On the menu for screenwriting this week was the table play – dialogue driven stories – which is what we will be writing for our next assignment. When I hear the term ‘table play’ I always think of conversations at a kitchen table, which is a little boring I think.
We read through a script in class that was more solely dialogue driven (I don’t know what it was from) and I found it helpful for opening my mind to new settings. This story was set outside and inside a woman’s home that almost sounded like it could be a cave at some points.
One of the biggest challenge with writing a table play seems to be creating really interesting and engaging characters. Alongside this is the most obvious challenge – writing interesting and convincing dialogue, but I think this would come quite naturally once you’ve got the basis of a compelling character. Since I don’t yet have an idea for my table play, thinking of some interesting characters will probably be my next step.
We also discussed what a ‘status change’ in a story is. In story terms, the ‘status’ of a character is their position their relationship with another character or the balance of power between the characters. Their status depends on the character’s personality and how they interact with other people. If a character is naturally demanding of respect and intention, if part of their personality is somewhat intimidating, they become the dominant character with the ‘upper hand’, even if their social standing is rather lowly. The character with the upper hand is the character with the power in the story, but, as we learnt today, there will generally be a shift in power during the story, or several shifts. These power shifts help the characters and the story to develop, so it is very important to include them.
Poppy and Tomh (don’t forget to pronounce that ‘h’, my friend) and a pumpkin. Sounds ridiculous, no? Well, I assure you it isn’t entirely. We did an exercise in pairs during class to help us create characters, situations and status changes. Kate and I worked on a story that I thought was reminiscent of the story of Hansel and Gretel. It took us a while, but we eventually settled on our two characters being Poppy (6) and Tomh (8) who live with their father who is single and sick. They grow vegetables in their garden to sell for money and, this year, they’ve grown a huge pumpkin and Poppy believes it will win the Pumpkin Contest at the annual county fair. They take their vegetables to the fair and Poppy enters the large pumpkin in the contest. Poppy’s huge pumpkin wins the contest and she wins a smaller pumpkin made of gold. Pleased with this result, Poppy wants to take the golden pumpkin home to show her father to make him proud of her. Tomh, aware that winter is fast approaching, wants to sell the golden pumpkin so they can get food, medicine, seeds for future crops, clothes and mend blankets.
Our story takes place on the children’s journey home through the forest. Poppy thinks she has the upper hand in this situation as she believes the golden pumpkin belongs to her and she has the say on what is done with it and this puts her in control. Tomh, being the oldest and a boy, is sure he always has the final say.
We didn’t really get too far in our story, but we did decide that the first shift in power comes when Poppy stops to pick flowers passing her prize to her brother. Since Tomh is now in possession of the golden pumpkin, he has control over what happens to it.