Playwriting Definitions

Story Arc - The most widespread format used to develop a story or plot line. It involves telling a story so that the action forms an arc with the climax of the story at the apex.
Character Arc - The development of insight into the Main Character which occurs along the same lines as arc of the story.
Inciting Incident – The event that brings characters together to begin the action of the play.
Foreshadowing – A seemingly minor tangible item which in retrospect symbolizes and foretells the story.
Major Dramatic Question - A question introduced at the beginning of a plot to draw the audience through the story in search of the answer.
Protagonist - The character that promotes the action of the story. May or may not be the main character.
Antagonist - The character who is the most adverse to the protagonist in pursuit of his goal.
Goal - The tangible or intangible objective of the protagonist who pursues it through the story with increasing intensity.
Ascending Action - Increasing effort to achieve a goal which requires greater commitment from protagonist
Obstacle - Impediment to achieving the goal or objective.
Crisis - The point at which the protagonist must either give up or go for broke, the point of return, and no going back. When the protagonist must either give up or give his all in one final effort.
Climax - When the major dramatic question is answered, the point to which all action builds, and the point at which the conflict is resolved.
Descending Action - The point after the climax of a story when loose ends are tied up.
Through Line - An item or idea repeated throughout the story to represent and prove the theme.
Internal Conflict - The character's conflict within himself usually visible only in actions.
External Conflict - The character's conflict with the environment outside himself.
Character Development - Character traits best revealed in the action of the story and the dialogue of the characters.
Plot - A sequence of events arranged to create a story.
Flashback - A look back in time from the point of view of a character
Subplot - A plot operating simultaneously to the main plot. Sometimes a mirror image of the main plot.
Back Story - The events operating at the time of the story that contribute to the plot.
Synopsis – A short (usually one single spaced page) outline/description of a story.
THEME -- The message or moral proven in the action of the play. Perhaps the most important element of a play or musical.

Steps To Developing A Stage Play

  • Put the important parts of the story onstage
  • Remember if the audience can’t see it and hear it, they don’t know it
  • Imagine a setting and describe how it will appear onstage.
  • Give your characters a goal and put them in the setting.
  • Show your characters setting out to achieve a goal
  • Develop an incident that will initiate conflict and thwart the achievement of the goal
  • Introduce a Major Dramatic Question that will make the audience wonder
  • Do not be distracted by side plots. Stick with your story. Tell us only what we need to know.
  • Give the protagonist a goal he or she desperately wants to achieve
  • Develop Characters
  • Reveal character in dialog and action
  • Reveal character in dialog and actions of others
  • Subtly reveal Sub Plots if used
  • Subtly reveal Back Stories
  • Foreshadow outcomes
  • Show the Through line as often as possible
  • Put the character in conflict with other characters, himself, or the environment
  • Put someone or some thing in conflict with the protagonist.  Conflict may be either external or internal but must be understood by the audience. Conflict can be established in obstacles to achieving a goal
  • First Obstacle is difficult
  • Second Obstacle is a Barrier
  • Third Obstacle is a Blockade
  • The theme is a moral value proven in the action of a play.
  • The theme should never be ‘preached’ or made obvious.
  • The theme may be the inspiration for a play or it can be realized only after a play has been completed.

The point of no turning back. Time to risk it all, Go for broke or give up.
Apex of the action when the dramatic question is answered and the goal of the protagonist is either achieved or resolved.
When loose ends are tied up leading up to the resolution
The time when the theme of the story is clarified and action is resolved.
What moral value is proven in the action of the play
The place or occasion in which the play is set.
Lines spoken by two or more characters usually onstage together in a play or musical.
Lines spoken by one character on stage in a play or musical.
Movement onstage.

Drama Critique Guide

  • Is the title appropriate?
  • Is the work a comedy, drama, tragedy, tragic-comedy, dark comedy, documentary, musical, etc.?
  • What is the Inciting Incident?
  • What is the major dramatic question?
  • Did the script make you want to see it on onstage?
  • Who is the audience for the story?
  • Is the language appropriate for the audience?
  • Is the language appropriate for the characters?
  • Is the language appropriate for the time and setting?
  • From whose point of view is the story told?
  • Are the characters adequately developed?
  • Are the characters differentiated or do they all sound alike?
  • Do the characters have clear goals?
  • Are the lines witty?
  • Are the lines poetic in nature?
  • Is the dialog humorous, dramatic, mysterious, literary, poetic, etc.?
  • Is the plot believable?
  • What is the moral (theme) of the story?
  • Is the theme easily understood?
  • Is the theme too obvious or hard driven?
  • Is the theme proven in the story line?
  • Does the story have a beginning, middle, and end?
  • Is the dramatic question sustained?
  • Does the story begin at the appropriate point?
  • Is the plot believable? Does it cause the audience to suspend belief?
  • Is there ascending action, obstacles, crisis, climax and descending action in the plot?
  • Are revelations of the story and characters made in a timely manner?
  • Is there a through line? If so what? Does it follow the story?
  • Is the setting appropriate for the story? Did you feel that you were there?
  • Are the transitions smooth and easily understood?
  • Does the story include adequate action?
  • Is there adequate dialogue?
  • Is the dialogue realistic?
  • Is there adequate action?
  • Is the action realistic?
  • Are the characters adequately revealed?
  • Is there enough conflict within the characters?
  • Is there enough conflict between the characters?
  • Did you develop a relationship with the characters? Can you visualize them?
  • Are the sentences lengths varied in dialogue?
  • Is the ending satisfactory?
  • Is the ending too predictable?
  • Are there other comments or suggestions for the author?