Tips from Professional Playwrights

Tips from the Pros

by Firdos Ali (Talawa Writers' Programme 2016)

We on the Talawa Writers’ Programme have been lucky enough to meet the best of British theatre writers. In the last couple of months, the playwrights Tom Wells, Debbie Tucker Green and Philip Ridley have been generous with their time, sharing insights and stories of their writing journeys. Here, I list some of their top tips and how I’ve taken some of them on board:

  • Start writing and keep writing - The writers told us they often don’t know what a new play they start writing is going to be about. A word, a sentence, an image sparks off something in their imagination and off they go. The exploring reveals the story/what the play is about.

After some initial planning for the play I’m writing, for now called, ‘The Wrong Way’, I started writing without looking at the initial notes and the characters started doing some unexpected things, images appeared that I hadn’t seen before and the play’s tone darkened (further). I also found the heart of the play eventually- the ‘so what?’. I’m certain the surprises I’m encountering will surprise the audience too.

  • Put poetry on stage.

I’ve put both dance and poetry in The Wrong Way.

  • Write about what you care about - if you care about the world around you, your work will reflect that and will inevitably be relevant however specific/niche the story is.

I was reading a news article the other day and it sparked such distress in me, it unlocked a stream of lamenting poetry from the characters. Anger seems to propel me into writing.Writing helps me make sense of it all.

  • Say yes to something unexpected. Explore writing for TV, film etc.

I sent a short story to BareLit, the new literature festival for writers of colour and my story has been accepted. I will read it to an audience attending the festival (what have I done?!).

  • Not everything will work out. Try something else.
  • Know when you’re being stubborn vs when you’re being true to yourself and your work.
  • See other art. Make other art.
  • Don’t work in environments that are unhealthy for you.

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