June 28, 2011

TV Tuesday: The Play’s The Thing!

Filed under: blog,TV Writing — Tags: , , , , , , , — paulayoo @ 8:45 am

Time for another "Writer Wednesday" blog!

“To become a playwright, you should be a [person] with imagination and common sense, to begin with. You must be observant. You must never be satisfied with superficial knowledge. You must have patience to search for causes. You must have a sense of balance and good taste. You should know economy, psychology, sociology. You can learn these things with patience and hard work – and if you do not learn them, no approach will make a good playwright of you.” Laos Egri, The Art of Dramatic Writing, p. 278

Welcome to Writer Wednesday! Today’s blog is about writing stage plays. Now why would a TV writer blog about plays? Because I’m trying to write one! :) So I figured I’d share my experience so far for those of you who are aspiring TV writers interested in learning more behind-the-scenes stuff about the working life of a TV writer.

When I first started out in TV, I learned that TV shows are a direct descendent of plays. It began with on the stage, moved to radio, and ended up on TV. Today, the Internet is where a lot of original storytelling can be found. But it all traces back to ole Will and the stage play. TV shows, like stage plays and radio, are all about the language. The story is told through words – i.e. DIALOGUE.

(Keep reading after the jump for more on stage plays and TV!)

As a TV writer, sometimes you just have to ask youself - WWSD? What Would Shakespeare Do? :)

As  a working TV writer/producer, you always have to write “fresh specs.” These are writing samples that your agent/manager can submit for meetings with development executives and TV showrunners looking to hire writers for various projects or TV shows. Having an episode spec script of an existing show like “HOUSE” or “DEXTER” is necessary to show you are able to “mimic” a show’s tone and voice. But it also helps to have original material, from your own original TV pilot script to short stories and stage plays.

Recently, I’ve been trying to write a one-act stage play as an original sample. It’s been a tough road – I have never written a play before, much less a one-act play. So it’s been a really steep learning curve for me so far! :) But I’m also having a lot of fun. I’ve fallen flat on my face a few times with some TERRIBLE one-act plays that make me cringe when I dare to re-read them, but I’m grateful to have written them because I learned a lot about the process.

I hope to blog more about my experience writing this new one-act play as a hopeful future spec sample for my agents. But for now, I thought I’d start by sharing some great writing books that helped me understand how to approach this genre. I’m FAR from being an expert though – I’m still a novice attempting a new genre of writing. It’s scary, it’s challenging, but boy is it fun. :)

Here is the list of books I read/studied on the craft of playwriting. I also read a TON of plays, both full-length and one-act plays. But for this blog, I’m only including the list of writing craft books and a couple of one-act play collections in this list for now, and I’ll post more book suggestions in future blogs. You can click on each title for the link.


The Art of Dramatic Writing by Lajos Egri

Naked Playwriting: The Art, the Craft, and the Life Laid Bare by William Missouri Downs and Robin U. Russin

The Art and Craft of Playwriting by Jeffrey Hatcher

The Playwright’s Guidebook by Stuart Spencer

Plays in One Act edited by Daniel Halpern

Act One ’95: A Festival of New One-Act Plays April 25-June26, 1995 edited by Marisa Smith

So that’s my first blog on playwriting. I’ll post more blogs on this topic later in the year, so keep coming back. Have any of you written a play? If so, what was your experience like? Any of you theatre fans? If so, what plays have you seen recently? What are your favorite plays? I look forward to your comments.


In future TV TUESDAY blogs, please stay tuned for a special ALL-EUREKA week where my blogs will be all about EUREKA to celebrate its upcoming Season 4.5 debut this July 11th on SyFy at 8 PM! Details soon on that fun Eureka-blog week!

And please come back tomorrow for WRITER WEDNESDAY, where  I will introduce my brother DAVID YOO and his latest book, THE DETENTION CLUB (Balzer & Bray ’11)!

Until then, Happy Writing! WRITE LIKE YOU MEAN IT! :)

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