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Available Now! A New Journal for Playwrights

Available NOWHow To Write a 10 Minute Play ~~ Journal and Handbook

Lots of great instruction about the art of writing a ten minute play. And over 250 blank, lined pages for your creative writing as you write your first or tenth 10 minute play.  

Excerpt from back cover:  ‘As you prepare to write your first 10-minute play, pretend that you have walked into a room and interrupted a conversation, mid-sentence. Or you have turned on the television and tuned into a sit-com, ten minutes into (late) a thirty-minute episode. That’s where your head space should be when you begin writing your play.
Give yourself permission. Sit down and write.

This journal/workbook gives you not only the space to write down your ideas for a play but there are instructional sections to help you create your ten-minute play. Develop your story line. Create the characters. Try out different dialogue. 250+ blank, lined pages with famous quotes by actors, playwrights, and writers on each page to inspire the writer in you.’

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                “Writing isn’t a calling; it’s a doing!”  t. sugarek
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How To Write a Play Journal is Now in Hardback

This beautiful journal/handbook is now available in Hardcover. Here’s a little of what you can expect inside. Plus hundreds of blank pages for your own writings and plans for a stage play.

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.   The character’s name is centered. Blocking (action) is indented and placed in parentheses. Setting (indent once), Rise  (indent once) and Dialogue is far left. Double space between character’s name and 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. 

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.  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    
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 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 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.  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 of formatting your script correctly.  (Click link for details.) 

Journal includes 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
Designing a Set
Stage Lighting
Stage Terminology
and more…..
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Parkland Shootings

In  remembrance  of  the  innocent  victims  killed  in  a  senseless  shooting. Inspired by that horrible day, I wrote a ten minute play for the classroom in the hopes that teens would learn more about the circumstances that led up to that day.  Perhaps more teens would open up about their thoughts and fears through performance of this play. The child (and yes he is a child regardless of his heinous actions) was in court yesterday pleading guilty to 17 murders of students, coaches and teachers. 

Synopsis:

Mass shootings are a part of our current culture. Not until now did I have something to say (write) about so many mass murders.
This ten minute play for teens in the classroom is to honor and memorialize the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting. It focuses on a small class of students hidden away in safety by their English teacher and what happens while they wait for the shooting to stop. But the question begs will they ever be safe again?

The victims:
My Mr. Hale (play) is fashioned after Scott Beigel, 35, a geography teacher and the school’s cross-country coach. He was killed after he unlocked a door to allow students in to hide from the shooter.

Alyssa Alhadeff
Aaron Feis
Martin Duque Anguiano
Nicholas Dworet
Jamie Guttenberg
Chris Hixon
Luke Hoyer
Cara Loughran
Gina Montalto
Joaquin Oliver
Alaina Petty
Meadow Pollack
Helena Ramsay
Carmen Schentrup
Peter Wang

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How to be Certain a Director will NOT choose your Play

Recently I was invited to read and review a new collection of three plays. There was so much WRONG with the formatting and the lack of knowledge by the playwright that I couldn’t review it without tearing it all down and asking the playwright to begin anew. But there evolved a constructive critique that might help other new writers. 

Example back cover

Back cover should not be blank with a graphic design. Don’t waste this space.
1. Use this space as an opportunity to grab the buyer/director. List titles and short synopses of your plays. Count gender and following synopsis type this: 1m. 4f. (indicating one male and four females.
2. One line tags
3. A short bio of you

Pg1. First page: Title of play/s
Pg.2: Copyright notice
Pg 3:  list of play titles and Pg # they start on.

In the first few pages you should have a Contents (list) with the tile of each play and the page number it begins. Make it as easy as you can for the director to find the play and the list of characters Because this dictates whether the director can use your play or not depending on age of character and gender. Always keep in mind that men are harder to cast.

On whatever page a new play starts it should begin with the title and the list of characters.

Be certain, you as the playwright, understand what constitutes a full length play. a One Act play, and a Ten Minute Play.  If your plays are preachy and  esoteric it will be a hard sell to a director.

