An Approach to (Drama) Writing Part IV: Conflict & Resolution

Part I: Be Fearless LINK HERE!

Part II: Start in Your Mind LINK HERE!

Part III: Use an Image or Phrase to Create Your Characters LINK HERE!

Part IV: Mix in Some Conflict and Resolution

You now have a basic scene in your head, an image from which you’ve created some characters. Now we need to build the tension by introducing the conflict (if you haven’t done so already) and working it towards a resolution.

Conflicts can come in all shapes and sizes. Conflicts can be internal or external.

I want to walk through a couple examples which I recently wrote. An image I had in my mind was a man who was angry, packing his suitcase, and ready to leave. What situation was he leaving? Well, I decided not to make the conflict about what was actually upsetting him. I decided to make the conflict between a man and God. Whatever happened, he is upset and not wanting to hear the lecture from God in his head. He is packing up his life and walking away with his suitcase, and he keeps instructing God that he’s not allowed to come with him. The tension builds as the man keeps walking off of stage and then re-enters to have one more verbal shouting match with God. Eventually he storms off one last time, only to re-enter in a daze, acknowledging that he doesn’t know where he can go to get away from God. That, of course, is the resolution.

Another one I wrote recently was about two friends. One confronts her friend because she knows the other is involved in an abusive relationship. The two characters, one at a time, share the background story until the one in the relationship violently pushes her friend away, not wanting her help. This is the climax of their conflict – it breaks their friendship. The resolution occurs a few years later when the one in the relationship realizes how foolish she has been to turn away her best friend. Now as she’s getting married to “the man who taught her what true love really is” she can only think about her best friend from school, and she feels compelled to call her to make it right – the resolution.

So what needs to be done is:

  • Push the character(s) deep into the conflict. Keep it clear and concise. Build up the tension until the climax leaves the audience wondering what could happen from there.
  • Release the tension to bring resolution. (or semi-resolution or non-resolution). In my first example above, the man has a resolution about his issue with God, but he does not have a resolution about the issue on earth that causing so much angst. In the second one, there is a clear and tidy resolution when the two friends talk again on the phone for the first time in years.

When writing, if a conflict doesn’t feel right, try a new one. If a character doesn’t feel right, give him or her some new traits. Change the setting. There are so many options. Keep navigating along until you find just the right tone and tension that you want.

 

 

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.

OR

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

Approaches to (Drama) Writing Part I: Be Fearless

A colleague asked me to speak to an English class about drama writing. This was a good opportunity for me to spend a little time to think through the processes I use when writing drama (or creative writing in general.) Mostly, my procedures are nothing learned or formal, but merely intuitive responses based on trial and error. I’d like to take a few posts and talk about my procedures in hopes that it might encourage others in their pursuit of writing drama. Part 1 is not exclusive to drama writing. It’s an essential part of any type of creative writing.

Drama Writing – Part 1: Be Fearless!

When you start writing drama (or any creative writing), you will find yourself saying things like this:

“I don’t know what to write about.”

“I have no good ideas.”

“Look at what I’ve written. It stinks.”

If you find yourself saying any of these or similar platitudes then you are well on your way to being a writer. Here’s one to crochet on a pillow and put in your writing room: Doubt is the bedfellow of a writer.

Undoubtedly.

There are many reasons for this. One of the most obvious reasons comes from comparing one’s work with that of other writers. We’ve all read something which we really admire and think, “Wow, I could never write like this. I could never be a better writer than this person so why even try.” You may feel like sulking in despair and throwing your pen into the trash. But while the previous sentence may be true, the inverse is as well, that author will never write like you. There’s only one you. Capitalize on it!

Secondly, vulnerability is embedded into the fabric of writing. If you ever want to say something memorable, if you ever want to communicate effectively and correctly about the human condition, if you ever wan to connect with an audience, you have to be vulnerable in your writing. You have to go places in your writing where you typically don’t want to go. You have to write things which will make your friends raise their eyebrows and look at you funny. They will wonder if you are really losing it, or if you have finally fallen off the deep end. All those doubts they had about you will be confirmed. Are you sure you are ready for this?

Third, an issue interconnected with vulnerability is the judgment which inevitably will come along with it. Fairly or not, writers who let others read their works will be judged. Some people will understand what you are saying. Others won’t, and that judgment can hurt. I remember after I published my first novel, I had some friends who treaded lightly around a few topics which I broached in the book. Some even asked me, “Whoa, what’s going on in that mind of yours?”

But what I have learned more than anything else about writing is that writers don’t let unfavorable comparisons, painful vulnerabilities, or ruthless judgments stop them from writing.

Writers must be fearless! This is the foundational stone upon which your writing must be built, and I think it’s also the first step that must be understood when attempting to write serious drama (or any other genre of creative writing.)

Understand at the beginning that failure and doubt will follow you everywhere, but you must not give in to their begging and pleading.

Now that we all understand what to expect, we’re ready to move on to step 2 of drama writing.

Next Up in Our Drama Writing Series – Part 2: Writing Starts in Your Mind