Writing About Strangers by Jude Wong

We are now in playwriting class. At the start of the class, we were given homework which consisted of eavesdropping on people around us, whether it be on the way home from school or to a job. Many junior writers struggle to make dialogue feel realistic, the exercise was to help us be able to embody our characters using lifelike dialogue. I take the bus to school every day and listen to people around me. Often I sit at the back, among the more rowdy folks, these are the people who fit the focus of most of my writing. This exercise is to help my dialogue become more real for readers.

In my play a group of guys throw a ball around the back of the bus, and annoy and bully other riders. I incorporated a lot of teenage jargon into that space to create connections between characters and show their own internal conflicts.

I also enjoyed writing the play because it was set in an enclosed, claustrophobic space, the bus. I found it exciting as I personally had not written or seen a play unfold on a bus. I feel it caused the character dynamics to be shown even more clearly as all the characters were trapped in close contact, forcing interaction. I will also say a lot of my play is based on true events which multiplies the realism in each action and word. 

Draco: Nah, what’d he do?

Diesel: Bro, he’s been selling off answers like crazy.

Dunce: Yeah heard he got caught by the damn hall monitors, fuckin 

try hard brats. It’s like bruh how?!

Draco: Where the hell was he last year? I’d of 

bought that shit up quick.

Dunce: Ey man, we all know that expulsion

was bullshit.

This is a small excerpt from my most recent play. To further increase realism I added a character with a potential mental illness as gaps in public healthcare is a big issue in San Francisco right now. Instead of posing this character in a negative light, I raised him as the hero in the story, defeating the bullies and being cheered on by the surrounding crowd. 

Big man steps towards him, a rumble grumbles within Big man. He clutches his stomach. Jonas looks at him, then suddenly skitters out. Diesel and Dunce peek their heads in. The bus remains stopped due to the commotion. Thick orange vomit launches out of the Big man’s mouth and splatters across the three dudes. Draco’s mouth is wide open as it falls upon him. The three dudes fall to their knees, defeated. Big man roars loudly in victory. Jonas, in safety, cheers him on along with the bus people who weren’t hit. Besides the vomit victims, they all cheer in the form of beating on their chests and growling in favor of the Big Man.”

I believe writing is all about observation and interpretation. Look around and listen, there is a play on every corner.

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