How to Write a Really Bad Play

This is from a post on my old blog …

Since I’m currently a judge in a one-act Catholic play writing contest, I don’t want to say too much about the plays I’m reading.  But I have seen enough to know how to write a really bad play.

And I’m passing that advice on to you, dear reader!

  • Make sure your script contains NO comedy whatsoever – nothing the least bit funny, or if something almost-funny sneaks in, make it very predictable and stupid.

 

  • Put a homeless man in it so the audience has someone to feel sorry for.

 

  • Set the play at Christmas or in a foxhole during a war or in an abortion clinic.  Or better yet, at a makeshift abortion clinic in a foxhole on Christmas Eve.

 

  • Handle exposition awkwardly.  For example, in the first few lines, have one of the characters say,  “Remember when that meteorite hit our house and you bravely struggled to pull me out and save our four children and the reporter from the liberal paper made fun of you because you were Christian and -“

 

  • Give someone cancer or write an old and dying character so the audience has someone to feel sorry for.  Better yet, write in an old homeless man dying of cancer who stumbles into the foxhole on Christmas Eve and whose first monologue recalls the abortion he witnessed sixty years prior.  Then send in Santa Claus for the happy ending when the homeless man dies and goes to heaven.

 

  • Submitting your play to a Christian playwriting contest?  Use lots and lots and lots of gratuitous profanity.  Make David Mamet look like Walt Disney.

 

  • There is no such thing as character development.  There is no such thing as depth of character.  There is no such thing as a compelling plot.

 

  • There is no such thing as subtlety.  The audience must be hit over the head to get your point.

 

  • Whatever you do, don’t make any of your dialogue the least bit literary or poetical or uplifting.  Don’t read other plays and get ideas about innovative staging or structure.  Don’t take any risks.
But, beyond these points, if you really want to write bad stuff, do this.
To be a bad writer, you must be a bad reader – a reader of bad books (or no books at all), and a poor reader of life.
Somehow God has written a work (a Primary World that we call reality, “being”, existence) that is incredibly rich and meaningful.  Any attempt at literary art must approach our fictional Secondary Worlds as God approached the Primary One.
Oh, sorry.  That last comment was on how to write a good play, not a bad one.
Dang it!  I can’t even write a good blog post!
Kevin O'Brien
Kevin O'Brien is the founder and artistic director of the Theater of the Word Incorporated, which tours the world evangelizing through drama. He and his actors appear on several EWTN television programs, with video clips featured on O'Brien's website, www.stgenesius.net. Kevin teaches many online classes for Homeschool Connections and writes a regular column for the St. Austin Review. His autobiography, A Bad Actor's Guide to the Meaning of Life, will be published soon by ACS Press.

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  1. Oh Kevin, what a hoot. How lovely to see you again.