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Advanced Playwriting

3: Sharing and Revising Story Ideas


Students will demonstrate their ability to create storylines by presenting their ideas and by offering suggestions to other students about how to improve their storylines.

Materials Needed

White board

Lesson Directions

Anticipatory Set/Hook

Start by playing the game Typewriter. Bring 5 students in front of the class. One of the players is the Narrator. He has a (mimed) typewriter and starts the scene by reading aloud as he types. As soon as the Narrator has given a few elements, the other four players take over and start playing the scene. At any point, the Narrator can take over again, perhaps switch to another location, introduce new character, provide titles or flashbacks. When a scene goes bad, the Narrator can mime ripping a couple of pages of his story apart, and restart the scene (or the story). This activity can be repeated if wanted with new performers.


TRANSITION: Ask the student whose story was presented – the narrator or the players. Ask the students who had the best ideas in the performance. How did the input of several performers aid or injure the story? Explain that sometimes we have great ideas, but sometimes or ideas, though great may need adjustment so it communicates what we want it to communicate. State that this will or focus for the day – making sure that actors and audiences are reacting to our storylines they way that we anticipated.

STEP 1: Put the students into groups of 5. Each student will have a chance to share their ideas with other students in the group. As the students share ideas, have the rest of the group focus on some specific elements. Here is a list to write on the board to help discussion of story ideas:

Can this story be told in 10-15 minutes?
Is the action dramatic?
Is the story theatrical?
Does it have a strong start?
As an actor, do the character actions and relationships interest you?
Are there unique elements? What shows the unique experience or creativity of the writer?
Does it sustain interest?
Does it have a strong ending?

Students can share one or both of their ideas to get feedback from the group.

STEP 2: Remind students that they are responding to what the writer has created. Try to understand what the writer is trying to accomplish and give them feedback that will help them accomplish that. It is not the task of the group to “rewrite” the storyline as they would have done it. It is important to stay true to the playwright’s vision and voice.

STEP 3: Roam around the room trying to listen in on the discussions and making sure they focus on the instructions you have given them and offering comments on the storylines where you can.

STEP 4: Once the groups are done, gather students together as a class. Discuss where they got their ideas. How confident are they in their ideas? What new insights did they get from the groups they worked with? Encourage students to continue to change and adjust their story ideas after today. Writing is about rewriting. They need to be open to new approaches and insights as they continue through this process.


Students can be assessed on the feedback they give during the discussions and the storyline ideas they bring in.

Author's Notes

Every writer needs different amounts of detail in his/her storylines before writing a script. Some writers prefer to start with a general idea and “see what happens” as they write with no preconceived notions of where things will end up. Some writers feel safer having a detailed storyline to work from so they can focus on dialogue and action. Whichever approach works for the student is acceptable. Today was to demonstrate the students’ understanding of story structure. Changes that are made after today are acceptable. Students will need to have a specific moment in mind for the next class period (see lesson 4, step 9), and have a strong enough idea to have five pages of scripts done by lesson 6, but forcing too much pre-planning on students may stifle and frustrate some of the writers.