“For Sale. Baby Shoes. Never Worn. – a six word story by Hemingway
Today I had the pleasure of attending an Introduction to Writing workshop lead by Fin Kennedy, Artistic Director of Tamasha Theatre Company. Tamasha is a touring company specialising in new writing inspired by the diversity of a globalised world. Their work places the voices of emerging and established artists from culturally diverse backgrounds centre-stage. The workshop was run by Derby Theatre as part of their In Good Company artistic development programme.
The core of the workshop looked at the foundation of traditional story structure and the five main points it comprises.
- Desire – the objective and motivation of a character; what your character wants and why they want it
- Action – how they act on that desire
- Obstacle – this can be physical, psychological/emotional, another character’s will or social
- Action – another, often more extreme action against the obstacle in front of them
- Outcome – the result of their further action, ideally unexpected
This framework can be used not only to assist you in creating your overarching story at a macro level, but can be applied at scene level, or even over and over again throughout a scene at a micro level. Breaking down a scene into a series of these structures, or dramatic units, are what directors and actors do to understand your script so is a great way of analysing the structure, pace and flow of your own piece. These units can be as small as two lines or stretch on for pages.
Fin challenged us to write a dramatic unit of story, any topic. This is the piece I wrote:
A: Won’t you sit with me?
B: Sit with you? Why?
A: You’ve got your lunch, I’ve got my lunch, don’t people sit when they’re having lunch?
B: I suppose but/
A: I’ll tell you
B: Tell me what?
A: A secret
B: What do you mean, a secret?
A: A big on. Secret. About your boys over there.
B: What do you mean? What about them?
Those eagle-eyed among you will spot that I ran over just one unit, in fact I’m verging on three but once you’ve started it’s hard to stop.
After analysing our own units we then began looking at existing texts. Fin started with an extract from Blood, their currant touring piece. We read through the scene and then went back through and identifying the units. Definitely looking forward to seeing it next week at Curve.
One of my favourite moments from the day was reading a beautiful short play by Beverley Hancock titled And Then The Lights Went Out. It follows Casey, a 15 year old out on a date with her boyfriend but has had to bring her older, autistic brother with her. The play lasts about 10 minutes and cuts between dialogue and direct address and is truly beautiful. Definitely a writer to look up.