Alex David Wright

Playwright's Notebook: What is it?

Though I at the moment write stage plays, I read a fair bit about screenwriting, too. I've started listening to Blake Snyder's Save The Cat! on runs. One of his absolute basic tenets is that a screenwriter has to be able to explain in a line what the film is about; if you don't have this — a logline — and a title, you don't have a film. Snyder's stresses that the logline should involve irony, because that's how you get conflict and pique viewer interest.

As an exercise, I've applied it to the five stage plays scripts I'm working on:

Confessionals

A Catholic priest with a secret is forced to confront the reality of his situation when two figures from the past crash back into his life.

I'm happy with this. I originally revealed the nature of the secret, but 'secret' is ironic enough. The ostensibly-forgotten past's imposition on the present creates drama and tension — in these cases, who a character is comes into conflict with who they were. In these stories, the antagonist is the old self.

Confessionals has been fully drafted twice; you can read the second draft in full here.

Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me Yet

A young homeless man thinks he sees another do a miracle and considers how he might use this mysterious power for his own ends.

This one isn't right. I could have explained it in a few more sentences, but that's the problem. Once I'd finished Confessionals, I started work on this one, getting a whole outline down and a fair chunk of the first act. But I got bored with it, and I think it might have something to do with the struggle to write a decent logline. Perhaps it's the title — though I really don't want to let it go. Snyder argues that titles should be 'high concept' — that is, obviously and starkly descriptive of the story to be told. Confessionals, I think, does that, but I'm in two minds about Jesus' Blood.

My notes and script for Jesus' Blood ..., including the inspiration for the title, are here).

The Diet of Worms

A repressed and passive aggressive family are forced to air their dirty laundry for the first time when their estranged daughter returns with an ultimatum, a new Irish boyfriend, and a baby on the way ...

Another fun title that might just be me showing off and smirking. I think it works, though, even if one doesn't understand the reference, because the unpleasantness of how it reads in a 2024 context gets across the nature of the beast. I think the logline is reasonably solid; there's definite tension here.

This script is now my primary focus; you can keep up with the draft here.

John Rambo's Nipples

Octogenarians Judith and Olive while away their days in a retirement home watching 80s action films, until a faded, alcoholic and thrice-divorced Irish country star becomes the latest resident and changes everything.

As above, the title gives no real indication of what's to come setting-wise. I've only written the first scene, which I had a lot of fun doing. It's a conversation between two women in a nursing home while they watch Rambo. I think it's funny, and I'm excited to write more. See here for the work so far. Out of all the plays I've mentioned, this is the most like a true 'comedy'.

Notes Following A Hanging

A man comes home to find his wife in the middle of hanging herself and saves her life, but since the event, she simply won't talk about it.

And this is the most tragic. I like the stark simplicity of this logline and title; it compliments the nature of the play. So far, I've got one scene and a rough outline, here.

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