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Matthew Freeman is a Brooklyn based playwright with a BFA from Emerson College. His plays include THE DEATH OF KING ARTHUR, REASONS FOR MOVING, THE GREAT ESCAPE, THE AMERICANS, THE WHITE SWALLOW, AN INTERVIEW WITH THE AUTHOR, THE MOST WONDERFUL LOVE, WHEN IS A CLOCK, GLEE CLUB, THAT OLD SOFT SHOE and BRANDYWINE DISTILLERY FIRE. He served as Assistant Producer and Senior Writer for the live webcast from Times Square on New Year's Eve 2010-2012. As a freelance writer, he has contributed to Gamespy, Premiere, Complex Magazine, Maxim Online, and MTV Magazine. His plays have been published by Playscripts, Inc., New York Theatre Experience, and Samuel French.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Rules for the Writing of Plays

I have decided that this blog needs more substantive posts about the process of writing plays (playwriting, in the vernacular). Hence, I shall use the authority bestowed upon me by having free time, to write these important rules for playwriting. These rules, without a doubt, will exist for generations to come, who will Google the term "Rules for Playwriting."


1. Do not write "Chapter 1" at the top of a scene. Instead write "Scene 1."
2. When writing a play, remember that the operative word is "play." Have fun. For example, Samuel Beckett wrote a play called "Play." That play is a hoot. Enjoy yourself.
3. All the characters are "you," just as everyone in a dream is "you." Even if you are 19 years old and currently attending college in Connecticut, when you describe a character as "a 59 year old housewife with a mournful eye on her past as an alcoholic;" "she" is "you."
4. When you write "The End" or "Blackout" at the end of the play, remember that your work is not yet done. Soon, the vipers will descend, teeth full of venom.
5. Choose whether or not you will write a Drama or a Comedy before you decide if anyone in the play has cancer.
6. That joke you heard over coffee that seemed so darn great when your friend explained it in detail, his eyebrows going up and down while he did all the funny voices? Do not use that joke. It is not as good as you think.
7. Tell the truth. Except when caught. Then lie.
8. Your precious God will not help you. Prayer will only lead to revision. Avoid revision. Your first draft is your "vision." Revisioning your vision is also known as compromise. Do not compromise. Even for your precious "God."
9. If you are a playwright that is also a woman you are a "lady writer" and therefore must write about Abortion. If you do not, you are missing the whole point.
10. Tell long stories about drinking, but do not drink. Then you will have the edge in this poker game we call "The American Theater."
11. All of your best play ideas will come from the Utne Reader.
12. Dialogue is a cloud, whispy and soft. You can tell the way the wind is blowing by looking at this cloud. The higher the cloud, the further from the earth it is. The further from the earth, the less like fog. Fog is not dialogue; fog is a monologue.
13. Aristotle doesn't really "get" you. He's never played a single game on the Xbox and didn't have to pay student loans. F*ck him.
14. Write plays about issues. These issues include: war, sexism, racism and "those idiots in the Bible Belt."
15. You'll be told to write what you know. Think about it, though...do you really know anything? Does that mean you shouldn't write anything? I mean, seriously, we're all completely blind. So write about being blind. Try taking a tie and wrapping it around your eyes and wandering around for a day, trying to remember where all the light switches are and how many steps there are to get up to your room. Write about that.
16. There are dogs in the streets, howling. Heed them, oh Playwright.
17. Microsoft Word really helps the Dada in you. Cut and Paste, baby. Cut and Paste.
18. All plays have a beginning, middle and an end. Should the end come in the middle, and the middle after that, you've screwed up.
19. Keep a chart of the irony.
20. When you feel, deep in your heart, that you have completed the finest work of which you are capable... quit. Immediately. Who needs that next play, and the feeling of being over-the-hill. Trust your instincts. It won't get better.


Zack said...


David Johnston said...

I bow in awe and fear before your artistic rules. But you forgot puppets.

Joshua said...

Is it rules for the writing of plays, or is it rules for playwrighting?!

I call a waffle, five yard penalty!

Jigsaw said...

I am making everybody read this right now.

Best blog post I've read this year. Of yours or anybody's.

david d. said...

I will now embark on a new career as an incredibly successful Seriocomic Cancer Playwright, if only to spite you. I will be The Tom Stoppard of Cancer Plays. And I will even figure out how to translate my plays to and then from Czech, just to be showy.

Freeman said...

You're welcome.

Adam said...

will you please spell it playwriting? That way people who know how to spell playwriting will also find it through google.

Adam said...

Should my chart for irony be a pie chart or bar graph?

After I quit, what do i do with the chart? and what if it does get better after i quit. Does that mean I should write children's books? Do you have rules for that? Or I might write a series of aticles aobut fixing toilets. How should I go about this?

Also are you saying cancer is not funny or very very funny? And what is your star sign. And what deodorant do you use? K was wondering.

Freeman said...

Ahem. Playwriting...

david d. said...

I spell it the same way I would spell "Wheelwright" or "Shipwright".

As the Seriocomic Cancer Plays I will pen will transport us. All of us, to new shores.

TEP said...

10 is true, but impossible.


alejandro morales said...


Kari said...

I really love your tips for "lady writers"! I'm gonna run and write that Abortion play RIGHT NOW!

Very clever.

Anonymous said...

I think that was about the biggest load of garbage I've ever read.

Have you ever even written a play?

angelina said...
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Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Adam said...

Freeman, that last anonymous was you, wasn't it?

Freeman said...

God I wish.

DevereuxE71 said...

More essential elements have been discussed in writing a plays script that one must need to consider in his mind before he actually goes on to write something, also those will almost build more confidence in them. video game script writing