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How to Start the Play You're Writing

Part of the Playwriting For Dummies Cheat Sheet

The opening of your play needs to grab the audience; otherwise the battle is lost before it begins. Following are some of the elements of a strong start:

  • Start your play as far into the story as possible. Pick a point of attack (opening scenario) that’s well into the story, just before the inciting incident.

  • Upset the status quo. Be sure that something happens early on (the inciting incident) to upset the world of your protagonist, launching her on a mission to set things right.

  • Give your protagonist a critical mission. The audience will get behind your protagonist if what your protagonist is after — the goal— is urgent, important, and crystal clear to the audience.

  • Be sure that the antagonist provides strong obstacles. The more even the battle, the greater the suspense.

  • Get the backstory in. Throughout the play, when it’s necessary to do so, gradually weave into the dialogue the backstory, relevant events that happened before the start of the play.

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