Learn to Write Drama
- For short stories, books or articles
- For scripts or screenplays
- For poetry
- For marketing or anything else
Course Code - VWR010
- Freelance Writing BWR102
- Dramatic Writing BWR110
- Writing Fiction BWR105
- Writing Poetry BWR109
- Children’s Writing BWR104
- Editing I BWR106
- Editing II BWR302 or Advanced Freelance Writing (Applied Writing) BWR201
- Research Project I BGN102 or Workshop I BGN103
- Research Project II BGN201 or Workshop II BGN203
LEARN THE PROCESS AND BE GUIDED BY EXPERIENCED WRITERS
How are Themes Developed?
A good plot is usually based on one or two ideas that are very simple. As we said in the first lesson your idea does not have to be original or earth-shattering, it just has to be a new take on an old idea.
Think for a moment about vampires. How many stories do you know about vampires? We can look at the old ‘Hammer’ horror films, the original Dracula, the new Twilight saga, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Lost Boys…. the list is endless, these are only a few. You may not be an expert on vampires, but if you are aware of these films and books, you will know that all show a slightly different side of vampires. They are all based on the same idea - that vampires are bloodsuckers, who feast on humans, but of course that is not enough to make a story interesting. Each of these stories is different. For example, The Lost Boys is a story of a young man who nearly becomes a vampire when feeling lost and disillusioned after moving to a new town. The story is about his struggle to not become a vampire and to save his family. So the ‘what if’ for this story is – ‘what if you move to a new town overtaken by vampires?’ Buffy The Vampire Slayer is another vampire story that looks at a teenage girl who is destined to fight vampires. She is the only one in the world at one point who has this destiny – however, she falls in love with a vampire. The Twilight saga follows a similar theme, a young girl falls in love with a vampire, but this vampire does not believe in taking human life.
Each of these stories are about vampires, but the examples illustrate how we can start off with a simple idea and then move on in our own way, developing our own plots and subplots. As we said earlier, none of these ideas are original but it is how they are written and how the story develops that is important.
So, before you go on to develop your plot (which we will look at later), you need to decide on your theme.
Where do you get a theme from? We have already discussed this question in an earlier lesson - where do we get a concept from? Again this is entirely up to you. There are ideas everywhere around you. On your bookshelf, in your life, in your head, in the conversation you overhear at the supermarket counter, in a sentence you heard, on your TV, in your family's life, everywhere around you.
It has been said that there are only a handful of possible story lines in the world.
Stories such as:
- Man/Woman versus nature – touching the void
- Man/Woman versus the supernatural
- Man/Woman versus themselves
- Man/Woman versus god/religion
- Boy meets girl - Romeo and Juliet, My Best Friend's Wedding, Pride and Prejudice (this list is as long as the history of writing)
- Monsters exist - there are many stories that involve monsters, such as: Dracula, Godzilla, Jurassic Park, Silence of the Lambs, Psycho. The list is endless. And as you can see, the monsters are not always animals.
- Who dunnit? - Agatha Christie, Harlan Cobden, Kathy Reichs, Patricia Cornwell. These authors have all written novels based on the theme of ‘who did it?’
As we have said many times before, most new ideas come from a theme that has been used over and over again. Other themes include: the quest or journey, pursuit, revenge, rivalry, temptation, transformation, love, sacrifice, discovery etc.
These are only a few examples of the different themes available for dramatic writing. As you can see your writing style can also vary within the themes. That is why you, as a writer, should decide on your genre, your concept, and your theme. It helps to know your niche within the marketplace - to know exactly what you want to write.
A good writer will look at all the different aspects of their story, the plots and subplots, and weave them together. It is then the reader’s job to unravel them.
It is difficult, if not impossible, to write a story or novel with only one plot or theme. A writer will usually weave plots and subplots together to form a story. For example, you may have an overall theme of ‘revenge’, but a sub-theme of ‘boy meets girl’. Recognise this story?
In every plot or concept there is conflict. Conflict is the source of power within a book. By conflict we do not necessarily mean fighting or war, or anything like that. Conflict can be internal, such as a character struggling against adolescence like in ‘Carry Me Down,’ or the fight between good and evil, or struggling with our own wants and desires. If our story does not contain conflict, there is probably not much to encourage a person to read our story.
A protagonist is the sympathetic hero of our story. If the protagonist has nothing to fight, no opposition, then it is hard to develop a story. Where would Superman be without Lex Luther? Where would Othello be without Iago? Would Romeo and Juliet be so exciting if it were not for the conflict between the House of Montague and the House of Capulet? Would the story have reached its tragic conclusion if this conflict did not exist?
Adding additional obstacles can help to create tension. Having one obstacle which is overcome can mean the story fizzles out early, or there is not enough tension within the story to keep it going. So, a story may require a range of obstacles for the character(s) to overcome. For example, a person may have done something dishonest and feel bad about it but because they have done the dishonest act, more and more complications occur. Think of the story of Alice in Wonderland (Lewis Carroll) – there is more than one obstacle for her to overcome before she can get home – the Queen of Hearts, growing, shrinking, the Mad Hatter etc.
“Off with her head!” the Queen shouted at the top of her voice.
“Who cares for you?” said Alice (she had grown to her full size by this time).”
- Alice in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll
Inject Drama into Your Word Craft
Through this course, your ability to write in a more dramatic way will grow. That evolution can be valuable for not only writing fiction, but also non fiction.
When your words become infused with drama, they can become more gripping. The advertising message or email can have greater potential to hold the readers attention; every bit as much as the poem, short story or book.