I’m engaged in two forms of swimming at the moment, swimming in water and swimming in ideas.
One physical and one imaginative.
Both pursuits are challenging and both are target driven. A first draft deadline for the former and decreasing time:length ratio for the latter, and both involve injury, mild R.S.I in the right hand and athletes foot respectively, and share the same principal risk; public humiliation.
I Love you Baby is currently bouncing around as a concept on the crest of a research wave.
Lots of ideas, sounds, visuals and impressions are being ingested; a great swirling ocean of the stuff, eventually the emerging play will be so buoyed up by it all that the up swell will prove irresistible, and it will simply have to be written down.
Well, that’s the plan anyway!
Finding the moment to catch the wave is important as there’s a certain amount of thinking and framing to be done, and ‘seen’ and ‘heard’ before there’s any point in committing the character’s words to the screen, in beginning to make the imagined real, in starting to form the play.
Do it too early and there won’t be enough substance to write the activity.
Do it too late and it’ll feel like all the questions have been answered.
Do it at the right time and there’ll be enough material and thought to push the vision through to shore, the first draft.
Writing processes vary from play to play in terms of what and when but listed below are the usual key milestones, to coin a management term, which makes sense as I’m currently immersed in the corporate world of character SAMANTHA.
1. Research. An on-going bath of facts, figures, music, images and opinion, which key into the themes of the play and the character’s world. Sometimes this may include interviews/journeys to relevant people and locations.
2. Characters. Small notebooks are jotted into throughout each day for each character. Aside from external views/opinions of the characters, notes begin to be made about the world from their separate points of view. This is on-going and will continue all the way up to the pre-rehearsal draft as there’s a need to know enough about the characters before they’re written so that their ‘voices’ can be heard.
Above is a shot of SAMANTHA’S opening pages.
3. Story. The story develops all the time and currently the fundamentals aren’t changing, the arc is there, its clear where the surprises need to be, where the twist is, how the narrative will unfold, escalate and resolve.
As the first draft is written certain elements will change and it’s always good to leave some ‘air’ and some unanswered questions, so that once the characters start interacting moments can be character, rather than plot, driven.
4. Plot and structure. This is where the real ‘craft’ comes in, the shape and the timeframe will be determined in the synopsis and scene breakdown which will be written just before the first draft is started.
Number 4 – the nuts and bolts craft side of the work- is going to happen very soon- the ocean swell is building up and currently stages 1,2 and 3 are in full swing and operating on a creative carousel system.
This play, rooted as it is in the world of theatrical realism relies on its characters to carry the drama.
Their opinions, what they represent, their interactions, and their conflicts, form the moments of the action-the activity- and a character questionnaire can be helpful at this stage of the writing process -the survey in the previous post has been a useful starter.
Interestingly a lot of these processes being worked through at the writing stage will be replicated by the actors later on when developing the characters (And making them their own). The playwright develops a ‘backstory’ for the character and the actor unravels it all later on in rehearsal, adding their own opinions and ideas.
I like to collect visuals as a speedy reference for each character’s starting points and landscape; here are some of SAMANTHA’S:
SAMANTHA is beginning to become clear and I can see her moving around her penthouse apartment in Manchester (Where the activity of the play takes place so it’s important to have a solid idea of her space) and as I build up a picture of her I listen to music which means something to her and relates to her principal emotional state.
So its all about swimming.
Todays key tasks are working out how to reduce core ‘rock’ when free styling with a pull buoy and chewing over how best to explore the way we treat older people and view the ageing the process within the play (A theme).
Both technical conundrums will be solved in the pool- R.S.I and athletes foot allowing.