Book Creator

10 Tips to Write a Ten-Minute Play

by Chris Mooney-Singh


10 Tips For Writing
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"Making Life means making trouble.”
 George Bernard Shaw
Before Writing
Hi, I'm 
your writing
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Writing a play is telling a story in dialogue between characters on a stage. It's thrilling to see actors speak your words and unfold the plot you have created. Before writing your first words ask yourself some questions and stimulate the imagination.
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Pose some questions. What would happen if:

1. Someone comes home and finds a stranger on the sofa?

2. What is the oddest thing about meeting a blind date?

3. Start with: "I remember the time when..."

4. Or go abstract: Is honesty necessary all of the time?

Provoke your imagination and let the play be an answer the question or solution to the problem. You have ten minutes to explore and create the dramatic outcome.

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Starter Tip 1
Avoid Exposition: Jump In
a) Plays tell stories in the present tense. Performing in 'real time' means 10 minutes of dialogue and action and that roughly equals 10-15 pages.

b) For this reason exposition is a play killer. Dumping data on the audience eats into a short play's most valuable resource: time.

c) One obvious solution is not to use a narrator. Let the characters tell the story and be in charge. Dialogue should be like arrows shot by characters at each other so they will react and learn something and not directly at the audience who learn as vicarious observers.

d) Let your play begin in the middle of now and discreetly fill in only the absolutely necessary details as the drama moves forward. Avoid exposition that sounds like a news or weather report stating the obvious like two characters standing outside in a storm where one says: "It might rain today."
Starter Tip 2
Cut the Non-Essential
a) Every detail must relate to your core idea and advance the plot. 

b) You only have ten minutes—there's no time for anything extraneous. This may work in a full-length play, whereas like a short story, a ten-minute play takes a micro moment and brings it to life so that the audience can identify and their energy becomes part of the shared theatrical experience. That is why plays began as part of religious festivals in ancient Greece.

c) Be relevant. If you are writing a play about cookie monsters, when the curtain goes up, there a cookie jar should appear at some point, or as Chekov once said - if a gun is mentioned at the beginning it should go off by the end of the story.

d) A short play in some ways is harder to write because essential elements of storytelling need to take place in order to engage the audience and yet time is premium. Therefore, cut to the chase and let actions speak.
Starter Tip 3
Make One Character 'Off ' in Some Way
a) Characters are crucial. They are the GPS that guides the ship of the play.

b) No one in life is perfect or one-dimensional. For the same reason they shouldn't be depicted like this in your play, either.

c) Give your character a psychological superpower which may be a super weakness. In other words, consider following the classical Greek idea of the hero's 'tragic flaw and hubris which is the tendency to push beyond safety.

d) While the protagonist and antagonist are fully drawn and others act as plot props, all characters' words and actions will be evident through their traits.
This doesn't necessarily mean giving a character a limp. Make it a psychological limp.