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Speaking Like a Playwright

Part of the Playwriting For Dummies Cheat Sheet

When you’re ready to develop your idea for a play, you need to express it in terms that other playwrights and theatre people understand. Here are some of the more common playwriting terms:

  • Protagonist: The main character of your story; the character with a mission

  • Antagonist: A character or thing that stands in your protagonist’s way

  • Conflict: The opposing objectives of your protagonist and antagonist

  • Arc, spine, or through-line: The story line; what the audience is waiting to find out

  • Stakes: What the characters stand to gain or lose if they succeed or fail

  • Inciting incident: The event that launches the protagonist and gets the plot going

  • Backstory: Events that have taken place in the past

  • Exposition: The motivated revelation of the backstory through dialogue

  • Actions: Things said or done by the characters to achieve their objectives

  • Rising action: The protagonist’s uphill journey, alternating gains and setbacks

  • Climax: The final confrontation between the protagonist and the antagonist

  • Resolution: The aftermath of the climax; how the dust settles

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Playwriting For Dummies Cheat Sheet


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