The Elements of Playwriting
by Louis E. Catron
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Catron has an interestingly top-down approach to playwriting- he actually suggests that a playwright begin by writing a manifesto about what they believe is important in life. Next one should write an essay on what qualities one believes are admirable or heroic, and what actions exemplify these qualities. And so on. Eventually, one ends up with a play.
I suppose I shouldn't knock it until I've tried it, but I've never produced any other piece of fiction in this way, and I'm not sure why a play should be different.
Setting aside that methodological peculiarity, there's a lot of advice in this book that applies pretty well to writing any kind of fiction. It's presented well, but not particularly better than in many other writing books. The information specific to plays in particular was more interesting - there's a particularly good discussion of the differences between writing for the stage and writing for film or television.
My favorite thing in this book were the examples - snippets from actual plays chosen to illustrate particular points, with analysis of what the playwright was doing. I would have liked more of the examples, or indeed longer examples. View all my reviews >>