The science behind good plays

"Miss Hannah Comes Back," May 2010

“Miss Hannah Comes Back,” May 2010

Researchers have done a lot of work in the past few years on what makes a compelling story. You can use the results of their research to help you make your plays express your passion for what you’re writing.

What makes a good story makes a good play.

At the heart of the good play is, of course, a good story. You can think of a play as the dialogue portion of a good story, so you have to have a good story as the basis for your play.

What a good story needs.

Here are some things that researchers have found that you need to have in a story to make it a good, compelling one:

  1. it has to capture and hold the audience’s attention;
  2. it has to have characters that the audience emotionally resonates with;
  3. it has to have characters that the audience identifies with.

Researchers have found that stories with these characteristics increase our levels of oxytocin and serotonin, brain chemicals that increase our ability to care about characters in a story.

So, how do you create your story, i.e., your play, to do all of these things?

1. It has to capture and hold the audience’s attention.

To write a play that holds the audience’s attention, you have to give the characters stakes, the higher the better. You have to show them pursuing their wants to get what they need. You have to make your characters full, rounded, and truthful

2. It has to have characters that the audience emotionally resonates with.

To write characters that the audience will emotionally resonate with, you have to have characters who, themselves, emotionally resonate. In other words, they have to be full, passionate, emotional beings, with wants and desires that the audience can see and understand.

3. It has to have characters that the audience identifies with.

To write characters that the audience will identify with, you have to write characters who are clearly and specifically drawn. The more specific and detailed you are about your characters, the better the audience can identify with them.

Your good story needs the right audience.

Once you’ve written your story, i.e. your play, you have to find the right audience for it. Notice that I’m not saying you need to decide on an audience and then write a play for them. Of course you can do that, though you want to avoid pandering. Your life will be a lot easier if you find the audience who will love the play you’ve written.

To find the right audience for your play, look at my articles in the category “How to find Theaters who will Love your Plays.”

If you’re interested in the science behind this…

Future of StoryTelling: Paul Zak

Beware Neuro-Bunk (a response to Paul Zak)

Why Your Brain Loves Good Storytelling

The mystery of storytelling: Julian Friedmann

A Refresher on Storytelling 101

Development: Missing – Compelling Characters

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About playwrightsmuse

Get produced, get published, let your brilliance shine! Follow along as we go through a step-by-step process for getting plays produced with the least amount of heartbreak and wasted postage and printing costs.
This entry was posted in 1. Get Inspiration, How to Create Plots, How to Find/Create Characters. Bookmark the permalink.

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