Want to write a play?

Nothing to do on a Saturday afternoon? If you have a couple of friends around, here's a fun way to make up your own original play. All you'll need is a pad of paper, a pencil, a tape recorder (if you have one), and lots of imagination. To begin with, every story or play must have three things: a setting, characters, and a plot. Let's decide on the setting first. This is where your play takes place. It can be at a pizza joint, on a roller coaster, in a dark and unfriendly forest ... let your imagination do the thinking. One of the best-loved children's stories around is ``Charlotte's Web'' by E.B. White. Its setting is a barnyard full of talking animals.

The next thing your play needs is characters. Characters are the people (or animals) that your play is about. Use your pad of paper to write down each character's name. Next to each name, tell us what makes this character interesting or special. In ``Charlotte's Web,'' there's a lovable pig named Wilbur, a girl named Fern, and a spider named Charlotte who spells out words in her web. Maybe one of the characters you invent is a hairless dog named Chopper who loves Chinese food. Or a very tall man named Theodore who collects chocolate wrappers. The more interesting your characters, the more interesting your play.

Once you've established your setting and your characters, the only other thing your play needs is a plot or story. The most important ingredient in a plot is something called conflict. This doesn't mean that all the characters are fighting! What it does mean is that your story should have some problem (or conflict) that needs to be resolved by the end of the play. It can be a problem within someone or a problem between several people or even a problem between man and the environment. In ``Charlotte's Web'' the main conflict is within someone. Wilbur doesn't want to lose his friend Charlotte.

Look at your list of characters and study it carefully. This is where your imagination is really put to the test! Can you and your friends come up with a good conflict? Try to make each character important to the story. You can even invent a few more characters or drop any that aren't helping the story.

Once you've decided on a conflict, the last thing to do is solve your problem. Maybe Chopper the hairless dog (remember him?) swallows one too many eggrolls and falls off a bridge into a river on his way home. He rapidly starts to sink but is rescued by Theodore, who just happens to be walking under the bridge looking for discarded chocolate wrappers. Whew!

Now that you have your setting, characters, and plot, you're ready to write your play. An easy way to do this is for you and your friends to act out the story. Record it all on your tape recorder and then go back and write it down. Once your play is finished, you'll be able to put it on as many times as you'd like. Personally, I'm not so sure about Chopper. I might have a hard time finding someone to play the part. How about this instead? A boy named Horace enters his pet frog Hippity-Hop in a triathlon....

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