Society of
Children's Book Writers
and Illustrators

On with the Show, I mean writing…

Active Writing Tips like they use in Show Business

One of the hardest parts about writing a blog is coming up with a topic that is not overdone. So as I sat in my son’s one-act play competition trying to come up with an authentic topic that I was passionate about, it hit me! Theater! Now I realize, not all writers grew up in the theater, but you have to admit, there is something extremely awesome about it. And even better is what it teaches! So let’s see how they compare. 

Your story should have stage presence. It should sing, make others laugh, read aloud well, be heard, and be engaging.  And most importantly, you don’t want your readers to “walkout.” Let’s break it down.

A story can read well in your head, but have you taken the time to read it aloud?

If not, give it a try. We all know picture books are read aloud, but what about middle grades and young adults?  You never know when your story will go from book to audio, and one reason stories are probably chosen (I didn’t research this) is because they are intriguing to listen to. My dad and I loved to read Ramona the Pest. Harry Potter also gives a sense of drama and fantasy that makes it great to listen to.

Pacing is often talked about in writing.  There is no better way to understand pacing than to see a play being rehearsed.

During rehearsals, actors are often slow to deliver lines. They often forget them or take a moment to pause as they make sure it’s the right one.  Books sometimes do this too. Ever skip a paragraph or a page only to find out you missed nothing? Every moment of the audiences’ time is important, to both you as the writer or actor, and to them.

There are great plays with a strong message, and there are really boring plays with a strong message that people rave about because they made it to the end and got the message and forgot how bad the play is.  Ever sit through one of those? Now it might not be that it’s bad, but you are not the audience it’s intended for, so therefore it seems bad.

Therefore, know your audience.

Write to them. Engage them. Make them laugh with you. Make them cry. But find a balance. Create a stage presence for them. 

The best plays are musicals that you can sing along to!  Think about your favorite musicals and ask yourself why you love it.  You’ll usually say the music, not the plotline. But when it has both, you are hooked and want to see it over and over and over again. Any Wicked fans? I’ve seen it in Des Moines, Omaha, and London.  The Greatest Showman also has an amazing stage presence.  I remember watching on Facebook as my theater friends kept posting they were seeing it again, and again, and again.  What is it about the song and dance, the rhythm, the repetition of favorite choruses, that we keep going back to? How can we apply that to our writing?

Next time a play is having auditions, challenge yourself to get involved!  Seeing a play is one thing, but watching it come together is an entirely different experience you will find can make yourself a better writer.  Being involved doesn’t have to mean take the spotlight. You can work behind the scenes in costumes, props, stage manager, lighting….as just a few ways. Give it a try!

On with the show!


-Guest post by our Western Iowa Chair, Debbie LaCroix