November 18, 2010

Post Workshop Woes and Brainstorming at Work

What Happened: On Tuesday, I had a workshop for Playwriting, which was a little daunting. I've never been so nervous during a workshop before. I've never written a play before either... (the pseudo playwriting format fanfics and the Tenchi Muyo/Sailor Moon radio play do not count. Nor does the Digimon one...) so I was extremely out of my element. The workshops are conducted a little differently than the ones for fiction. In fiction, we typically have to read our own work and we spend at least half an hour or more discussing the piece. In playwriting, you have other people reading your work. Since it's a ten minute play, we spend ten minutes reading the play and ten minutes discussing the work.

So the high points of the workshop:
  • Listening to other people reading it out loud and performing it the way I imagined it. Awesome feeling. As a novelist, it's kind of similar to having someone draw a picture of your characters the way you imagined them. 
  • Being told it was pretty descent. Definitely ego boost after a exhausting weekend. 
  • Listening to other well-written plays. 
Low points of the workshop:
  • Realizing that I forgot some important aspects of a play like protagonists and goals and stuff. 
  • Noticing that I still had a butt load of typos after rereading it repeatedly. 
  • I don't think I can understand the notes that I took. I rarely ever understand the notes I take...

Likes: I enjoy that we don't spend  a lot of time discussing the work because once you hear the story, you can kind of notice what's working and what's not working.

Dislikes: One thing that I didn't like is that the playwright isn't given time to ask questions (which I suppose is what office hours are for, but it's kind of good to get questions answered by peers). Another thing I didn't like about playwriting workshop is not being able to explain your intentions. With a fiction workshop you can say "My intent was blah blah blah." and your classmates and teacher can be "Oh, I see. Well, this might help you better reach your intent". In playwriting, there simply isn't enough time to do any of this, which is unfortunate.

At any rate:
I have a love/hate relationship with playwriting. On the one hand, I can focus on things that I think I'm strong at which is dialogue and characterization. On the other hand, it reminds me of all the things I'm not so good at which is everything else. Okay, not really everything, but I do have a problem with clarity and trying to tackle too much in a story. These are reoccurring issues that other people have pointed out to me in my writing and I have to agree. And it goes all across the board, playwriting, poetry, short stories, etc....

A part of it has to do with not allowing myself enough time to work and rework things. I get a certain rush from working right up until the deadline, but doing that requires some sort of sacrifice. Out of all the plays I tried to work on, none of them were working.  In the case of the play I wrote for class, to get the dialogue, characterization, I neglected motivation and character goals. So instead of a "play", I got two people talking in an elevator. Which, when it was read out loud in class, is all well in good, but it's not a play it can't be performed only read. There's tension, there's conflict, but none of the characters had any goals and because of that there was no clear cut protagonist and antagonist. I think this happens when you let the characters do the talking and don't attempt to reign them in every so often.

The cool thing about revising a play is that it's all in the dialogue. There's no descriptions to fill in and what not. That's also one of its draw backs.

My notes for revision are below. I'm only posting this as a blog because I think it would be cool to catalog my process for revisions. It seems like the play is worth pursuing because of the mostly positive response about it and I feel that it needs some minor tweaking compared to some other hot messes I turned in for other classes that will never see the light of day:

  • Make the goals clearer and the protags and antags more defined. My intention was that Julian is the protagonist. I don't think his goals were strong enough though. As it stands, he just wants to be with Lena in any capacity he can. For revision, it would be interesting to makes Julian's wants stronger. He wants to get back together with Lena, despite the fact that she has clearly moved on. Lena is the antagonist because she relies on Julian so much and is kind of using him until David gets home. I guess the major MDQ would be: Do Julian and Lena get back together?
  • More backstory and history. One reader mentioned why Julian was even there for his ex-girlfriend when she was pregnant with another man's child. For revision, I want it to be that they were really close friends for a long time, when they got old enough they were really good at being friends with benefits, but couldn't make it into a relationship.  The relationship ended on pretty descent terms, so they just went back to being close friends again. The conflict is that Julian is jumping from girlfriend to girlfriend, not being able to adjust to the fact that Lena found her perfect match right away.
  • Add more clarity to the cat story. Okay. Can I tell you a secret? The cat story didn't even come in until around 2 in the morning when I was watching Cowboy Bebop, the last episode. It's one of my favorite parts because it's got that dark humor that's been the undercurrent of the whole show. It's already foreshadowed that Spike is going to most likely be killed, so Spike recounts the story that Jet told him about two cats. Then Spike says he hates cats, and the two start laughing. It was a really unexpected and kinda cool. So then I thought of this book we read in Metafiction called "Cosmicomics" by Italo Calvino where the narrator is evolving through life as an atom, a dinosaur...etc. I thought it would be a cool idea for a romantic novel if a boy and girl evolved together. So Wham! Bam! Kablam! The story of the white cat and the black cat was born. Now all I have to do is tie it in to the course of the play. My intention is for this is to be a really bizarre moment, but not so strange that it doesn't make sense. As it stands it doesn't connect to anything and is followed by a less bizarre and more grounded story. I think I'm going to take the second story out and focus on the cats.
  • It was debated as to whether David  should already be dead at the beginning of the play. Having that scene at the end makes it a bit of Deus Ex Machina, but I'm wondering if Lena wasn't pregnant, would that change everything. (someone suggested this). It would give them a chance to be together, if that was what they truly wanted. I should make it clear that Lena does not want to get back together, even after the stuff with David dying (if I want to keep this part). How can I make it so that the character messes it up for themselves instead of one of the obstacles being bumped off in the end. How do I make it so that the only obstacle standing in Julian's way is himself. This essentially is the hardest part of the revision, so I'm going to have to push myself to do this in a way that doesn't seem cliched or stupid.

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Anonymous said...

Sounds like you learned a lot at the workshop. It must be scary AND fun to have others read your play!

Don't be too hard on yourself for not being perfect (yet). You know where your weak points are so I'm sure you'll get there in the end.

Good luck.

Najela said...

Yeah. This has probably been one of the more informative workshops that I've had, if only because I've noticed flaws in my work that go across the mediums, so those are the things I need to work on.

Thanks for the comment and the luck. =)

beth said...

You seemed to have a learned a lot. The awesome thing is there is a lot about playwriting that translates into a good novel. I think it's really good for character building.

Najela said...

Yes, you need really dynamic characters and great dialogue for a play or a novel to work.

Thanks for your comment.


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