The end of a play is indicated with one word, centered: CURTAIN

Black out‘ and ‘End of Scene‘ are no longer used. The director will understand when a new scene begins. The next page demonstrates to the reader that a new scene is beginning. ‘Act’ and ‘Scene’ should be centered.

CHARACTERS names and blocking should be centered on page; NO underline.

If you find yourself writing a soliloquy or a monologue in a scene, break it up by having other characters insert dialogue in your speech. It then becomes less preachy and more dynamic.

Be certain YOU know the difference between a Ten Minute Play, a Full Length play (with two acts) and a One Act Play. The first act in a full length play is longer than the second act. Full length plays are about 100 pages/minutes. And no one ever uses an Act III unless your plays is over two hours or closer to 3 hours long. Also, a no-no. Remember the rule of thumb is one minute per page. This varies based on how ‘busy’ the blocking is as that takes time too. It is permissible that a 10 minute play might go over but never more than 18 to 20 minutes.

The first few pages of the book should be simple and convey the correct information. Keep it simple.  The title of your book  should be on the 1st page of your book. The next page [on the left] should be your copyright page. On the right should be your table of contents (centered)
Title with page numbers. (justified left)

On the page number of the play, the title should be on the 1st page. (odd numbered page, right side) the next page (odd numbered) should be the list of characters. The blocking and description of how the play should be produced does not need to be too detailed. Remember this is the job of the director to interpret the playwright’s Play.

Examples:
Link, How to Format a play: https://www.writeratplay.com/2018/01/15/how-to-format-your-self-published-stage-play/

When the formatting is not industry-standard, I have seen more than one director throw the book/script into the ’round file’.
Look at other scripts on line for guidance.  
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New Short Play, I Can’t Breathe, for Teens

AVAILABLE NOW! 
I Can’t Breathe  ©

I have just completed writing a new, ten minute play for the classroom and teens about the protests in our streets and the murder of George Floyd. 

Synopsis: Jorge, a young black man is asked to teach a social studies class by his teacher. What it’s like to live the black experience. Only to become a victim, himself, later that same day. Driving home from school he is stopped by cops for a traffic infraction. It quickly turns deadly.

Sample:

At Rise: The interior of a car.

            (JORGE is driving HIS small SUV down a   neighborhood street, at a reasonable speed. Blue lights         erupt in HIS rearview mirror.)

 

                                                    JORGE

Oh crap. (He talks to himself.) I wasn’t speeding….was I?

            (JORGE pulls over and watches in HIS side  mirror as a white COP walks from HIS squad car towards JORGE’s car. JORGE starts  reciting everything his mom told him to do in case HE’s  pulled over.)  

                                                                                                                                                           JORGE

Be polite. ‘Yes, sir’, ‘No, sir’. Don’t argue, don’t resist. Be polite whatever happens.

 

            (The COP arrives at the driver’s side window. HE taps on the closed window.)

 

                                                                                                                                                      JORGE   (Rolling down the window.)

Good afternoon, Officer.

 

                                                                                                                                                       COP

Reason why you didn’t stop when I lit you up?

 

                                                                                                                                                  JORGE

I did….sorry, sir. No reason, sir.

 

                                                                                                                                                    COP
License, registration, proof of insurance. Who’s the vehicle belong to?

 

                                                                          JORGE
                             (Scrambling to get the documents out of the glove box.) 

My mom, sir.

                                                                                                                                                   COP

What are ya?⸺a wise ass⸺with all the ‘sirs’?

 

                                                                                                                                                 JORGE

No, s….no, officer. I’m not.

                                                                                                                                                    COP
                                                                                                                   (Grabbing the door handle. It is locked.) 

Step outta the car.

                                                          JORGE
                       (Getting scared. Forgetting everything HIS mom ever told HIM.)

Why?

                                                                                                                                                  COP

Unlock the door and step out…NOW!
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How To Write a Play~~Plot, Pro/Antagonist, Conflict

Whether you are a reader or a writer you love a little conflict and a few antagonists in any plot. So to the writers of stage plays.

