children’s play, The Exciting Exploits of an Effervescent Elf is being produced in Ontario, Canada! 

In this stand alone sequel to “Emma and the Lost Unicorn”, Emma is held captive in Patsy, the Banana Spider’s web.  No one can see her except the irrepressible elf, Cheets.  Everyone in the forest has been searching for Emma to no avail and given his reputation, no one believes Cheets when he claims to have found her. Cheets can see Emma but not hear her through Patsy’s web.  Emma must “act out” vital news concerning the enchanted forest.   Hazard, the Lord of the Underworld is selling the forest to developers.  Emma must not stand in his way!    This fable tells of greed, ecology, friendship, enduring love and justice. 

Most of the characters from “Emma and the Lost Unicorn” [Published by Samuel French] return to this new fable.  New characters include: Thomas, the sea turtle, pedantic but loveable.  Laughter erupts when the audience realizes that he speaks only in nautical expressions and sayings.  Patsy, the spider represents greed.  Rose, Emma’s mother emphasizes maternal devotion and the ability to believe when the magical creatures of the forest reveal themselves to her.  Hazard, Lord of the Underworld reunites with a lost love.  Roles for every child who auditions! fairy tales, children's plays, scripts for kids,riddles for children,unicorns

Returning characters:        
Emma, the earthling girl
                                                Cheets, the elf
                                               Stare, the rhetorical owl
                                                Donald, Emma’s faerie best friend
                                               Cleo, Queen of the Faeries
                                               Handmaidens of the Queen
                                               Assorted faeries and woodland creatures

New characters:                  Patsy, the spider
                                    Hazard, Lord of the underworld
                                    Thomas, the sea faring turtle
 Rose, Emma’s mother

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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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Interview with Author, Playwright, Alretha Thomas (part 2)

Part 2: 

Q. What comes first? The situation or the characters.

AT. The situation comes first.

Q. Do you ‘get lost’ in your writing?

AT. I become completely immersed in my writing. I get so lost in the world I’ve created, I forget where I am, and hours fly by. It’s really a high!

Q. Do you have a new book coming out soon? If so tell us about it.

AT.My latest work was released August 7, 2018. It’s the first book in my new Dancing Hills Mystery Series. It’s called “The Women on Retford Drive.” It’s about a mother and stepdaughter who have endured abuse at the hands of their husband and father respectively. The day they shape plans to leave him, he goes missing. The women, afraid the police are going to name them as suspects, try to find out what happened to him. Did one of them kill him or is there another agenda at play unbeknownst to the women and the police far more sinister?

Q. When did you begin to write seriously?

AT. I began my first serious work in 1999. I wrote a novel loosely based on my dysfunctional childhood called “Daughter Denied.” I had no idea what I was doing. However, readers fell in love with the ten-year-old protagonist Renee.

Q. How long after that were you published?

AT. It was fifteen years later before I received a publishing deal. Thank goodness we can’t see the future. If I had known it would have taken over a decade, I might have given up. Lol!

Q. Do you think we will see, in our lifetime, the total demise of paper books?

AT. Yes!!!! There was a time when I couldn’t imagine reading a book on a computer, but now my Kindle library is filled with books. I do, however, still enjoy reading a paper book. I like seeing them on the bookshelves in my library. However, electronic books are so easy to manage, especially at the gym.

Q. What makes a writer great?

AT. Someone who has studied their craft and that has a passion for storytelling. You must be open and free to write what you know and what’s in your heart, not the latest trend.

Q. and the all-important: What does the process of going from “no book” to “finished book” look like for you?

AT. It starts with an idea. I turn that idea into an outline. I determine the end of the story. I decide what my plot twists will be. Then I get into the characters. I create bios for all my characters. I determine what the main characters want, what their obstacles will be. I complete a first draft. I have beta readers go over my work. I complete more drafts. Then when I have the final draft, I send it to my developmental editor. After she goes through it, and I address all her concerns, I complete another draft. Once that is final, I send it to my editor who also proofs the book. Then I’m good to go! It’s about a six-month process.

Q. How has your life experiences influenced your writing?

AT. I’ve had an interesting life. My childhood at times was harrowing. I lost my mother when I was 14 and she was only 36. God got me through. My twenties were crazy, due to my childhood and my own bad choices. I began to grow up in my thirties and from there, my life has been fabulous. Not perfect, but amazing. Nineteen years ago, I met the love of my life. We had a beautiful wedding. In 2000 we went to Africa together. In 2001 we bought a home. In 2012 my husband retired and in 2016 I retired and am writing and acting full time. Because of all my experiences, I feel deeply. I’m passionate. I can relate to pain, disappointment, hurt, exhilaration, joy, all the things you’ll find in a good book. I believe my life enables me to write books that move and inspire readers.

