Your level research is dependant upon the story you are telling. Some projects like biographies or historical dramas require vast amounts of research, while others require very little because you are creating an original world. You also can choose where to add research into your process, for some projects it may be in the beginning as you are gathering ideas and other times it may be once you have developed characters and have identified a setting and conflict. You want to research as much as you can about the world and characters of your play, however do not get lost in research and forget that research is meaningless if it never results in a play.
When looking for Ideas
When you first begin the process of writing you will go through one of two stages. Stage one is I have too many ideas. Stage two is I have no ideas at all. Regardless of which stage you begin your journey in, rest assured that you will find something that inspires you. It may be a headline, a product, a phrase, a song...anything and from that inspiration you will begin developing your world. Once you have a location, profession, event, or general idea of the subject matter of your play you can begin your research. Start by looking at the world you wish to inhabit for your play. Then ask yourself where you can find materials to learn about this world. The world should be interesting to you so that you can attack your research and have fun while you are exploring. Learn everything you can and as you learn you will find that you begin discovering additional questions. Follow the trail of questions and see where it leads you. Once you feel that you have become familiar with the world, use your research to inform your characters and plot. Only use research that helps the plot and tells the story. Be willing to let fun facts go, because your audience only cares about the story and your research was there to reinforce the story’s authenticity.
One incredibly helpful research tool is to interview people with experience in the subject matter or world of your play. If you simply tell people that you are researching information for a play or story you will be amazed at how much people are willing to help. Interview as many people as you can. When you interview, LISTEN. Remember you are there to gain knowledge from their experience. You can take notes or record the interview. Your rule should be to Listen, Listen, Listen, then Ask strategic questions.
Playwriting Activity 1
- Make a list of ideas that you are interested in writing a play about.
- Choose one idea and find 5 sources to learn about for your story.
- Find a friend or partner and see if they can help you come up with any additional sources.
- Go research and take notes.
Playwriting Activity 2
- Choose an environment. Research that environment and its inhabitants.
- Find someone from that location and interview them. Listen, listen, listen, and then ask strategic questions. At the end of the interview, ask “Tell me something I don’t know about.”
- From your research identify 5 potential conflicts that could arise from your environment and research.