It is a challenge to write conflict with dialogue only. There is no description (like fiction) where you can tell the reader how angry and against something your antagonist is. Granted you have the characters right there to tell the story with their body language but….

I am going to use examples from my most recent play. A children’s play but the rules still apply and are not less challenging because it’s a kids’ play. 

Sub-PLOT:  The sooner the plot is revealed the better. If you haven’t engaged the audience in the first three minutes, you don’t have a very good plot. In Emma and the Aardvarks the plot begins on the first page of script. Two Aardvarks, sisters, tumble out of a Time Portal and into the fabled forest. In minutes the occupants of the forest discover them and the audience discovers the protagonists and antagonists. 

Example: (Plot)

                                                         AGNES  ©
(Gazing up into the trees, HER nose switching as fast as possible.)

I think we’re lost, dear sister. This doesn’t look anything like the pictures of Australia in our book.

            ANNIE
(Frowning.)

Oh, dear, I’m quite afraid.

                                                            STARE (Owl)

Whooo?

                                                            ANNIE
                                                (ANNIE runs over to AGNES.)

Ekk. What was that?                                                       
                                                            STARE

Who?

                                                            AGNES

What?                                                           

                                                            ANNIE

That.
                                                            AGNES

Not certain. But keep a look out anyway.

                                                           ANNIE

I don’t like this place, Agnes.

                                                            AGNES

You’re such a scaredy-cat, Annie. It’s a simple forest, much like the jungles of home.

                        (DONALD, a fairie, enters.)

                                                            DONALD

                         Don’t go. I mean you no harm.

(With the dialogue, we’ve told the audience that the two sisters are in the forest by accident. That their destination had been Australia. They meet their first friend (protagonist). 

ANTAGONISTS: We’ll return to the plot later but let’s go on…Enter the first antagonist. This character is very selfish and immediately is suspicious of the two newcomers.

Example: (Antagonist)

                                                                  PATSY (Banana Spider)
                                                (Knitting her web very fast.)

Eye–eee! Por favor, who are these ugly newcomers? Dios mío, ¿se comerán mis insectos? The bugs are for me and me alone!

                                                            DONALD

Patsy, where are your manners? Everyone is welcome in the fabled forest, as long as they come in peace.

                                                            PATSY

Dios mio, how do we know they come in peace, pequeño? Se ven como bandidos!

Another Protagonist enters:

                                                             EMMA

Please join us. (Turning to Donald.)  Donald introduce us immediately.

                                                            DONALD

Miss Agnes, Miss Annie, this is my friend, Emma.

                                                            EMMA

Oh! You are so cute. It’s nice to meet new friends.  And such pretty hats. May I? (EMMA reached up and adjusted the frothy thing atop AGNES’ head that had been knocked askew in the mad dash into the forest.) You’re the shy young lady, aren’t you? May I adjust your hat, Miss Annie? There! All fixed. May I ask? What species are you?

PLOT: After a few main characters are established, we  return to the main Plot, (all told through dialogue) which is about global warming and endangered species. 

Example (Plot):  

                                                             EMMA 

Miss Agnes, why were you going to Australia?

                                                            AGNES

Back home, in Africa, we are losing our habitat to humans, farms, and roads.

                                                            ANNIE

It’s terrible. There aren’t very many of us aardvarks left, you know.

                                                            CHEETS

What does that mean? ‘Not many of you left’?

                                                            AGNES

We’re being killed off.

                                                            EMMA 

Oh no! But you’re so cute. And if you’re insectivores, you help keep the natural world balanced.

                                                            AGNES

One would think so. (Beat.) So when our habitat goes, we go. We are threatened.

                                                            DONALD

We must do something!

ANTAGONIST & Protagonists:  The Plot thickens when you have more than one antagonist. And when you can, more than one protagonist.

Example (Antagonist and Protagonists.): 

                                                           CHEETS

I don’t like them. Nope. Don’t like the look of them and they smell funny.

                                                            STARE

Who?

                                                            CHEETS

Those two⸺whad-ya-call-ems.

                                                           EMMA

Aardvarks.

