A couple of weeks ago, I came across this interesting article. Yes, whilst every man and his dog has their own pet theory about what makes a good script and bad script, one scriptreader has actually gone through the trouble of totting up from 300 unsolicited scripts which problems were occurring, and how often. The results make some very interesting reading, and whilst this will inevitably be swayed by the reader’s own preferences, it’s a far more reliable technique than claims that go “In my experience bad scripts make mistake X.”
This is about screen plays rather than stage plays, so this needs to be treated with a little caution. In particular, it’s unwise to dwell too much on a hero/villain format in a stage play. But, on the whole, I broadly agree with what’s listed here. Also there were some interesting stats, such as male writers outnumbering female writers over 10:1, and the big disparity between male and female leads. That is a serious problem throughout theatre, film and television, and I will return to this another day.
However, you might be thinking that by praising one reader for some openness about what’s being accepted and rejected, that’s an implicit criticism of everyone else who doesn’t. And I’ll admit you’re sort-of right. But rather than criticise, it better to set an example. So, here goes. Based on my own list of 10 common beginners’ mistakes in playwriting, let us bring forth this list:
|Writing a screenplay for the stage||0|
|The gag-driven plot||0|
|Essays instead of lines||0|
|Local reference overkill||0|
|Over-dependence on research||0|
|Characters doing implausible things||0|
|The opinion play||0|
|Trying to be clever||0|
Throughout 2014, I’ll be updating this. I’m not going to update you on a play-by-lay basis because I don’t want to embarrass individuals by picking out what they’re doing wrong in public, but I’ll certainly aim to have it updated at the end of each of the three main fringes. This is a slightly different exercise to the one above because I’m looking at plays that have made it as far as a stage performance, rather than a pile of unsolicited scripts that may or may not make it as far as a performance. But it should still be interesting.
Am I right about how common the common mistakes are? We’ll see.