Q. Have you or do you want to write in another genre`?

AT. I started writing women’s fiction. In my Cass and Nick series, it dawned on me that in all four books someone dies and that there is an element of suspense in each book. In 2015, I made a foray into writing murder mysteries and I’ve never looked back.

Q. Note to Self: (a life lesson you’ve learned.)

AT. Don’t ever cry too hard over the person, job or material object you wanted and couldn’t have, because God has something so much better in store for you.

Did you miss Part I of this wonderful Interview? Click here
To see more of Alretha’s books: click here

Nostalgia… (#12)

Martin Short, (famous actor on SNL, career included dozens of movies) was recently interviewed where he told a charming story. He, Gilda Radner, Paul Shaffer were born (as actors) at ‘Second City’, Toronto.  In the early days, Martin was in a community theatre production of Fortune & Men’s Eyes. The director told the actors that, as the audience came in and took their seats, the actors would be pacing on stage, in a prison setting. In character, wearing only their underwear.

Paul Shaffer, most famous for years with Letterman


Fortune & Men’s Eyes


Gilda (whom Martin was dating at the time 1972), Paul and some other pals all planned to go see Martin one night. But, as the story goes, the thing Paul Shaffer was really excited about was they would all go for dinner after at the Shakespeare Steakhouse.

So on the night of the performance, Martin’s friends arrived and Paul, upon seeing Martin pacing, moved up the lip the of the stage and whispered, “Martin, Shakespeare  Steakhouse is closed, wink once if Bavarian Seafood makes sense.” 

John Sugarek, actor




This type of crazy thing happens all the time in live theatre. Short’s story brought to mind the time that my husband played Dr. Miranda, (a murderous ex-Nazi) in Death and the Maiden (a part that Ben Kingsley is famous for). Our theatre was so small that it didn’t have a curtain.  Since Dr. Miranda is held hostage and tied up for most of the play, it meant that my husband, John, remained on stage, in character and tied up during intermission. With audience members coming and going.  Actually, he volunteered as there was no logical way to get him untied and offstage. 

During intermission, a trio of white-haired senior ladies came tripping down the aisle and neared the edge of the stage. John (said later) prayed that they were not

Death and the Maiden

Ben Kingsley & Sigourney Weaver

going to speak to him.  They moved as close to him as they could and one of the dear old things winked and said to him, in a stage-whisper, “Psst! Psst! Mister! Do you want us to untie you?” Giggling and twittering they turned and found their seats again. John stayed in character but it was hard not to burst out laughing.


MY features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   Did you miss the past few months? March: Mystery (and Western) writer, Larry D. Sweazy.  April: World Traveler, Tal Gur. June: mystery author, Manning Wolfe.
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Motivational Moments…Cure Writer’s Block #37

Cure writer’s block INSTANTLY! With one simple idea: Give yourself permission to write GARBAGE.  You probably won’t actually write garbage but by giving yourself permission, you remove the block. What is writer’s block?  It is the need for perfection..the need to avoid looking stupid. If you can’t write well you won’t write at all. Here’s an exercise:

  1. Open your file; what you are working on.
  2. Think about what you wish you could write if you weren’t blocked.
  3. Set a timer for three minutes.
  4. Now write garbage! 
  5. Write as much as you can in three minutes.That’s it! The block is gone because you gave yourself permission to write garbage. But you might say: ‘I don’t want to write garbage, I want to write quality.’
    A little voice in your head is saying, ‘this is awful, stop! You look foolish.’ That is the block talking.  The critic’s voice. The critic’s voice is a good thing but it is jumping in before it’s time; it’s judging your writing before it is even created. That’s writer’s block.

    “It is perfectly okay to write garbage–as long as you edit brilliantly.”  C.J. Cherryh

    Prose is architecture, not interior decoration.” — Ernest Hemingway


    MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   Did you miss the past few months?    March: Mystery (and Western) writer, Larry D. Sweazy.   April: International adventurer, writer, Tal Gur.

