Years ago, I participated in a sub-one-act play writing competition, where the name of the game was to generate real drama, story and characters within a run-time of no more than ten minutes. I’ll spare you the suspense – I didn’t win, although if you ask me The Unbearable Lightness of Being Mr. Wacky was some kind of wonderful, but whatever. The guidelines they gave for the contest were brief but effective: Look for a moment of explosive change. Don’t worry about before, don’t worry about after, just drop your characters into the middle of something really earth-shattering in their lives and explore what happens there.
I never was much of a playwright, but I sure knew a great creative tool when I saw one, and I have since often taught from this one. The first time I used it as a teacher was in, of all places, a California state prison, where I needed an exercise that could be done in one page, right there in the room, without fear of failure. [Read more…]