For the past two months my mind has been swimming with The Haunted Man, or rather with its contemporary equivalent. Since looking at the modern world of this adaptation it has been constant mind wandering of character invention and development. Am I very far on with writing the actual play? Not really, no. And that’s scary. However, what is interesting is the state of suspense it has out me in.
I was recently asked to read and have some thoughts about Write A Theatre Script in 25 days (and 10 Hours) by Tony Craze. Following the process laid out by Craze was an interesting and a surprisingly creative couple of weeks. It generated some fascinating scenarios and a whole file of background material for a potential 50 minute piece. I very much enjoyed the experience. However, the problem for me was simply lack of time to work to the deadline set out in the title. Having to find between one and two hours plus every day to write was impossible. Well it wasn’t if I didn’t want, or need, to have to switch off and find space in my head for a rest from everything else I was doing. However, the revelation was the concept of free writing and allowing characters to write themselves.
So that, along with brilliant tips by Simon Stephens (click here for said tips) and the intuitive work I’ve recently done with Brian Astbury, have opened up a whole world of writing possibilities. Both Craze’s and Astbury’s ideas are simple, write without self-censorship and characters and story will begin to take on their own lives and histories, traits, ambitions, neuroses, loves and physicality; all you have to do is let them develop through you.
WITHOUT CENSORSHIP that is the key.
This is the challenge I have set myself with The Haunted Man and has, so far, brought about some surprising characters with rich histories and personalities. It has bumped up some characters roles and got one sacked and replaced by someone younger (such is life).
The real pleasure of this process has been placing the characters in situations and simply seeing what they get up to. It’s a bit like getting actors to improvise to build a back story but in your own head instead. And on paper. It’s not necessarily in script form either, some of it’s third person narrative, one piece was a poem written by a character, another was their mission statement for a job application. Basically whatever is needed to explore character and their interactions and personalities.
Simon Stephens holds, and it’s a pretty spot on notion, that if the characters are solid and you know them inside out, then the play will write itself. In the talk he gave us at Birkbeck he said (and this is paraphrasing) ‘if you know your characters well then dialogue is simple to write as a character can only say one thing in response to whats been said to them’. Sounds simple…
However, is all this avoiding actually writing a draft? Yes. And no. It doesn’t feel right to start writing yet, I feel I should get together the characters first, ‘cast’ it properly so I can place them in the world of the play. However, I have set aside a week in January to travel north to a friends house on the moors of Northumberland to actually get some writing done. I am hoping to get a draft done before then so I can get on with the fun bit of ‘fixing’.
So currently no draft but I am enjoying the suspense of not actually writing.