How To Write A Play…9 Tips

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?’,  and ‘how do you write so many plays?’ ‘where do you get your ideas?’

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

        NINE TIPS TO GET YOU STARTED  … and more 

all journals & plays available at

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 offers auto-format but I found them lacking.   The character’s name is centered. Blocking (action) is indented and placed in parentheses. Setting (indent once), Rise 

 (indent once) the Dialogue is far left. Double space between the character’s name and the first line of dialogue.  Blocking (action): is placed below the character’s name in parentheses. (indent x 3).  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 you might want to buy a play script from a publisher.  Concord Theatricals used to be Samuel French and is still the best. It seems little has changed except the name.

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 for Cometh” a classic by Eugene O’Neill.  full-length 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. These times and figures are debated by others but this has been my experience as an actor/director/writer.

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, in parentheses, and directly below the character’s name.  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 ideas of where he/she wants the 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 for them to accomplish a costume change.

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.  Some wonderful ‘envelope’ set designs 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. The ‘Arc’ of your story: The Oxford English Dictionary defines a story arc as ‘(in a novel, play, or movie) the development or resolution of the narrative or principal theme’.  Story arcs are the overall shape of rising and falling tension or emotion in a story. This rise and fall are created via plot and character development. 

Simpler Examples: In Parkland Requiem the ‘arc’ of my story is when the teacher leaves the safety of his classroom to reconnoiter the position of the shooter.

In My Planet, Your Planet, Our Planet the ‘arc’ is when the activist students march in a worldwide March defying all the rules of the school.

8. 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.

9. Your play should have a conflict. Your main character should have a conflict that he or she must solve quickly. No conflict = no play. Say you want to write your first play about you and your siblings growing up. That’s easy; have them argue about something. Be certain there is a resolution before your play ends.  Imagine you want to write a love story between two people. There must be a conflict somewhere in the love story. 

Did you miss my post about Publishers?

How to Format your novel


Journals by Trisha Sugarek
Want to see some original plays? Click here.
47 Short Plays to choose from. Click here.
                                               Fiction by Trisha Sugarek
                                               Children’s Books by Sugarek

Want to try writing a ten-minute play? Click here
How to Create Tantalizing Book Covers
Do you need help Formatting a Novel? 

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

Purchase 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.  Look Inside

WANT TO LEARN MORE?? … These new Journals/Handbooks offer a total of 14 points of ‘how to’.
 Available on    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
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

An Idea..A Gift…A new Play and now a Novel! (part two)

short plays mystery,murder mystery, short plays, short plays for the young actor, short plays for teens,   This past Tuesday I started the story about where the idea came, from to write this play.  Here is the rest of the excerpt…..if you like it, write to me and I’ll send you the script,  FREE!  (offer expires 12/1/13) 
Next TUESDAY,  I offer twelve TIPS on how to write a stage play!

(MONTY resumes to paint for a few beats. A door slams down on the street and a woman’s voice is heard.)

VOICE (Off.) Hello, Samantha. Where’re you off to in such a rush?

(MONTY rushes to the window and looks down.)

SAMANTHA. (Voice Off.) Hi, Mrs. Jessup. Just got a call. They want me to audition. Do I look all right?

VOICE (Off.) You’re a blonde now, dear. And so quick!

SAMANTHA. (Voice Off.) It’s…a wig..for the audition.

VOICE (Off.) Well, brunette or blonde, you look lovely, as always.

SAMANTHA. (Voice Off.) Do you need anything from the market? I’m stopping by on my way home.

VOICE (Off.) A quart of milk, if you can, dear. And a half pound of locks if it’s fresh.

SAMANTHA. (Voice Off.) You got it, Mrs. J.

VOICE (Off.) Wait just a moment, I’ll get my pocket book.

SAMANTHA. (Voice Off.) No, it’s okay. You can pay me when I get home. Gotta go…..see you later.

VOICE (Off.) You’re such a good girl. Bye. Continue reading “An Idea..A Gift…A new Play and now a Novel! (part two)”

What Inspires You? Michael Douglas as Liberace? No Way!

