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Plays, Skits and Scripts – Are They for You?
by Susan Sundwall

Perhaps, like me, you’re a restless writer and can only work on certain projects for so long. Then it’s time a jolt of something new. This restlessness often leads down more than one writing path and I’ve been surprised at my success on some of them. One such path was marked “plays and skits” and my reluctance was high when I set my foot on it. I mean, didn’t you have to have to be related to Tennessee Williams or something to write a play or even a short skit? Turns out the answer is no. I just got my brave up and decided to give it a shot. Here’s what my inner playwright discovered.

Plays and skits are good stories first and foremost, with the opening lines giving a hint of the plot that your main characters will be involved in. Characters are introduced and the story builds through action and dialog, reaching a climax with the solving of the plot problem shortly before the curtain goes down. That’s a pretty straightforward blueprint don’t you think?

Some of my short stories could be adapted to become a play or skit. I simply imagine them being acted out. Many writers ‘see’ their characters speaking and moving as they shape their stories anyway so it’s no great leap to write in script form.

And, very importantly, a play is all visual and must be carried along by the action and dialogue. I love writing dialog. Dialog puts the human element into any story and lets me have all sides in building a story through conversation. 

Admittedly, it does take a bit of practice to get into playwriting mode. But here’s a quick idea to test your potential for play and skit writing. Take an old classic like ‘The Three Little Pigs’ and script a few pages. All that’s necessary is that you give each pig a separate line for dialog. Set up the story mainly through dialog. Give the pigs some personality and sass. For instance:

Pig 2: (to Pig 1) Hey, did ya see the paper this morning? That fool wolf is on the prowl again.

Pig 1: Saw it. Don’t believe it. I hear he’s more huff than puff and he doesn’t scare me a bit.

Pig 2: Ya think? In that case hand me some of that straw.

Pig 1: (hands over straw) Did ya hear old Harley’s using brick for his place? Idiot.

Fun, huh? And the pay? Plays and skits run high and low along the pay scale like most other types of writing. I’ve been paid by the word and by flat rate. Markets abound and each publisher has its’ own guidelines and formatting requirements. For plays, there are also competitions that can result in money and actual production of the winning entry.

I’ve had more fun writing plays and skits than almost any other sort of writing I do. If you’re inclined in this direction at all, check out the following links.

  1. Heuer Publishing—Publishes plays for adults, teens and children.

  2. TADA! Youth Theater with annual contest.

  3. Bakers Plays—Plays, contests and festivals.

  4. Standard Publishing—Religious program books. Takes material in October and March for the following year.

  5. Contemporary Drama—For school and church.

  6. Pioneer Drama Service—Plays, musicals, contests.

  7. Samuel French—Query first.

  8. One Way Street—Takes puppet scripts.

Searching through the above sites will give you a feeling of what each publishing house requires. There are even excerpts on some sites to help you understand the formatting, script setup and other necessary aspects of play writing.  Most of my success, so far, has been with holiday plays and skits for children and teens. But I’ve sold quite a few and even saw my Christmas play, Bartholomew the Clueless Shepherd, produced. So, my inner playwright will continue exploring the path she’s set her foot on and maybe she’ll even meet you on it someday!

© Copyright 2009, Susan Sundwall

Susan is a freelance writer, sometime poet and soon to be blogger. Read her children’s story, "Mary’s Sparrow."

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