REPOST: Katherine Soper- Interrogate your choices

Katherine Soper won the Bruntwood Prize in 2015 for her play WISH LIST. WISH LIST was Katherine Soper’s first play.At the time of winning the prize, she was working in a perfumery on Regent Street. She wrote WISH LIST as her dissertation play at Royal Central School of Speech and Drama. She took part in the Royal Court’s writers’ group in Autumn 2014, and developed a short play, Sundries, with the Young Friends of the Almeida in 2015. WISH LIST premiered at the Royal Exchange Theatre in September 2016, co-produced with the Royal Court – where it made its London debut in January 2017. Directed by Matthew Xia, the production received critical acclaim and sold out in both Manchester and London. Read more here.

In 2017 she wrote the below on redrafting your script….

 

If you give the same concept or starting point to a few different writers – even if you give them all the same story to work from – you’ll get staggeringly different responses. Even one writer working on an idea could do many different things with the play’s form, style, characters, structure.

The number of possibilities doesn’t need to be paralysing, however. Asking yourself ‘why am I writing the play like this and not like that?’, and truly gaming out the alternatives in your mind, can be a really useful exercise. It may well be that you stick with your original instinct, but now you know why you’re doing that, rather than just taking the path that seems simplest or most obvious. It helps you realise that all choices you make with a play should be active ones that help the drama, rather than just default choices. The questions you ask can be things like: why am I setting this in (for example) the characters’ bedroom – how would it change if I set this somewhere completely different? Why am I writing it with this number of characters – would it change if I introduced more or cut some out? Why am I starting the plot with this part of the story – would it be more dramatically interesting/what would I lose if I started it later? My scenes are all quite short – how is this helping the shape of the play in a way that writing longer scenes might not? These can still be great kinds of questions to ask once you have a full first draft, because when you look at it, you might have a stronger sense of what you really want to be writing than you did when you started. The play might have grown in an unexpected direction, and need to be reshaped to account for that. With the very first version of Wish List I realised that two scenes, even though they both ‘happened’ in my vision of the play’s literal story, were serving too similar a function in the plot – so I asked myself why I was writing them as two scenes rather than one scene. I removed another scene completely because when I tested the shape of the play in my mind without that scene, I wasn’t actually losing anything major – it was a scene that would have belonged in a version of the play that focused on slightly different themes, not the version of the play I ended up writing. Changes as big as that can seem daunting until you walk them through in your head and test them out.

A great piece of advice I was once given is to distinguish between redrafting and editing. Editing is small, nitty-gritty changes, like tinkering with individual lines or words – and those changes are often easier, emotionally, to make. Redrafting is scarier because the changes you make are more substantial, and it can feel like you’re ripping up floorboards you just painstakingly laid down. But you can always just save or copy your work elsewhere when you redraft – it’s not being lost forever, however terrifying it feels to delete or cross out huge sections! And even more importantly, every scene you write, every version of a play you sketch out before the ‘final’ version, needed to be written in order to get you to the final version. Nothing you discard or change was a waste of time to write in the first place – and elements from earlier drafts, character work you did or lines you wrote, may find their way into later drafts eventually, in unexpected ways. So try to be brave with the changes you make!

15 May 2019

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