Michael Douglas, Liberace, movies, great talent            I’m a Michael Douglas fan and also loved his father, actor Kirk Douglas. Going back too far for you?   Liberace on our old black and white TV so many years ago.  So naturally I had to see how Mike Douglas would play Liberace.  Yep!  You heard me right !

MIchael Douglas, Liberace, great movies, great actors
The Great, the One and Only Liberace

…..testosterone laden, sexy, smoldering all-man Michael Douglas playing the incredibly talented, prissy, outrageously gay Liberace in the movie, “Behind the Candelabra”  with Matt Damon as his long time partner/lover, Scott.

I’m writing this pseudo-review because the movie inspired me TO WRITE.  It’s another way to sharpen your writing claws on a daily basis.   Write about things that move you, makes you happy (which this film did on so many levels) makes you sad, angry, passionate.  Keep writing!

ichael Douglas, Liberace, great talent
Michael Douglas as Liberace





But let’s go back, for a moment, to ‘matinée idol’ time…….when men were men and women were glad!     When Kirk Douglas was every young woman’s heart throb and Michael Douglas was not even a twinkle in Kirk’s eye.

Kurt Douglas, Spartacus, great actors, Michael DouglasMy God, he was sex on two legs.  He was a real film hero.  But he wasn’t alone…..Robert Mitchum, Burt Lancaster, Kirk, Randolph Scott…the list went on and on.

Kirk Douglas, great actors
Kirk Douglas as Spartacus

  His movies included:  In Harm’s Way, Two Weeks in Another Town, Lonely Are the Brave,  Spartacus,

Paths of Glory, Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, kurt.westernLust for Life (Vincent Van Gogh), 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, The Vikings, Man Without a Star, The Indian Fighter, Ulysses, just to name a few.

In those days it would have been the kiss of death to their career if a man  played the role of a ‘faggot or queer or pansy’ which is what gay men were called in those days.  Very offensive words these days.  Actors like Rock Hudson and Montgomery Cliff spent their careers and lives going to great lengths to hide their life style.  Liberace promoted the false rumor that he and Sonja Henie (famous ice skater/movie star)  had a long-standing love affaire to cover his gay life style.

So now let’s look at Michael Douglas’ work…. Wall Street,  Fatal Attraction, (one of my favorites)
MIchael Douglas, Sharon Stone, Basic InstinctBasic Instinct, The Jewel of the Nile, A Chorus Line,


great movies, great actors, MIchael Douglas

Romancing the Stone,  The China Syndrome, Coma, One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest.  Again, just picking a few from what  comprised his career.

And now after a stellar career as a leading man, Michael Douglas had the vision, los cajones, the guts, the talent to portray Liberace in this very fine film.

Growing up, wgreat entertainers, Liberace, great movies e watched Liberace every week on TV, at our house,  much to the disgust of my Dad. (a raging homophobe) and when I watched “Behind the Candelabra” I felt that the great entertainer and pianist, Liberace had returned!  Thank you, Michael!

DON’T MISS UPCOMING BLOGS featuring INTERVIEWS with other best-selling AUTHORS!   “The Writer’s Corner”

I have had a wonderful response from other authors and will feature an interview once a month . These authors have already responded and you can read their interviews by clicking on their name:: Ann Purser, Susan Elia MacNealMark Childress, Rhys Bowen, Dean Koontz, Sheryl Woods, Jo-Ann Mapson, Jeffrey Deaver, Elizabeth Gilbert, Amber Winckler, Karen Robards, Robert McCammon, Sue Grafton, Caroline Leavitt, Cathy Lamb, Heidi Jon Schmidt, Walter Mosley, Loretta Chase, Nora Roberts, Raymond Benson and many others.

So come along with me; we shall sneak into these writers’ special places, be a fly on the wall and watch them create!  July features Rhys Bowen.  Sue Grafton is August’s author with a bonus chat with Cathy Lamb, and September will feature Tasha Alexander. Jeffrey Deaver is October’s author and  slick mystery writer, Andrew Grant will join us this winter. Loretta Chase will be featured later this year. Raymond Benson is my January author.


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