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Creative writing of any kind–whether it’s playwriting, screenwriting, fiction writing, heck even comic book writing–is highly competitive.

It’s not hard to see why: people love stories. And there are a lot of us who want to write for the stage (or the screen, or the page).

Many writers talk about a scene/act/play in terms of whether it “works” or not.

And I get their meaning. It can be helpful to know if your scene is “working”–i.e., does it feel natural? Is it moving along? Is it engaging enough to draw in a reader or audience member?

But don’t fool yourself into thinking that just because your play “works,” that that means it’s going to get produced.

“Working” is the bare minimum that your play has to do. Which is to say, if your play DOESN’T “work,” then there’s no way it will get produced.

But it has to do more than just “work”–it has to work in a way that’s new, fresh, engaging, or different.

Because remember: playwriting is competitive.

There are plenty of plays out there that “work.”

So when you’re starting to get serious about seeing your work up onstage, you need to move beyond simply being technically competent and you need to think about how you can make your work fresher and more creative.

One of the simplest and most effective ways to do that is to forego your initial, obvious ideas and brainstorm something more creative.

This is a technique you can apply anywhere–to your overall play structure, to a specific act, to a character, to a piece of set description, to a single line or even a single word.

In fact, it’s a great technique for improving the many small decisions that go into a story.

Here’s an example of what I mean:

Let’s say your play features a “meet cute.” (A scene where two future love interests meet.)

And let’s say that your first draft featured these characters bumping into each other on the sidewalk. Then they start talking and realize they have more in common than they thing, one thing leads to another, and so on.

Nothing *wrong* with that decision, per se…

But it’s been done before.

(Here’s a hint: your initial idea for any scene is liable to be something you’ve seen before. That’s why you thought of it so quickly. Unfortunately, this also means it’s more likely to be cliched, too.)

So if you want to make that scene more interesting, start brainstorming a list of other ways these characters could meet:


* They could meet in a game of pickup basketball

* Their shopping carts could become tangled together in a grocery store, so that they have to check out together

* He could be a high-rise window washer, and they see one another through the window of her office

* They could be seated next to one another at a dentist’s office and have their initial conversation with drills in their mouths

OK, none of these are particularly amazing (although I can see the dentist scene having some comedic potential). But a few of these ideas are definitely better than the initial scene I wrote without brainstorming.

Also, notice how these ideas are getting better over time. That’s common with this approach: your first couple ideas will typically be fairly standard, even cliched ideas–which is why they come to mind so easily.

But as you start to exhaust the obvious ideas, you’ll find that you start to come up with more original material.

Keep using this process throughout the play writing process, and you’ll infuse your story with more creative choices at every level.