Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Please Satisfy Me

My writing has shifted back to plays over recent months, BUT there is a universal thing that applies to writing in any genre, and that is to tell a great story and to satisfy your audience.
I ran a session at the Cheltenham Words on the Side Literary Festival called ‘Ten things that make a play work’, in which we discussed all aspects of playwriting, and came up with several useful tools, but spent the longest time discussing the structure of a good story.
I like tools - they’re useful for all writers.  But they’re tools not rules, and can be broken to great effect.  When we were discussing play structures in the ‘ten things’ session, the ending of the film ‘The Italian Job’ came up.  If you look at the 8 Point Arc I outlined in my last blog you could argue that there is no resolution to that film, but that’s the genius of it.  Audiences will argue forever over what ending would satisfy them! 
But sometimes rules do need to be followed.  Last night I went to see a play that I really wanted to like, but I struggled from the start as it was a bit slow and ponderous.  About a third of the way through I saw where the story was going.  Two thirds of the way through I could still see where I was being taken.  Towards the end I was starting to wriggle on the uncomfortable seat, but still held out hope that I was going to be surprised by an unexpected twist in the plot.  But the story just went where I’d thought it was going to go, and there was no surprise or interesting revelation.  It built to a climax and ended.  It was a perfect example of a story that followed only the first six phases of an 8 point arc, and really needed to give me the last two to fully satisfy me. 
You can’t build a house without tools, and the same applies to telling a good story!


  1. my problem is that I want the writer to be only slightly more intelligent than I am. I want to leave the story (whatever the medium) with the thought "why didn't I see that coming?". that's a tricky thing to pull off. what I see coming, might surprise another and visa versa

    1. I agree it's a tricky balance, but too many writers tell their stories without thinking about their audience. I asked a writer the other week what was the journey he was planning on taking his audience on and he looked at me dumbfounded as if he hadn't even thought about them. We can't dictate how our audience understand what we write, but we can have some control over where we take them, and tools such as the 8 point arc are useful for keeping us on track.

  2. Sorry completely off topic comment here: I was scouring that interweb they have these days looking for poetry groups/ open mics etcetera in Cheltenham and I ended up on your blog. Are there any facebook groups/ events that I should be aware of or regular events perhaps?
    Andy, Cheltenham

    1. Sorry for the slow reply, and off topic is good. It's always really interesting to find out how people come across my blog.

      Please feel free to join me on Facebook as I'm reasonably well linked to lots of writing groups in the Glos/Chelt area, but the main group you might want to join is the Cheltenham Poetry Society, and there is a poet - Sharon Larkin who is very well connected to any events happening.

      Hope that helps. All the best, Jarek