Jackie Mellor-Guin

How to Write a Play

7 Steps to Writing a Great (or not so great) Play

There is this "Ding". You get an idea. Be it good or bad, it's an idea that can be nurtured. Is it a great idea? Maybe, but you are about to make it awesome. Below, I've listed out some helpful tips on how to write a play.

1) Genre: Write What You Love and LIke

I love humor, silly characters, odd lyrics & a love story. I have written a straight drama, but continued to interject my comfort zone quirks. Makes it real. This is your call, but the closer to you the subject feels, the more real the characters and their conversations are. In your mind. For now.

2) Choose Your Audience

Really take a moment and think about who your audience will be. Who are you aiming at? Kids, teens, adults, older, all of them. This will have a huge impact on the structure of your dialogue.

3) Do Your Homework

If you are writing about a notable figure, a time in history, a battle, a place. DO YOUR HOMEWORK. It makes writing about it so much easier and very fulfilling.

4) Story-line: What is it All About?

You have the ding and it's time for you to fill it out. Beginning middle and end. Sounds easy, sometimes it is, most importantly though, does it flow? If you find the story boring, then your audience will be snoozing in their seats. Find the twists, the humor, the sadness, the laughter, the love, the pain, the end. Have a board to put your characters on and move them around. I do. Is this weird?

5) Listen to Your Characters

I cannot stress enough that you cannot write for your characters, they make you write for them. If the dialogue feels forced, you are having trouble making them talk or you are just writing for writing’s sake. STOP IT. Go away. Put the pen down. Do anything other than write. They will talk to you. Usually in the middle of the night. So have pen and paper by your bed to write down all that they are saying. You really do hear voices in your head when you are a writer.

6) Determine the Desired Length of the Piece

How long should your play be? It's up to you. Depends on how many acts, pages written, songs (if any) dances (if any). Rule of thumb. 2 minutes a page. So 60 pages would be roughly 2 hours.

7) Read Your Work

Find a bunch of friends and sit around and read. It's fun, they will critique it, not always nice by the way. But be prepared to listen to constructive criticism. It's about the play now, not you. You want it to work right?

Whatever you do as a writer, have fun. Whether you're learning how to write a play, or writing a novel, or even a speech. Every blank page is another chance to fill it with life! How cool is that!?

Behind the Scenes: Jackie Mellor-Guin

Jackie Mellor-Guin is a local playwright, director, and real estate, agent. A founding member of Theatre Britain, in Dallas Texas, Jackie has written/directed more than 17 pantomime adaptations and one world premiere play. Several of her plays have recently been performed at Olive Branch Theatricals including Little Red Riding Hood (2018), King Arthur (2019), and A Cowboy Christmas Carol (2019).

What is Backdrop9? 

Backdrop9 is a resource blog for theater production teams designed to give the stage to community leaders so they can share their insights, knowledge, and expertise with the local theater community. 

Curator: Olive Branch Theatricals

Olive Branch Theatricals is a theater company located in Santa Clarita. We are dedicated to the community by providing quality theatre and live production. Our mission is to have a presence in the local community, and we exhibit that through our various programs, including our sensory-friendly theatre program, our deaf theatre program, our ticket sponsorship program, and our community singing group, Portfolio