If you want an accurate sense of how my fortnight has been, give a listen to Tom Rosenthal’s song ‘Red Red Red’ – it includes the complex and meaningful lyrics “Doo doo doo doo doo/Red, Red, Red, Red, Red, Red!”. There are two reasons for this chaotic soundtrack:

1) Exam term and creative writing don’t exactly go hand-in-hand.

2) The past fortnight has been consumed by editing, where all my notes are in red.

I should pick up where I left off in my last column, with the script printed off, ready for notes. This is simultaneously the best and worst part of editing – on the one hand, just reading over something and noting your thoughts is much easier than creating anything. On the other, I am confronted with my work for the first time in a while and am made to reflect on its flaws, as well as the reality of the play rather than tackle abstract thoughts about it.

“Pitching a show is a very good way of getting to know your script – you have to condense its plot and themes to a few key elements”

Self-critique is one of the most difficult parts of being any sort of creative; the work you produce is never good enough, never finished, never as polished or show-stopping as the next person’s. Yet this reflection is the only way you will ever grow and develop as a creative person. It’s important for this criticism to come from the artist themselves, too. So many times I have handed off a script to a lovely, well-meaning friend and got nothing but praise in return. Whilst this is nice and gives me a bit of an ego boost, even if just for a bit, it gives me nowhere to go, no way to develop the work, no next steps that need to be taken. To be clear, you likely should not go round critiquing your friends’ creative endeavours unprovoked in the name of “constructive criticism”, but if a friend passes a piece of work onto you, it would be good to check what kind of a response would be helpful for them.

And so I took a red pen to the burning garbage fire formally called a script.

Of course, scripts are written to be performed; in fact I pitched this script when it was still very fresh, back in January. I didn’t realise it but the pitching process can be daunting and perhaps I rushed into it naively, the script being barely finished. Now, had this pitch been successful and I had now been tasked with bringing it to the stage this term, I feel this would be a very different story. However, as it stands I think pitching a show is a very good way of getting to know your script – you have to condense its plot and themes to a few key elements and truly believe in the show, or at least be able to appear like you do. This has really helped me understand the direction in which I want to take these edits and be more aware of the areas which need work. Because the script got rejected (a regular occurrence in the theatre world which one must come to terms with) I got some wonderful, critical feedback which has really guided this drafting.


Mountain View

Point(e) of Entry

Perhaps the most exciting development to come out of this has been the introduction of a completely new character, who is quite different to my two leads and allows me to explore the story more fully. I also think, in my humble opinion, that she’s pretty fun. Of course, adding a new character means a lot of new content which itself will need to be read over, but for now I’m working on getting the show into a new shape which shows I have reflected on the feedback given to me last time, and developed it to a more performable stage. I have found that introducing a new character is not as easy as I had hoped – they must not appear as an afterthought, and instead feel integral, like she was always there. There cannot be any seams in the sewing together of the old and the new. Whether this new character pays off in helping the play remains to be seen, but I am quietly optimistic.

“This reflection is the only way you will ever grow and develop as a creative person”

The other major concern of this edit has been looking at pacing; I began my work in creative writing in the field of short stories, novels and poetry, all of which are very unique and independent of each other, and all equally removed from theatre in terms of pacing. Ensuring a play doesn’t either drag or fly by too quickly is a careful balancing act, and one which I certainly find a challenge. My main device to combat this is reading the script out loud – yes, it likely sounds odd to my flatmates, but it works! (I promise!) This also helps with making dialogue sound less written and more spoken, which a lot of plays struggle with – the way someone writes is not the way someone speaks. This is a double-edged sword however, and there is the chance that by reading all your characters yourself they may become monotonous and they may lose some of their individuality – again, another balancing act that one must tackle. Sometimes I feel it would be easier to walk a tightrope!

This round of edits has certainly been an enjoyable process and with pitching on the horizon, it’s nice to fall back in love with the characters again and allow myself to get excited at the prospect of seeing them come to life. As my brain tends to do when I throw myself into one project, other ideas start floating around that really excite me! Perhaps next week I will finally start writing that play I’ve been researching for months … Stay tuned to find out!