One great incentive to get going with your writing again after a layoff is a deadline.
Every year about this time I use the deadline for submissions of short plays to the Maine Playwrights Festival to motivate me to pick up the metaphorical pen. Submissions to MPF 2017 were due on December 2nd. As with the festivals of the last couple of years, only plays lasting 8 minutes to 30 minutes are eligible. Even with the deadline looming, I procrastinated until I only had two weeks to produce my entry. Do I recommend this? Yes. One week might even be better.
I was waiting—well, I wasn’t really waiting—for my story to come out. Let’s say I was summoning my story. I thought I could whack out an eight minute play, no question. But, would it be good enough to make it into the festival? We’ll find out when the selectees are announced in February.
So, what was it going to be about?
I’ll take a story from any source that percolates. This time around I thought I’d try to do something with an old experience that had been bedevilling me in my dreams for some time—a bummer from my past. It was stuck down deep, so I knew all I had to do was get the story going and it would all come out.
In fact, I had been imagining a scene in which I would unexpectedly encounter a business nemesis, and wind up trying to find a way to even up an old score.
What’s the setting?
I live in an area of the country that is a favored vacation spot for lots of people living in the New York area. It would be believable that I could come face to face with an old business acquaintance quite by accident. Would we remember each other? Would we remember the circumstances of my recollection of the unpleasantness? Yes.
Every story has a beginning, middle and end.
It’ll be a short scene, eight to ten minutes at the most, involving two characters, both old gents. We’ll start off with a bang, with one of them remembering the other immediately. They’ll share pleasantries.Then the story’ll spin off in a new direction when they both recall the bad old days—old wounds are reopened—and how will it end? No spoilers here.
What’s the most I can hope for with such a slim setup?
Everything depends on the audience sensing the tension between the two old guys that increases as the play unfolds. I want the audience to understand the old relationship they had, and finally see how one of the two old guys gets revenge.
In a play, of course, the story comes out in dialogue. The audience sees the setting, sees the attitudes of the two characters, sees the backstory emerge out of the words the two men use. The actors, the director and the playwright collaborate to create a short confrontation that is at most just a diversion for the audience.
Have you tried your hand at creating a ten minute play?
There’s plenty of uncertainty when you submit your play. The worst that can happen is you’re not selected. At the least, it might work towards sharpening your dialogue in other longer story forms.