In the first post I declared that there certainly is a novel to be found within your full length play. But it won’t be an easy job pulling it out. The effectiveness of the story told in a play depends so much on the director, the cast, the set, lighting, and sound — all of the collaborative elements of the art form. I’m not sure I completely agree but it’s been said that a play is a ‘blueprint” of a story. Unless your name is Arthur Miller or David Mamet you probably are not going to have much to say about what takes place on stage. Many grad schools in their MFA program teach that the playwright often does not even know what the essence of the story is. It takes the collaborative process to allow it to emerge. Now, that’s another discussion altogether. Let’s get to the reasons to find your novel in your already completed full length play.
Reason One: You’ve already tackled the hard parts. In putting your play to paper you’ve decided on the central characters and the setting. You’ve arrived at the essence of the story that you want to tell. You decided long ago that this was a story worth telling.
Reason Two: Chances are your novel will go farther than your play ever will. This is not exactly the golden age of the stage play with theaters all across the landscape eagerly awaiting the next new play. Professional theater has an extremely hard shell that few playwrights ever crack. Amateur theater groups in this country rarely if ever do anything new. It’s an actor’s medium, especially at the local level. Meanwhile, the publishing industry is undergoing radical change. There’s no need anymore to wait for publishing lightning to strike.
Reason Three: Revision is easier and more fun. You’ve developed a manuscript of 80 pages or more that contains your story. Now, it’s fleshing it out, tweaking it, “opening it up”.
Reason Four: Your story’s structure is in place. You know what’s at stake in the story. You’ve already created an arc. You know what the climax is.
Reason Five: Your characters already have their voice. Probably more than anything else, you labored over a distinctive voice for each of your characters. Lots of the dialog can be lifted right off the page.