I am about 45 pages into my current play. I imagine that when I trim the fat and make the edits I need, it will be around 25-30 pages by this point in the story.
Writing this play in Oliver Mayer’s class means trying out his approach to writing (at least the one he advocated to us). Which is not to plan, not to plot, not to structure, but to write from moment to moment and see where the story takes you. When starting this process, I was (and still am) kind of cynical. I don’t buy into talk of characters taking over a story- characters are NOT real people, they’re just a compilation of words that you make up in your head that hopefully make up a cohesive thread of action. Readers and viewers fill in the gaps and a good writer can ensure that those gaps are easily filled.
It’s scary to write without a plot in mind, and for a week there I was despairing, but as I fumbled my way into the next scene, I realised that it’s also kind of liberating. I actually worry less about whether character behaviour would make sense with the plot I have in mind- because the plot is constantly changing. I learn to be less attached to ideas. Cute lines and moments that I’d scribbled down in advance are being tossed out left and right, and hopefully what’s left will make more sense with what’s organically developing in the play.
I have scenes in my head that I’m in love with, but that may never actually take place by the time the characters ‘get there’- if they ever do. And I’m learning to be okay with that.
In class two Mondays ago, here’s what Oliver asked us to keep in mind:
1. Obsession– the stuff that goes round and round in your head, that you can’t stop thinking about- it’s easy to write from this place. It’s all just there, waiting to pour out.
2. History/Mystery– History would be the physical structure of the world. The facts of this time and place. The architecture of your space. Mystery is what happens in it- the questions that may not get answered, the explanations that never come. We hopefully start a story from a place of mystery, because we’re asking a question to which we don’t have an answer.
3. Duende– Even Wikipedia calls it “difficult to define”. But as Oliver put it, Duende is the little chameleon in the room who knows all your secrets.
Secrets are so awesome in plays. I feel (at the moment) that it’s better to reveal the play’s/characters’ secrets to the audience as soon as possible, while the characters in turn keep them from each other for as long as possible. It’s just more fun that way.
And plays are how I get to talk about my own secrets, and the secrets that everyone else tells me, without anyone finding out.
I can’t possibly keep that stuff to myself, are you crazy?