Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Spread the Word 1.1 Why do I write plays?

As part of the Spread The Word programme we were asked a set of questions, over the next few blogs I want to address those questions more fully.

Why do I write plays? I think in the session I said something about liking to tell stories and I always have written plays then I felt the question bothering me afterwards because I kept thinking about things I wanted to say, well shout in fact.

I write plays because I don’t just like telling stories I need to. Stories fascinate me, people fascinate me. I love those moments when something ordinary collides with something extraordinary and it leaps up at you and shouts - write me I’m a great story.

But why do I write plays. I’ve always written but I’ve not always written plays. I always wanted to be a novelist. In fact back in Fallen Angel days I wrote two adaptations (one that toured the UK), because someone needed to do it and I knew I could but I had no interest in being a playwright. I wanted to see my novel on a bookstore shelf and that was my driving ambition. But then back in 2003 I did a creative writing MA at Liverpool John Moores and as part of the course we had to do one module assessment in a different medium to our chosen medium for the final assessment. I wrote a TV play to get it out of the way. In the process of getting it out of the way I fell in love with scriptwriting. I realised that my novels were littered in dialogue. That I was obsessed with characters voices. As others struggled with dialogue it was the part that came the most naturally for me. From that point I wrote more assessments and material in script – a radio play, a film, a theatre play. All of them bad, well some were okay and some were appalling. But I got on with it, writing scripts, reading about writing, going on courses - learning as much as I could about scriptwriting.

I got feedback from various sources and I never managed to get it right. I never managed to get all the elements working at the same time – characters, structure, story, idea. One thing would always let the piece down. It became frustrating, repetitive. I made it on to a few longlists. I abandoned theatre writing completely after what I perceived to be very bad feedback. I re-read it recently and it was actually largely positive but my inexperience led me to make the new writers mistake of focusing on the negative.

The scripts spanned a vast range of styles and ideas which I always thought was indicative of my being eclectic in my tastes. I like lots of different movies, books, plays, TV, radio so it made sense that my writing would also reflect that but then I realised, quite recently, that I was trying too hard. I was trying too hard to get a script accepted somewhere, anywhere. Somewhere along the way I lost my voice. The last 2 years have been a journey in rediscovering my voice and it’s happened through two elements; theatre writing – returning to the world that I know best and revisiting my writing about Golborne – returning to the world of my roots.

Apologies as always for the pretentions stuff about “voice”, “roots” and “worlds”. If I read this on a blog I’d be tempted to shout get out from your own arse. So if you’re thinking that, I’m with you after all I’m from Lancashire and I’m a plain speaking lass who doesn’t like bullshit.

So why do I write plays? I write plays because I want other people to see, hear, watch my plays because I want people to see what I see, hear what I hear. I believe I can make people see things a little differently and think about the world in a slightly different way. I believe I can make people behave differently. Don’t get me wrong I’m fully away I’m not JFK or Martin Luther King but I can make a small difference. And I believe that in today’s world small differences can make a difference.

So it’s all well and good learning the craft and know all the technical stuff about writing but in a writing world were your script and your voice has to shout above a pile of thousands of other voices, it’s always worthwhile remembering why you write. Writing because you’re good at it is not enough, writing because you like telling stories is not enough, writing because you want fame and/or money is just plain stupid.

Ask yourself why you write plays, whether for film, radio, theatre or TV, and make sure you like the answer because if you don’t then why the hell are you expecting anyone to pay attention to the plays you write.

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