                                                            CHEETS

Yeah⸺them.

                                                            EMMA

Cheets, that’s unkind. You know nothing of Annie and Agnes. They seem perfectly fine to me. In fact, I think they’re cute.

                                                            STARE
                                                           
Who?

                                                            THOMAS

Quiet, Stare. Those two ladies are my friends from the Dark Continent.  As for you, you⸺you scurvy young scallywag you keep yer opinions to yerself.

                                                            CHEETS

But what if they eat someone we know?

                                                            EMMA

Cheets, that’s silly. Do you know any ants? Beetles? Termites on a personal basis?

                                                            CHEETS

Noooo⸺but I might meet some.

                                                              EMMA

Yes, Cheets, you’re judging these newcomers and deciding you don’t like them based on⸺what? Nothing.

                                                            THOMAS

They’ve had a rough go. The place they lived is no more. The picaroons have burned it, then planted it. Some of their family and friends have been killed.

                                                             CHEETS

Don’t care. Still don’t like ‘em. Who ever heard of aardvarks, anyway?

CONFLICT: 5 Ways to Create Conflict in Your Story:
Give your characters clear goals.
Go big, go small. 
Let your characters fail. 
4. Make your characters opinionated. 
Use exposition to your advantage.

The Time Portal is malfunctioning. Some of the occupants of the forest are welcoming, some are suspicious and angry. 

Example:                                           EMMA

He’s very excitable, Miss Agnes. Are you really from Africa?

                                                            ANNIE
                                    (Cuddling close to EMMA’s side.)

Yes, Miss Emma, we were going on vacation and then this⸺happened.

                                                            EMMA

Oh, dear, I’m sorry.

                                                            AGNES

Yes, our travel agent, Time Portal for All Your Vacation Needs, was supposed to send us to Australia. We have distant relatives there. Something must have gone wrong. Someone at the agency pushed the wrong button.

                                                            ANNIE

Where are we, exactly?

                                                            CHEETS
                                    (Poking HIS head out of the bushes.)

You’re in the Fabled Forest. Don’t you know anything?                                                           

                                                            AGNES 

Who raised you? Dogs?  (Beat.) No, not dogs, they are strict with their children. Hyenas, perhaps? Yes, hyenas, our arch enemies. 

More CONFLICT: 
Example: 

                                                          EMMA
                                                    (Steps forward.)

Welcome to our forest. I am Emma and these are my friends. Where did you come from?

                                                            STARE

Who?                                      

                                                            AGNES
                                                         (Sneering.)

Emma, you don’t want to be friends with them. After all they’re just dogs.

Resolution of CONFLICT: The royal engineer enters. Sent to repair the Time Portal so the Aardvarks can be on their way.

 Example:     

                                                                CHEETS
                                                (Jumping up and down.)

The Queen! The Queen! The Queen Cometh!

                                                            FERGUS
                                                     (Looking around.)

No. I don’t think so. It’s just me and my toolbox.

                                                            EMMA

Why have you been sent to us, Mr. Fergus?

                                                            FERGUS

It’s just Fergus, Miss. Or in more formal settings, Sir Fergus.

                                                            DONALD

And you’re here because⸺?

                                                            FERGUS

To repair your portal⸺time machine⸺of course. It is broken, isn’t it?

                                                            DONALD

Our portal?                                                     

                                                            CHEETS
                                                     (Whispers in awe.)

We have a portal?                                                           

                                                            EMMA

And the Queen knew ours is broken?

                                                            CHEETS

What’s a portal?                                                         

                                                            FERGUS

Yes. Yes. Indubitably. If you’ll just show me the way, I’ll begin my work.

                                                            EMMA
I’m afraid we have no idea where it might be in the forest. Until the sisters arrived we didn’t know anything about a portal. They arrived from Africa.

More CONFLICT: More animals arrive through the Portal. This results in more conflict.

Example: 

                                                             EMMA
                                                    (Steps forward.)

Welcome to our forest. I am Emma and these are my friends. Where did you come from?