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Black vs White vs Brown ~ A New Ten Minute PLay

    Ethnic groups have polarized and bullied each other for years, out on the street.  Recently, teens have taken to their cell phones and computers to do the same. Blacks against whites against browns. All good kids at their core, but divided by the color of their skin.

#32 in the series of short plays for the classroom.

This series has been very popular, over the years, with teachers and students. Sets, costumes, props are not needed. Most pertain to real life issues for teens so these plays are meant to open a dialogue between teens and their teachers. Or, at the very least, to experience live theatre. 

All ‘G’ rated so no adult content. When profanities are used, as teens do in real life, they are optional and can be easily eliminated. 

Available at www.amazon.com and all other fine book stores.

MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    March: Mystery (and Western) writer, Larry D. Sweazy ~~ April: International adventurer, writer, Tal Gur.
                                         Check out more Motivational Moments…for Writers!

To receive my posts sign up for my blog, blogs, blogger, writer, author, playwright, books, plays,fiction  On the home page, enter your email address.  Thanks! 

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How To Format A Screenplay

TS.  ‘ACTION drives a screenplay, that and plot.  DIALOGUE drives a stage play so it better be damn good. In my opinion, if your action is good in a screenplay, the dialogue can be mediocre and often is in blockbusters. If your dialogue is crisp and interesting and helps drive the story, you’ve done a better job than most in Hollywood.’ 

While you can buy books and software to do the job for you it’s always good to have a grasp of the general spacing standards. The top, bottom and right margins of a screenplay are 1″. The left margin is 1.5″. The extra half-inch of white space to the left of a script page allows for binding with brads, yet still imparts a feeling of vertical balance of the text on the page. The entire document should be single-spaced.

The very first item on the first page should be the words FADE IN:. Note: the first page is never numbered. Subsequent page numbers appear in the upper right hand corner, 0.5″ from the top of the page, flush right to the margin.

Screenplay Elements

Below is a list of items (with definitions) that make up the screenplay format, along with indenting information. Again, screenplay software will automatically format all these elements, but a screenwriter must have a working knowledge of the definitions to know when to use each one.

Scene Heading
Indent: Left: 0.0″ Right: 0.0″ Width: 6.0″

A scene heading is a one-line description of the location and time of day of a scene, also known as a “slugline.” It should always be in CAPS.

Example: EXT. WRITERS STORE – DAY reveals that the action takes place outside The Writers Store during the daytime.

Indent: Left: 0.0″ Right: 0.0″ Width: 6.0″

When a new scene heading is not necessary, but some distinction needs to be made in the action, you can use a subheader. But be sure to use these sparingly, as a script full of subheaders is generally frowned upon. A good example is when there are a series of quick cuts between two locations, you would use the term INTERCUT and the scene locations.

Indent: Left: 0.0″ Right: 0.0″ Width: 6.0″

The narrative description of the events of a scene, written in the present tense. Also less commonly known as direction, visual exposition, blackstuff, description or scene direction.

Remember – only things that can be seen and heard should be included in the action.

Indent: Left: 2.0″ Right: 0.0″ Width: 4.0″

When a character is introduced, his name should be capitalized within the action. For example: The door opens and in walks LIAM, a thirty-something hipster with attitude to spare.

A character’s name is CAPPED and always listed above his lines of dialogue. Minor characters may be listed without names, for example “TAXI DRIVER” or “CUSTOMER.”

Indent: Left: 1.0″ Right: 1.5″ Width: 3.5″

Lines of speech for each character. Dialogue format is used anytime a character is heard speaking, even for off-screen and voice-overs. Normal upper and lower case is used.

Indent: Left: 1.5″ Right: 2.0″ Width: 2.5″

A parenthetical is direction for the character, that is either attitude or action-oriented. With roots in the playwriting genre, today, parentheticals are used very rarely, and only if absolutely necessary. Why? Two reasons. First, if you need to use a parenthetical to convey what’s going on with your dialogue, then it probably just needs a good re-write. Second, it’s the director’s job to instruct an actor on how to deliver a line, and everyone knows not to encroach on the director’s turf!

Placed after the character’s name, in parentheses

An abbreviated technical note placed after the character’s name to indicate how the voice will be heard onscreen, for example, if the character is speaking as a voice-over, it would appear as LIAM (V.O.).

Indent: Left: 4.0″ Right: 0.0″ Width: 2.0″

Transitions are film editing instructions, and generally only appear in a shooting script. Transition verbiage includes:

  • CUT TO:
  • FADE TO:

As a spec script writer, you should avoid using a transition unless there is no other way to indicate a story element. For example, you might need to use DISSOLVE TO: to indicate that a large amount of time has passed.

