In this post, I’m going to share a single word that can help improve your entire play.

And not just this play, but every play you ever write.

So what is this 1 amazing word?


Stay with me here. This will take just a moment to explain.

To do this exercise, start by making a list of all the major events in your play.

Maybe it starts something like this…

* Jim is unexpectedly fired from his job.

* Then on his way home from work, Jim is robbed.

* Then when Jim gets home, his wife Kathy threatens divorce.

On the surface, these seem like exciting enough scenes. But notice something: they feel fairly episodic, don’t they? You don’t get the sense that these scenes are all building on one another, creating something bigger than the sum of their parts.

One tip-off is the use of the word “Then” in the 2nd and 3rd bullet points.

“Then” or “And then” is a weak transition word, because it implies that the previous event is completed and now here comes a new event.

But that’s now how a great story works. In a great story, the previous scene leads into the next scene in a way that interconnects them all together like links in a chain.

And one way to help create that structure is to replace the word “Then” with the word “But.”

Here’s how that might look:

* Jim is planning a much-needed vacation with his wife Kathy, BUT he’s unexpectedly fired from his job.

* He heads home, BUT he’s so distracted he allows himself to get stopped at a deserted intersection in a bad part of town.

* He’s robbed at knife-point. He fights back against the assailant, BUT he’s injured in the process and is sent to the hospital in an ambulance.

* He receives treatment, BUT he no longer has health insurance so he’s hit with a huge medical bill.

This isn’t an amazing story by any means, but I hope you can see how even this modest example is already starting to feel more like a cohesive story whose scenes fit together like pieces of a puzzle.

In the first example, you could have shown any of those 3 scenes (fired, robbed, threatened with divorce) in any order, or you could have shown just 1 or 2 of them. There’s nothing linking those scenes together.

But in the new example, each scene informs and causes the next.

So why is “But” the best word to use here?

Because “But” implies failure, tension, conflict.

Every time you use “But” in your list of events, you’re causing more trouble for your characters–which means a more interesting and dramatic situation for your audience to enjoy.