April was a crazy month -- the ending of a very busy semester, producing Fringe Fest, teaching 13 students in Practicum, etc. So, I didn't get a writing prompt posted.
But the monthly writing prompts have helped me devote one weekend a month to write something new, rather than spend all my time revising plays. It's also had the unintended benefit of getting me to generate short plays. My ideas are almost always for full-length plays, so it's been fun to explore the 10-minute variety.
Using the first three writing prompts, I wrote three 10-minute plays that I think should be performed together, though they also stand alone. They're rough first drafts, but I think doing the writing prompts has really helped me keep the creative muscles at work, in the midst of revising larger projects. I hope they've been helpful for you, too.
This month'd exercise is a bake-off.
I first was introduced to the concept when Mary Laws visited Lee University and conducted a writing workshop. She studied with Paula Vogel, who I believe invented the term.
What is a bake-off? It's a writing exercise based on some elements from an established play or other piece of literature. It provides some elements from which to pull to inspire new work.
Read or re-read “3:59 AM: A Drag Race” by Marco Ramirez – it’s published in the 33rd Annual Humana Festival of New American Plays published in 2009.
Write a play incorporating most, if not all, of these elements:
· 3:59 AM
· The meeting of two strangers
· An annoying chime (it may or may not be a sound effect)
· Lines of dialogue in all caps (the play builds to a moment that requires this)
· Direct address
· Contents of a vehicle
Some words of advice:
Block out the time. Give yourself a couple of hours, or maybe an hour of time to brainstorm and make notes and a separate block of an hour or two to write the play. The goal I think should be to get a draft, no matter how bad, in one sitting.
Use pen and paper. Of course, use whatever works best for you. But I find pen and paper work best for me when I'm writing something new. It doesn't feel so formal, maybe. Hey, anything to take the pressure off of trying to be brilliant seems a good idea to me.
Have fun! Why are we doing this, if not to be entertained by it? So take risks, be bold. Nobody has to read this. And if you can't make all of the elements fit, don't force it.
Do a little brainstorming ahead of time. A few things to keep in mind:
Think about character. Who is this person? What does he/she want? What does their language sound like? Are they thoughtful or impulsive?
Allow yourself to imagine the required elements in ways that excite you. Is the chime a portal to an imaginary or nightmarish world? Does it function as a character device or a structural one? Do the characters make the chime noise or is it a sound effect or do they just talk about it but never hear it?
Define the world of the play. What does it look like? How do people act in this world? Is it a magical world? Is it realistic?
Find the pulse of the play (the engine, the need). What are you saying? What’s the impulse? Most plays have a pulse that’s connected to fear of some kind. But whatever the pulse, follow it.
As always, if you do this at any point, let me know. It'll be another month, probably before I post another one. So, choose your weekend and write!