What Conventional Wisdom About Playwriting Have You Found to be the Least Helpful? (Part Two of Two)

July 31, 2014

We asked our authors the question, "What piece of conventional wisdom about playwriting have you found to be the least helpful?" As part two of a two-part series, below are a few of their replies:

Evan Guilford-Blake offers us this food for thought:

There are two pieces of conventional wisdom I've found unhelpful. One of them is actually deleterious.

1) Write what you love. This is a lovely thought and, often (perhaps too often) I follow it. However, the realities of playwriting life, mine and many others I know, is writing what you love gets you kudos, not productions or publication or money. The reality is, Write what sells, if you intend playwriting to be a career.

2) Write plays for small casts and low-tech theatres. This is the antithesis of point 1. It too is a lovely, and commercial, idea that, I've found, often results in plays that have little consequence.

Donna Spector shares:

I think “Whose play is it?” has been least helpful for me. After all, is it Juliet’s play or Romeo’s? I often write plays that have more than one main character, especially short plays with only two characters; also full-length plays that are ensemble pieces.

Carol S. Lashof notes:

The claim that writing good dialogue comes from imitating normal speech. I find this conventional wisdom to be unhelpful because the way people normally speak is boring and, more important, because imitation proceeds from the outside in. In my experience, good dialogue proceeds from the inside out--from placing yourself in the characters' positions and imagining what they would say in these particular circumstances in order to get what they want at this moment.

Nancy Brewka-Clark leaves us with this:

When it comes to writing for the theatre, or for that matter writing in general, the perceived wisdom is that you have to know someone in order to be produced or published. The higher the contact, the better the chances are for success, they say. But, like Blanche DuBois, I have always depended on the kindness of strangers. My happiest successes, including having my work at YouthPLAYS, have come about through old-fashioned over-the-transom submissions. Networking can get you so far, but in the long run your work has to speak for itself.

Many thanks to Evan, Donna, Carol, Nancy and the rest of the YouthPLAYS authors who shared their thoughts with us.

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