REPOST: The Bruntwood Prize Toolkit round up

During this public health emergency, the safety and wellbeing of our staff, artists, audiences and families comes first.

We have been exploring ways in which we can all remain connected and optimistic. The Bruntwood Prize has always been about much more than the winners. It is about opening up playwriting to anyone and everyone, to support anyone interested in playwriting to explore the unique power of creative expression. Therefore we want to make this website a resource now for anyone and everyone to explore theatre and plays and playwriting.  

This week, we’re wrapping up the the repost of our playwriting Toolkit. But I’ll still be here to highlight the many different resources archived on this website, as well as sharing the ongoing work of the Royal Exchange Theatre.


Created for the Bruntwood Prize 2019- the whole of the Bruntwood Prize toolkit is up and available for you to use. Whether you are totally new to writing for the stage, or an established playwright we hope that the guidance of the brilliant playwrights who have contributed to the toolkit can support your writing from blank page through to your submission draft.

The Royal Exchange Theatre, is the home of the Bruntwood Prize, along with all the partners of the Prize we share in the excitement that new plays are not only the life blood of the theatre but that the act of writing a play is political. It is a privilege to experience new imaginations flexing their muscles through the form of theatre. A new play can shine a light on the darkest corners of human experience, it can introduce us to new ways of thinking and tell stories that we need to hear. Through the Prize, we encounter genuinely new ideas and have access to new stories and new voices that are quietly revolutionary. And in a world that seems increasingly confusing, fractured and insular, we need the communal experience of theatre and the clamorous voices of playwrights now more than ever.

The Prize celebrates and nurtures the craft of playwriting and we are delighted that so many people who submit their work go on to forge relationships through the Prize, benefit from a range of opportunities supported by the Prize and be great advocates for what the Prize can do. So we commissioned 9 of the country’s most exciting playwrights, many of whom have either been shortlisted or won a Bruntwood Prize to share their experiences with you.We have asked the playwrights to use examples from their own work to try and help you understand the process they have been through and how they have used some of the exercises and suggestions they are sharing to support their own work.



The Toolkit 

The sessions will cover character, story, dialogue, structure, theatricality and re-drafting. They will also point you in the direction of some of the other amazing content on the website which will support you to undertake exercises, and try out new ways of getting your ideas down and shaping them into something that can come to life on the stage.

Writers write in completely different ways, for very different reasons. There is nothing you SHOULD do when starting or developing a play – there is no RIGHT and WRONG – only what works for you and how you convey your ideas, your ambition, your stories and your theatrical intention for the work.

Maybe you’ve written some poetry, or a short story, or a novella, or some song lyrics, or a film script – or none of the above and are just curious to explore what it might be like to write a script. Writing is a brave act – to commit to getting ideas down on paper, creating characters, taking them on a journey,and having them change the world around them, thinking about imagery and theatricality. We’re here to help with all of that.


The toolkit includes…


Alongside this toolkit we created six brand-new livestreamed workshops for 2019.

Led by internationally recognised playwrights these sessions are completely free to access and will augment a growing archive of workshops created for the Bruntwood Prize. 2019’s sessions include…


Still not sure where to start?

Every writer and every play are different, so there can be no set rules for writing a play. However, we have put together a few tips that may help new writers to get started…


  • Use stimuli such as music, photographs, a newspaper article, an object etc…to help you come up with the idea for a character or story.
    Start off by trying to write a stream of consciousness.  With paper and pen (or computer) give yourself 15 minutes, and just write anything that comes into your head. Try not to censor or stop certain thoughts, just give your mind and pen freedom to wander.  You may surprise yourself as to what you come up with.  Some, or most of it, may not be of any use to you, however, you may find that you stumble across an idea, or a little nugget of inspiration that you could develop.  This may be a good exercise to do each time you start writing, or even when you hit a brick wall and don’t know where you should go next.
  • Listen to the way that people speak.  Eaves-drop on conversations and note the differences in their voices and the way they speak e.g. accents; repetition; interruption; pauses; volume; vocabulary; what they say; what they don’t say; length of speeches etc… These ‘things’ are the tools that a playwright uses to create individual voices for their characters.  It’s important that each character you create has a distinct voice.
  • People watch.  Whenever you are out and about observe other people, how they act and interact.  Make notes, and attempt to write down an exchange you have witnessed, or think you may have witnessed, even though you couldn’t actually hear it.  Think about them as characters and try to work out what their stories might be.  Consider the 5 ‘w’s – who, what, where, when, and why?  One of these characters, or situations just might provide the spring board for your play.
  • Write a piece of dialogue between 2 characters, in which each character can only speak 3 words per line.  The purpose of this exercise is to force you as a writer to focus on exactly what your characters want and are trying to say with each line of dialogue, and doesn’t allow for any rambling or exposing back story.
  • Write a scene with 2 characters, in which the first character (A) wants a physical object from the second character (B), but B doesn’t want to give the object away.  Create characters and decide why A wants the object and why B doesn’t want A to have it.  Think about not only what they say, but what they don’t say, how they relate to each other physically, how they move etc…
  • Re-write the above scene in a totally different location.  What setting would raise the stakes for one of or both the characters?  Could you switch from a private to a public setting or vice versa?  Think about how this particular setting affects the dialogue, what is said and what is left unsaid, and the way the characters move /relate to each other.
  • To develop a character, (or all the characters in your play), try to write a list of 50 things about them, without letting your pen leave the paper.  You can write about anything, such as where they live, who with, what they like, what they dislike, what makes them angry, what they had for breakfast…absolutely anything.  Try to let go of your imagination and write whatever comes into your head.  You want to get to know them, and the world they inhabit, inside out and back-to-front
  • With a character you have developed, think about what it is that they want most in life.  Think of a moment or event in their life when this ‘want’ is magnified for some reason – the stakes are heightened.  What obstacles stand in their way (may be other people; something in themselves, such as fear; or a physical obstacle, such as being trapped in a room).  Decide which other characters are in the scene and develop them (exercise above).  What do they want? Write this scene.
  • Once you have written a scene, read over it, or even better ask friends to read it out, and ask yourself the following questions: does the dialogue wander aimlessly, or is it driven by the characters need for something? Does the dialogue contain lots of back story? Are the characters believable as people? Do you think the scene will leave the audience wanting more?  Answer as truthfully as possible and then re-draft as necessary.  Be ruthless, even if it means cutting large chunks of writing you feel attached to.
Published on:
6 Jan 2021


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  1. Thank you for this. Right now playwrights need a bit of hope

    by Rhonda Flack
    5:25 pm, 15 Jul 2021