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Characters, plot and dialogue

It's not just the layout of a script that's important. You need to think about characters, plot and dialogue.


In a short script, it's best to limit the number of main characters. Too many characters can be confusing and doesn't give you time to let the characters develop. Stick to less than four.

Your characters should come to life. This is achieved through dialogue.


Usually a play has a conflict, crisis or problem at its centre which needs to be resolved. The characters have to face up to this problemand this is what causes the interest of the play.

The problem at the heart of the play does not need to be particularly unusual or exciting in itself. You could write a short script centred round, for example -

  • conflict between a parent and teenager about a bad school report
  • conflict between two friends about a boy/girlfriend
  • a teenager wrongly accused of stealing.

The success of the plot depends on how well it is handled.

You also need to think about how easy it will be to stage the plot convincingly on stage. Plots which involve spaceships landing, for example, could lead to serious difficulties!


Good dialogue is central to convincing drama. To make it sound realistic you need to read it out loud to hear what it sounds like. You also need to think about your characters to know how they would speak. Ask yourself -

  • where does this character come from?
  • what age is s/he?
  • what kind of person is s/he?
  • what mood is s/he in?
  • who is s/he talking to?

For example -

  • someone from Aberdeen will probably speak differently from a Glaswegian
  • a teacher will probably speak differently from a pupil, even though they come from the same area
  • your granny probably uses some words which are different from yours
  • an angry person is going to speak differently from someone who is calm.


How writing for plays is different from writing for prose

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It can sometimes be effective to use dialogue to contrast types of speakers (e.g. a posh shop assistant and a shopper with a broad accent). Remember also that people do not always speak in the same way. The words we use, our accent, our tone will differ in different situations.


Philip Ridley.

Class Clips

Clip - how writing a play is different from writing a story

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