What is Playwriting?

6 minute read
What is Playwriting

Playwriting is the art of writing a script for a play or drama. The profession of playwriting has been around for centuries, although it was more popular during some eras. Successful playwriting depends not only on dialogue but on intelligent plotting, credible characterization, and the ability to develop a theme. The pleasures of writing a drama can be significant. If you are looking for a profession in playwriting, wish to level up your game & expand your horizons, then keep reading because we will cover types of playwriting, famous playwrights who took playwriting to the next level, how it is different from any other type of writing and more! 

Types of Playwriting

YouTube: Radius

Playwriting can be done in the following most common areas: 

  • Ten-Minute Plays: Ten-minute plays have become very popular in the most recent years. A good ten-minute play is not a sketch or an extended gag, rather it’s a complete, compact play, with a beginning, middle, and end. 
  • One-Act Plays: A good one-act focuses on one main action or problem; there’s no time to get into complicated layers of the plot. They can run from fifteen minutes to an hour or so.
  • Full-Length Plays: Full-Length plays are also called evening-length plays because they’re long enough to be their evening. 
  • Musicals: These are rare acts, and musical plays can run the gamut in length from ten minutes. 

Six Aristotelian Elements of Playwriting 

Playwriting Rubric
Source: Palm Beach DramaWorks


The arrangement of events or incidents on the stage is known as plotting. The plot is composed of clearly defined problems for the characters to solve. It is to be differentiated from the story which is a chronological detailing of events that happened on and off stage. The playwright must create a plot that should be credible and astonishing. 


Characterization is another skill that the writer for the stage must come to faster. Characters must be “round” and not “flat”, meaning that they must have multiple dimensions, a thinkable combination of needs, hopes, inhibition, and fears of real human beings. Characters must motivate the events of the plot. 


The theme is a reason the playwright write the play. Playwriting must include something which it describes. A typical play might demand two precious hours from a busy and burdened spectator. In this regard, a playwright is no different from a novelist or poet; they must have a purpose that the literary work embodies. 


And then there’s dialogue. It is a credible form of discourse that avoids cliche and artificiality and that varies just as characters do. Dramatic dialogue in playwriting must consist of two parts; narrative and dramatic. 


Rhythm is the heart of the play. Plot, character, dialogue, and spectacle all have their rhythms in time. The combination of all these rhythms creates the impelling force of the play leading to a final climax. Rhythm creates the mood. 


Everything that is seen or heard on stage. Actors, sets, costumes, lights, and sound. 

NOTE: All plays have spectacle – some emphasize spectacle more than others. 

Top Courses & Universities for Creative Writing

UniversityCountryCourses Offered
University College DublinIrelandMA in Creative Writing
MFA in Creative Writing
The University of HullUnited KingdomMA in Creative writing
MA in English
University College, CorkIrelandMA in Creative Writing
University of SheffieldUnited KingdomCreative Writing MA
University of Technology Sydney – UTSAustraliaGraduate Diploma in Creative Writing
Master of Arts in Creative Writing
Western Sydney UniversityAustraliaMaster of Arts in Literature and Creative Writing
The University of AlabamaUnited StatesMaster of Fine Arts in Creative Writing
University of LeedsUnited KingdomCreative Writing and Critical Life MA
Writing for Performance and Publication MA
University of AucklandNew ZealandMaster of Creative Writing
University of YorkUnited KingdomPGDip Creative Writing (online)

How is Playwriting different from other types of writing? 

Playwriting Examples
Source: Writer’s Guide

How Playwriting differs from Film?

  • No Rules: Unlike writing for film, playwriting is completely free form. It allows more creativity and interpretation and eliminates rules. 
  • Directors & Actors: A directorial influence might change your story with each retelling. 
  • Imagination: Every play requires a little imagination because of the constraints of the stage. Imagination is stifled with answers in the form of special effects. 

How Playwriting differs from Prose

  • Dialogue: The most obvious difference between playwriting and prose is dialogue. In prose, there might be a dialogue, but it is not an entire piece, only an aspect. 
  • Character: Because every theatre may not be equipped with everything to make your story a reality, plays tend to be far more character-focused instead of plot-focused. 

How Playwriting Different from both Film & Fiction

  • Live Performance: While plays can be recorded and even made for film, there’s a reason people try to see the best plays in the theatre, and that’s for the live performance. 
  • Audience: Famous aspect of playwriting is the consideration of the audience. Unlike the other mediums, with plays, the characters can directly engage with the audience. 

Famous Playwrights 

The famous playwrights not only wrote the scripts of their plays but also assembled the casts, gave stage direction, and wrote the music. Here are the famous playwrights of their time: 


Credits: archive.org 

There have been two golden ages of playwriting. The golden age of playwrights in Ancient Greece lasted for almost 300 years. The three major playwrights of this time were Aeschylus (525 – 456 BC), Sophocles (490 – 406 BC), and Euripides (480 – 406 BC).  Sophocles gave drama including its third character. Actors could play multiple roles, leaving one actor to go off stage and change characters while the other two actors engaged with each other on stage. 

Credits: Captivating History

William Shakespeare

Credits: Britannica 

William Shakespeare’s plays have been translated into 80 languages and are more widely read and performed than any other playwright in the world. He used a wide range of different source materials, including history, older plays, and other forms of writing, but his plays transcend their stories to tell tales of our essential humanity. 

Credits: MsMojo

Oscar Wilde

Oscar Wilde- Playwriting
Credits: Britannica 

Irish-born playwright Oscar Wilde represents the height of brilliant wit and flamboyant style of writing. His plays, all comedies, satirized the social rules of British Society, particularly those surrounding courtship and marriage. His most famous play includes The Importance of being Earnest, An ideal husband, a woman of no importance, etc.

Credits: Movieclips Classic Trailers 

Must Watch Plays to Perfect the Craft

Here is a list of plays and dramas that all budding playwrights must watch for inspiration and finding their unique style:

  • Hamlet by William Shakespeare
  • Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare
  • Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller
  • Long Day’s Journey Into Night by Eugene O’Neill
  • Oedipus the King by Sophocles
  • A Mad World, My Masters by Thomas Middleton 
  • The Life of Galileo by Bertolt Brecht 
  • The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde


What are the different types of playwriting?

Ten-Minute Plays
One-Act Plays

What does plotting mean in playwriting?

The arrangement of events or incidents on the stage is known as plotting. The plot is composed of clearly defined problems for the characters to solve. It is to be differentiated from the story which is a chronological detailing of events that happened on and off stage. The playwright must create a plot that should be credible and astonishing.

Which is the best course for Playwriting?

MA in Creative Writing
MFA in Creative Writing

Playwriting is a complex creative form that requires years of expertise and knowledge. Some of the greatest playwrights are celebrated even today for their shrewd storytelling and unique perspective on the world. For more informative content, keep following Leverage Edu on Facebook, Youtube, Instagram and LinkedIn

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