What a find! I just came across a site called Musicals101.com that’s jam-packed with valuable writing advice. It’s the brain-child of John Kenrick, a long-time professor at NYU and expert in musical theatre. In one pithy section, he offers “Eight Rules For Writing Musicals.” Since the first four really apply to good dramatic writing whatever the vehicle, I’m passing them along. They are tried and true — and worth being reminded of:
1. Show, don’t tell: “This is job one for all writers, now and forever,” says John. Don’t tell your readers or viewers who or what your characters are — show them. “Drama is expressed in action, not description.” Borrow a tool from stage and screen and employ powerful, memorable visual images to convey key information.
2. Cut to the core: Cut everything that doesn’t serve your story. Every character, word, and gesture has to “serve a clear dramatic purpose. If something does not develop character, establish setting or advance the plot — you must cut it — even if it is a moment you love.”
3. Commit to your craft: To write effectively, you must understand the basics of storytelling. What’s your story’s premise: what’s it really about, what’s its emotional core? Can you clearly define the dramatic purpose of each character? Does every scene feature a character with an urgent need confronting a powerful obstacle?
To sharpen your storytelling skills, John suggest two books: Immediate Fiction: A Complete Writing Course by Jerry Cleaver and From Where You Dream: The Process of Writing Fiction by Robert Olen Butler.
4. Don’t preach or teach: As writers, our job is to tell a great story in a
fresh, entertaining, and exciting way. “If you always put the story and characters first, you won’t have to hit anyone over the head with a lesson or message. A well-told story lives in the memory long after any sermon or lecture.”
Great touchstone tips as we move forward with our projects this week. Write on!