7 Books to Get You Started as a Playwright

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Although playwriting has been overshadowed by the rush of screenwriters heading for Hollywood, theater is experiencing a resurgence. As we rediscover the joys of a direct experience with live actors on a limited stage, the demand for new plays is growing. We're hungry for an emotional event that can only be provided in a theater setting.

The following books are a good place to start if you're interested in learning how to write plays. While not an exhaustive list, you'll be able to use the books here to learn the critical elements of storytelling, stagecraft, playwriting, acting, and to find your way into the craft.


The Art Of Dramatic Writing: Its Basis in the Creative Interpretation of Human Motives

by Lajos Egri

While primarily aimed at stage and screenwriters, this book captures all of the major issues involved in creating a character and his or her motivations, which are necessary not only for character development but for plot structure as well. Highly recommended.


The Art and Craft of Playwriting

by Jeffery Hatcher

An excellent guide to writing plays by a working professional. Lots of motivation and advice on how to approach writing your play.


The Architecture of Drama: Plot, Character, Theme, Genre and Style

by Joe & Robin Stockdale, David Letwin

A good textbook on the complete scope of drama. Not ponderous like most textbooks, but eminently readable.


Technical Theater for Nontechnical People

by Drew Campbell

There are more detailed and more technical books out there for the technical stagecraft student, but this is a good guide to what goes on "behind the scenes" in the theater. It specifically covers the technical aspects of stagecraft in an engaging way. For the aspiring or beginning playwright, it's a good idea to have at least a passing understanding of what it takes to stage a play.


An Actor Prepares

by Constantin Stanislavski

While you may never act in a play, and you may despise "The Method," reading this book and even attempting some, if not all, of the exercises within can make you a better playwright.

Doing so helps you understand just what an actor needs to go through (at least in Stanislavski's method) while trying to get into the skin of one of your characters. By reading this book along with everything written by any of your favorite playwrights, and attending as many plays as you can afford, you'll have a better chance of writing an interesting play.


Writing a Play

by Steve Gooch

This very concise and motivating primer on writing your first play, from conception to production, is from a working playwright in England, Steve Gooch. You may need to look on Amazon.co.uk for this book, but it's worth the price, especially if you're just starting as a playwright.

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Composing Drama for Stage and Screen

by Stanley Vincent Longman

Longman's ideas about "polarity" can help any writer of fiction — whether stage, screen, story, or novel — understand the dynamic interplay between characters and how it must be used to be successful.