An Approach to Drama Writing Part III: Use your image to create your characters …

Part III in my short series about writing drama – but much is applicable to any type of writing.

Part I: Be Fearless! HERE!

Part II: Writing Starts in the Mind HERE!

Part III: Use Your image or scene to create your characters or vice versa

In part two I talked about using a phrase or an image in order to flesh out in your mind what a particular scene might be about.

If you have an image or scene in your mind, you can then go on to create some possible characters who might find themselves in that scene.


If you have thought about a character you’d like to write about, then you can brainstorm scenes with which he or she might be involved.

Example one: I was standing in a check-out line at a superstore when I looked over and saw a little clock shop. For whatever reason, a stupid time pun went through my head and I just started thinking about images of clocks and all the silly ways one might make puns about time. I left the store with an image of a clock shop in my head. How could I turn that into a short drama? I started thinking about characters who would come to a clock shop. Who might show up there and start saying cheesy puns about time? What might the situation be? I thought of the image of a grandfather sitting at home, lamenting the demise of his favorite time piece just as his plucky granddaughter arrives asking him what he wants for his birthday. As he drops some subtle hints of where she could go, he dresses up as a cross between the mad-hatter and the wizard of oz, greeting his granddaughter in disguise and giving her a hard time as she tries to buy a clock for her grandfather. I developed this out into a fun little piece I entitled, “A Minute Problem at the World’s Last Clock Shop.”

It all started with the image of a clock shop, followed by creating a scenario populated by characters based on that image.

Example two: “Words to Say at the End of the World”  I wrote this piece about a mother and daughter who have to understand what is really important in their lives once someone dropped an atomic bomb on their front lawn.  It all started with an image of two people starting at a nuclear explosion, knowing that life would soon be gone. From that short image, I did my prerequisite thinking, trying to determine what situation might heighten the dramatic tension. What two characters might be able to show regret, anxiety, and love within the last moments of their lives?  Husband and wife? Certainly could have chosen that route, but I decided to try writing this sketch about a mother who is preparing to send her daughter off to college. After the bomb goes off, they replay the highlights of their lives, showing how the tension and problems that they had really didn’t mean anything in that final moment of their lives. The daughter had only one last thing to say to her mother, and that was … (no spoilers!).

Once again, the drama started with a simple premise and I had to find the right characters to put into the scene. The options, of course, were endless, but you just have to choose one and try it out. If it doesn’t work, try a different character.

So here’s the steps I take when writing drama:

1) Remind myself to be fearless.

2) Find a phrase, theme or image to think upon.

3) Take that image in your mind and try out different characters who might fit well into that scene. Or, if in #2, you have some characters in mind, go ahead and insert the characters into different settings and scenes to see if they will work.

Next Up: Part IV – Creating Conflict and Coming to a Resolution

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