24-Hour Playwriting Competition - 2008

Writing Tips

  • Basic playwriting:

  • Avoid writing movie and TV scripts if you are writing a play:

  • Good introductory book:
    The Elements of Playwriting by Louis E. Catron

  • Read collections of one-act plays or short plays, available in bookstores.

  • Read the following anthologies of new writings published by TheatreWorks Writers’ Lab:

    Dirty Laundry, Mergers and Undercover (1995)

    A collection of SEVEN plays including:
    Eleanor Wong’s ’Mergers and Accusations’
    Otto Fong’s ‘Cetecea’
    Tan Tarn How’s ‘Undercover’
    Enrico Varella’s ‘Others’
    Theresa Tan’s ‘Dirty Laundry’
    Lee Chee Keng’s ‘Breaking Through’
    Robin Loon’s ‘Watching the Clouds Go By’

    Playful Phoenix: Women Write for the Singapore Stage (1996)
    A collection of SIX plays including:
    Ovidia Yu’s ‘The Woman In A Tree On The Hill’
    Dana Lam’s ‘Ordinary Woman’
    Eleanor Wong’s ‘Wills And Secession’
    Leow Puay Tin’s ‘Family’
    Tan Mei Ching’s ‘Quiet The Gorrilla’
    Chin Woon Ping’s ‘Diary Of A Madwoman’

    5 Under 25: Prize–Winning Plays from the Writers’ Lab (2003)
    A collection of new plays written by young people from TheatreWorks’ 24-Hour Playwriting Competition and Singapore Young Dramatists Award over the past few years:
    Ng Yi Sheng’s ‘Hungry’
    Wong Liang Wei’s ‘All The World’s A Stage’
    Talia Ong’s ‘Footprints In The Sand’
    Alex Ye Kentang’s ‘Simon Says’
    Leon Foo’s ‘The Road Runners’

    These books are available for purchase at Select Books, Tanglin Shopping Centre (Tel:67321515). Retail price: SGD18 each.

Judging Criteria

The judging criteria for the 24-Hour Playwriting Competition are as follows:

a. Originality: does the script capture your imagination and startle you with a fresh perspective? Or have you heard it all before? Does it provide you with new insight or does it appear derivative, hackneyed and predictable? Award marks for an original turn of mind.

b. Theatricality: Does the script show an awareness of the conventions of theatre with its unique vocabulary; is it aware of what can or cannot be done within the confines of the performance space? Or is it actually a screenplay / film script with its specific language of cuts / fades / dissolves / close-ups and pan shots etc, masquerading as a stage play? Award marks for a sense of theatricality.

c. Dramatic Action: In the theatre, action speaks louder than words and what can be expressed as action should not be couched in words. Is the action unravelling at a steady tempo with cliff-hangers and all manner of anticipatory devices / arcs of suspense between acts and scenes? Or does the action drag and falter in the midst of too many words, or too many stodgy scenes of people talking, talking and doing little else? Award marks for good pacing and dramatic action that engages the reader / viewer and unfold inexorably.

d. Characterisation: Are the characters well-drawn and sufficiently complex / layered or are they cardboard cutouts or authorial mouthpieces? Are the lines spouted by them believable, in terms of idiom, register, context? Bear in mind that some characters might be intentionally stylised, allegorical devices, but these still need to be well-drawn and integral to the plot and its thematics, not cursorily sketched and two-dimensional. Award marks for good delineation of characters / character types.

e. A sense of the local: These are Singapore plays that hopefully will eventually constitute the Singapore canon. Ideally, they should reflect Singaporean issues and the Singapore landscape, be it culturally or geopolitically etc. Just because the play is recognisably Singaporean in issue or tenor does not exclude a sense of universality. Award marks for plays that are unmitigatingly local in impulse and orientation.

f. Incorporation of stimuli: Ensure that the stimuli are incorporated in the correct sequence and prove integral to the plot. In other words, they should have resonance in the dramatic structure and be integrated in an organic way. The way the stimuli has been incorporated will tell you whether the play has been devised in advance or is actually a spontaneous creation inspired by the stimuli given out during the 24-Hour competition.

[back to top]