So, you have an idea, but you don't quite know how to get started with it? Writing for 11-14 year olds is a little different than perhaps writing a strictly adult play.
Here are a few tips and tricks to think about when entering your submission for the George B. Miller award.
If you know any pre-teens or teenagers, then you may already be familiar with topics that are of interest to them. This age group is definitely ready to tackle the difficult subject matter, and should not be considered ‘children’s theatre.’ From relationships, sexual identity, harassment, violence, and social discrimination, theatre is a great way to delve into the topics that are a part of the world surrounding teens. Don’t be afraid to go there!
Share the wealth
Working with youth theatre ensembles, having multiple parts to give opportunities to several actors is important in a script. Although there might be a stand-out ‘starring’ role, having a variety of voices in a play gives more of a chance for an ensemble creation. A huge part of youth theatre is the process of building a play together, and the more actors there are can allow a strong community to be created through the rehearsal process.
This can be a tricky one. A good way to conduct research is to hang out in an area where you can hear young people talk. Note the phrasing, slang, and body language. Perhaps even what is not said in conversations. Getting the wording right will really help the feel and tone of the play, and allow for young actors to relate easily to the character.
Turn up the pressure cooker
Once you have your characters, don’t make things easy for them! Find ways to create obstacles for them to get exactly what they want. Put them in that pressure cooker, and crank that dial up. This helps in developing conflict, moving along the plot, raising the stakes, and having a bigger payoff at the end when the conflict resolves - whether that is happily or tragically. There is no need to tie everything up in the end with a pretty ribbon, letting characters sit in the darkness can be very impactful.
A common question writers ask is, “Why is this day different than any other day?” Why is the play you are writing important? What story are you telling? What is your message, or point of view? Thinking through these questions will help you answer the overall question, so what? Creating characters that the audience cares about influences the reaction to the success or demise of a character. What the writer wants to leave the audience with matters, let your point of view shine through!
As you start with a nugget of an idea, keeping these tips in mind will help you develop your play further.
Whether it’s a character you can’t stop thinking about, or a situation going on in the world that lights a fire in you, a jumping-off place is all you need.
In partnership with YTI, we’re excited to be providing mentorship for writing your play. We are accepting submissions until 22 April. Take a chance and share your idea!
By Lisa Daly