Writing Perplexities

04 Jun

If you told me a year ago that I’d write a play and not be able to stop writing plays, I’d probably laugh in your face. Or maybe not—I’m not exactly a laugh-in-your-face kind of person. But either way, I’d think it impossible that one little play, less than ten minutes on-stage, would turn me on to playwriting so much that I’d lose the ability to think in terms of the novel I’d previously focused on.

When I think about it, there’s really no reason for me to write plays. I don’t read them on a regular basis. I don’t even particularly enjoy them; I have to prepare myself thoroughly for the onslaught of dialogue. Certainly, I have my favorites: The Heidi Chronicles, “Master Harold”…and the boys. But it’s not like I’m reading them constantly. That would get boring.

I don’t even watch them all that often. While I recognize that television shows and movies are at their most basic form a screenplay, I’ve never thought of them as such. Outside elementary school plays, I’ve never acted in one. I’ve only ever seen three live performances, and one of them was as a member of the pit band. But I’ve only ever thought of the show when I saw or played with them, not the script behind it.

I don’t even know what possessed me to write about the things I did in the first play. A humorist, I am not—and yet I managed to write what amounted to a five-page play on words. I went all out, taking out the serious bits and turning it into something lighthearted and fun. To those who don’t know me, I’ve never written one humorous thing in my life that didn’t turn out horribly awkward. So why now? Why is it that when I write a play, I can be as silly as I want? Why can’t I write a silly short story, or novel?

I can’t even say that if I knew the reason for writing the first play, then I must know the reason behind my current playwriting. I wrote the first one for a contest. It was a creative writing challenge, and a great learning experience.But that certainly does not go into the fact that now I can’t stop thinking in anything but plays. Now all of a sudden everything is action and dialogue. I’m not complaining—it simplifies my endless problems with description—but I want to know why. Why is it, after years of struggling with prose, am I suddenly drawn to plays?

The more I think about it, the more I think I should have seen it coming. My inability to visualize faces in an accurate manner. My consistent difficulties with description. My tendencies to write inactive scenes, in which the character contemplates life but doesn’t really do anything. Even my difficulty with character development seems to have been a precursory issue that could lead to playwriting. In prose, with the exception of a few short stories, all the characters seem flat and vague. But when I write them in plays, it’s like they come alive in seconds. It’s so much easier to write something relatively humorous than something serious. And by only placing necessary action on the page, I free up the interpretation. A play is easier to see and hear, though once in a while the short stories really pop out of nowhere.

This experience makes me wonder: why do people write plays? Do they go through the same, seemingly random transformation as I did? Or have they always done it? Are there other playwrights who have virtually no experience in theater? Or are they all writing plays because that’s the only literary form they know?

Though I have to say that in spite of my confusion, I’m glad to have found some form of writing that’s really comfortable to me. That’s the most important part, after all.

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Posted by on June 4, 2011 in Writing


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