                                                            STARE

Who?                                      

                                                            AGNES

Emma, you don’t want to be friends with them. After all they’re just dogs.

                                                              FERGUS

Blimey. Someone’s coming.

                                    (Out of the entrance to the Portal tumble dog-like CREATURES. The five PUPPIES yip and howl as they tumble to the                                          forest floor.)

                                                            MIC
                                                        (Howling.)

Moommmyy! What’s happening?                                                           

                                                            SERENGETI
                                                            (Howling louder.)

Moommmyy! I’m a-scarrr-eeddd.

                                                            STARE
                                                (Trying to join the howling.)

Whooooooooooooo?

                                    (Two adult DOGS enter from the Portal mouth.)

                                                            MRS. MOSEYALONG
                   Tentatively wagging HER tail.)

It’s all right, children. We’re safe.

                                                            JAX

Stop being such a baby, Serengeti.

                                                            SERENGETI
              (Cowering near HER mother’s legs.)

I’m not.
                                                            JAX

Are too.

                                                           MR. MOSEYALONG

Quiet now, children.                                                           

                                                            SERENGETI

Yes, Papa.

                                                            MIC

Where are we, Papa?

                                                   MR. MOSEYALONG

I’m not certain just yet⸺but I intend to find out!  Yip, Yip, yowwww.

                                                   MRS. MOSEYALONG                                

Goodness, who might you all be?

                                                            ROGER
                                                            (Whining.)

Mama, who are they? Will they hurt us?                                               

                                                            ZEKE
                                                (Yipping and howling.)

I want to go home.

                                                            CHEETS
                                                (Pointing at the dogs.)

Look! Our forest is turning into a jungle of expired animals!

Remember, dialog is simply conversation between your characters. In your story, imagine what your characters would say to each other in a conversation. The more conflict you create in your story, the richer the story will be. Be aware of ‘loose ends’ when you solve the conflict.
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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   December: Dervla McTiernan  
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New Ten Minute Play ~~Climate Change

The  actual activists that are seated before Congress this very minute inspired this new play for the classroom. Mother Earth is dying and we have little time to correct the destructive path we, as a species, are on. Young people across the globe see, with a clear vision, what is at risk, while the ‘grownups’ dither and argue and get nothing done. 5f. 5m. 

My Planet, Your Planet, Our Planet is #35 in the series of ten minute plays for the classroom.  “G” rated and appropriate for middle school and high school. 

 

Available at all book stores and online.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To see the entire Collection

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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    July — Catherine Ryan Hyde.  August:  My interview with Susan Wiggs  September: Alan Foster (sci-fi) and October: Kristina McMorris
 
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Available now!

 

 

 

 

New 10 Minute Play, ‘Parkland Requiem’

Requiem: an act or token of remembrance…

Mass shootings are a part of our current culture. Not until now did I have something to say (write) about the mass murders that plague our nation. One day after the horrendous mass shooting at the Virginia Beach Municipal building did I begin writing. 

Synopsis:

This ten minute play for teens (in the classroom) is to honor and memorialize the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting. It focuses on a small class of students hidden away in safety by their English teacher and what happens while they wait for the shooting to stop. But the question begs will they ever be safe again?

The murdered victims:

My character, Mr. Hale is fashioned after Scott Beigel, 35, a geography teacher and the school’s cross-country coach. He was killed after he unlocked a door to allow students in to hide from the shooter,

Alyssa Alhadeff
Aaron Feis
Martin Duque Anguiano
Nicholas Dworet
Jamie Guttenberg
Chris Hixon
Luke Hoyer
Cara Loughran
Gina Montalto
Joaquin Oliver
Alaina Petty
Meadow Pollack
Helena Ramsay
Carmen Schentrup
Peter Wang

Want to see more one act plays? Click here 
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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   April: Poet, Joe Albanese, May: Boo Walker, June: Anne D. LeClaire and July — Catherine Ryan Hyde
 
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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.

To Purchase

Click here to see all 40 short plays

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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   February: Film Maker, Rick Lenz, March: Patrick Canning and April: Poet, Joe Albanese
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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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