Book Review: Creative Writing Masterclass: Writing Plays

Creative Writing Masterclass:  Writing Plays, by Lesley Bown & Ann Gawthorpe

In reading this book, one has to ask oneself a few questions:  do you enjoy writing plays or have an interest in writing plays for the theater, radio, or television?  Do you enjoy reading about writing well enough not to mind that this book is directed to those who are writing for a British audience and seeking to be published and performed in the United Kingdom and is of little use in theater in the United States or elsewhere, or are you a British citizen who likes to write plays and does not care about what Yanks do anyway?  As an American, I found this book to be of little practical  benefit in terms of the business side of writing plays, but as a reasonably experienced playwright myself (of about 60 or so completed plays, most of them written in my late teen and early adult years until the age of twenty-five or so), I found the exercises to be useful in helping writers gain more familiarity with the art of writing plays.  Simply for its worth in showing a passionate interest in theater and drama itself, this book is well worth reading and appreciating [1].

In its contents and structure, this book is organized like a masterclass, and for those who wish to take playwriting seriously, there is a lot to be said for the authors’ approach in handling the subject of writing and staging plays and also dealing with other related media.  The book contains twenty-one chapters written by a partnership of playwrights that is divided into three very unequal parts.  The first twelve chapters of the book, taking up nearly half its contents, cover he act of writing plays.  There are chapters here on developing a writing mindset, creating and working with characters, writing convincing speech and dialogue, understanding plot construction and endings, wrestling with deeper issues, writing a play, understanding and working with the practicalities of scripts and staging, editing, polishing, and rewriting plays, and working on script layout and submission to a publisher or theater.  The second part flows naturally from this and focuses on getting a play produced, including networking opportunities, putting on one’s own play, and writing for the amateur stage and dealing with the limitations therein.  The third and final section of the book deals with play types and genres, from the types of drama to comedies, pantomimes (far more popular in the UK than in the United States), musical theater, radio drama, and television.  A series of resources for writers in the UK closes the book, and throughout the writers talk about their own dramas and those of others and include many humorous and witty quotes from other writers.

There are a lot of useful tips that this book provides to readers who wish to take writing seriously, and some of them are worth stating to those who might want to know if this is the sort of book they would appreciate.  The authors urge writers to consider their writing to be at least a part time job and do it more or less daily.  The authors also urge readers to become familiar with theater as well as take a look at existing plays and rework them to get familiar with how the play depends on certain choices by the playwright.  If this sort of approach sounds congenial to you, and you want to write plays, even if you are aware that you may write many more plays than others are willing to perform and publish, then this is a worthwhile book to hone your skills in creating and appreciating good drama.  If this is a mission you choose to accept for yourself, this book is certainly an enjoyable and helpful volume in that task, even if is aimed squarely and most clearly at a British audience.

[1] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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