Last month I went to hear my new play read aloud in a play reading group I’ve just joined, called ScriptTank, who meet in Holborn. Whilst they’re primarily a play reading group, they read a variety of different script formats.
I joined in a meeting at the beginning of autumn, where at the start of every term anyone can ask for their short script or an excerpt to be read, and generally they choose 3 or four shorts a night. Each person there gives feedback, and the writer is not allowed to respond until all the feedback has been given.
Hearing your script is vital for writers, whether or not you plan on making something yourself. It allows you to hear it as it would be performed, and you can hear first hand whether your dialogue is working or not.
I always record a script read, and the feedback, so that I can listen to it at a later date, when I’m ready to rewrite. But I also make brief notes when I’m listening. One of the good points about hearing your script is that it allows you to hear actually how long your scenes are. One note I wrote was ‘lots of explanation’. As I was thinking plays are dialogue driven, which they are, you can also be visual, although I’ve been confused with this type of feedback for plays recently.
I think ultimately, as one of the writers who gave feedback said, it’s about putting the action ON STAGE, rather than having the characters talk about it. They can still be dynamic when characters talk about things, but it helps if there’s ACTION involved.
The type of feedback I got varied, but it was pretty positive as I came away with a lot to work on. The over all subject of the play was discussed, as well as the characters and their own arcs, or journeys. The group was also concerned that stories with characters having mental health issues should be portrayed in a positive light. Whilst this is true, it’s also true that they do end up doing bad things in life, and making wrong choices, like everyone else. So I’m not too worried about this as long as it makes sense story wise.
Another interesting comment was that people were visualising 6 different plays. This is partly because this draft covered a lot of issues, but also because even when we see plays in the theatre, it’s such an individual thing and we watch with our own interpretation of the world going on in the back of our minds, based on our own experiences. I think that’s why writing can be so subjective.
The most practical advice I got, which I think can be applied to all writing, is delete every other line of dialogue in long conversations. Now obviously it has to make sense, but you really can say things with less words.
The play reading came in at just over an hour, which was a bit of a surprise for a 45 page script, but it shouldn’t have been based on my other play writing experience. So I’ll put this play away now for a couple of weeks, and then get back onto the rewrites.