Indent: Left: 0.0″ Right: 0.0″ Width: 6.0″

A shot tells the reader the focal point within a scene has changed. Like a transition, there’s rarely a time when a spec screenwriter should insert shot directions. Once again, that’s the director’s job. 

Sample of what your page should look like:  [Source: The Writer’s Digest]




other related posts by this blogger:
How To Write a Play
How To Format a Play
How To Format a Novel



MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   Did you miss the past few months?    January: Sue Grafton ~ In Memory
March: Mystery (and Western) writer, Larry D. Sweazy.  April: in60Learning ~ A unique, non-fiction mini-book read in 60 minutes.
                                         Check out more Motivational Moments…for Writers!

To receive my posts sign up for my blog, blogs, blogger, writer, author, playwright, books, plays,fiction  On the home page, enter your email address.  Thanks! 

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How To Format a Stage Play Script (for submitting)

  Format is extremely 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 sadly I have not found one that demonstrates correct formatting. Notice the character names are in CAPS and centered. Setting, Rise and Dialogue are justified left. Single space between character’s name and first line of dialogue. Blocking (action) is indented and double-spaced from the line above. (The playwright gives the characters instructions on when and where to move.  But, keep it short.  Remember there will be a director who has their own ideas of where they want their actors to be.)  If blocking is only one word, place next to character’s name in parentheses.  A ‘beat’ is to enhance the pace of the speech and is in parentheses within the dialogue. Here is a formatting example:


Scene 1   ©

Setting:  A loft studio in Greenwich Village. Late afternoon. There are many paintings but all of the same woman. Large, open windows overlook the street.

At Rise: Monty is standing at his easel. Voices are heard off stage.

                   (MONTY is painting. His clothing is
                    paint smeared.)

VOICE (Off.)

Hey, beautiful!  You’re home early.

                   (Brush in one hand, palette in the other,
                    MONTY crosses up to the windows and peers
                    into the street below. The lilting laughter of a
                    young woman is heard.) 

SAMANTHA (Voice off. teasing.)

Hey, Mr. Murray. Your wife know you’re trying to pick up women in the street?

VOICE (off.) 

No…and don’t you tell on me.  My old woman would give me what for…bothering a young lady like you. 

SAMANTHA (Voice off.)

Your secret is safe with me (beat.)…for a price.  

VOICE (off.)

Oh yeah, what’s that?

SAMANTHA (Voice off.) 

Some fresh bagels from your bakery. 

VOICE (off.)

You got a deal.  I’ll bring them home with me tomorrow.

SAMANTHA (Voice off.)

 Thanks, Mr. Murray!  I’ll look forward to it.  Bye, now. 

VOICE (off.) 

Bye, beautiful.  See you later.  

                   (MONTY’s shoulders slump and he sighs as he watches 
                    Samantha disappear into a building. HE
                    crosses down to his easel.)

MONTY (muttering.) 

Jeez…how can that old guy be so easy with her? (beat.) Monty, you’re pathetic. You can’t even say ‘hello’ to her in the street.  What the hell’s the matter with you?

(end of sample)

Title Page of your script:  Play title and Playwright’s name.  Add contact info on this page if you are submitting to a publisher, agent or theatre. 

Early in the script list your Cast of Characters. Each name should be underlined. Sample:

                                                              Cast of Characters
MONTGOMERY ANDERSON:   29 years old, a reclusive artist.
SAMANTHA SPARKS:                24 years old, an aspiring actress.
DETECTIVE O’ROARKE:           38 years old, a hardened homicide detective. 
(Note: Listing the ages of the characters is very important for casting.)

Greenwich Village, New York City


Leave lots of white space on the page. Actors/Directors will need wide margins in order to write notes and blocking when in production.
Read more about How To Write a Play

Author’s note: This formatting is approved by my publisher, Samuel French, Inc. This is what they expect to see when you submit. 
  Correct FORMAT if you are self-publishing. And, yes, it’s very different!
How to Format a Screenplay

Just Released!  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
Writing process
What Not to Do (when receiving a critique)

….and many more words of encouragement and tips,
Including quotes from successful writers such as yourself. Takes the ‘scary’ out of writing!


Want to try writing a ten minute play?  Click here

DON’T MISS MY BLOG with twice-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!

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