Playwriting in Opinion

When you think Creative Writing, you think poetry and fiction, but rarely playwriting. Why is that? Well, “fiction” connotes imagination, “poetry” brings to mind eloquence and, well, poetry, which is an esoteric term all in itself. But “playwriting?” That’s like, people talking on stage and chasing each other with guns and trying to make the audience laugh, right?


…Well, mostly wrong.

As much as I hate to admit it, freshman!Me was arrogant, to say the least: I have always been a fiction writer, fond of inevitably convoluted plots and made quite a habit of stuffing as many plot twists as I could into a single storyline, and I must say, I did relatively well in the fiction unit (though that’s definitely not all fiction is about).

Poetry was another story (pun horribly and egregiously intended). What qualifies as a poem, with or without all of the literary tools we never stop hearing about… I was never a big poetry reader (the humanity!), so the idea of poems was somewhat out of my grasp. I must say, I struggled most in that unit.

Playwriting seemed to be the exact opposite. We’ve all seen plays, if not been in elementary or middle school renditions of the famous ones. We all watch TV, seen movies… As long as you have characterization and something happening on stage, it should be fine.

Yeah, it really wasn’t.

See, script-writing is another form of art altogether, and may be the trickiest form of creative writing I’ve experienced thus far. Stories and poems lend themselves easily to the writer, whether I feel plot-centric or imagery-heavy at any moment I feel like writing. Playwriting is so much more specific, requiring a hook that draws the audience in, a certain pace that keeps whatever tension you had set up at the beginning going, a way to get the audience to become invested in your characters… To me, fiction is retrospect, poetry is condensed feelings, and playwriting is that moment, the very specific one where you aren’t thinking of anything but what’s happening. We live our lives that way, so a good play sometimes goes under-appreciated, but everybody can tell when a play is bad.

I sound like such an expert, don’t I? Truth to be told, I’m about to start my 10-minute play over from scratch for draft three, because I decided the current draft was just too much fiction-nuanced, relies a bit too heavily on the struggles the main characters internalize. It’s something to be reckoned with, because we all know what makes a play boring, but never quite what completely captivates an audience.

If you’re still reading at this point, thank you for putting up with my whining and excuses for not writing my play right now… The point I’ve been trying to make (if I had been trying to make a point at all, heh) is that for writing… there’s nothing formulaic about it, as I’ve discovered in my almost-two years in CW. Sure, there’s the whole setting ==> rising action ==> climax ==> falling action diagram, and figurative language you can tuck into a Shakespearean sonnet. Products of formulaic writing may certainly be enthralling, but to my experience, there are formulaic writers, and there are John Green, Emily Dickinson, and Tennessee Williams (opinions may differ). There are nuances only the writer can discover, and frankly, they’re much easier to be felt than identified. I’m just getting romantic now, so I’ll stop here, but er, don’t worry if you’re thinking of auditioning for Creative Writing but don’t know exactly how to write a story or a poem or a play! Look at me, still struggling to do everything. Just, follow your heart, or whatever new phrasing Disney gives it nowadays.

Time to follow my own advice; ten-minute play, here I come.

4 thoughts on “Playwriting in Opinion

  1. Nick says:

    You say, poetry is condensed emotion; but I disagree. Rather I would side with Eliot and say, Poetry is not emotion, but escape from emotion.

    • Midori Chen says:

      The experience differs for everyone. When I read poetry, I’m experiencing the poet’s point of view, immersing myself in his or her perspective– the precipitation, so to speak. The way I’d read Eliot’s “Poetry is not emotion, but escape from emotion,” would be much more personal. Reading poetry allows me to escape from myself.

  2. Heather Woodward says:

    Another aspect of writing revealed–procrastination! Just kidding.

    Of course Nick is going to disagree with your comments about poetry–that’s what poets do.

    I agree with your observation re the in-the-moment-ness of plays. I wish I were in-the-moment with you guys right now and can’t wait to be back.

    • Midori Chen says:

      Actually, though. Our department puts the pro in procrastination.

      We can’t wait for you to be back, either! Hope you’re feeling well! (How do I say that without sounding bland and cliche? Uh…) All of the loves, Heather, all of the loves.

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