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Playwriting - Level 1

In this level, you will lay the foundations for a successful script/play. The final challenge will be to write a synopsis for the play that you want to write.

On your journey to tackle the Final Challenge and complete the Level, you will need to earn 1 Power Up and gain 3 Experience Points along the way.



In this level, you will:

  • Power Up by dissecting the narrative arc of your favorite play/musical
  • Gain Experience by brainstorming ideas for your own play
  • Gain Experience by exploring the characters for your story
  • Gain Experience by identifying the narrative arc of the play you want to write
  • Take on the Final Challenge by writing a short synopsis of your play

This Level Up Challenge is based on a unit designed and developed by a student Thespian.

POWER UP: Explore the plot of your favorite show


What’s your favorite show that you’ve read or seen? What makes it the show that it is?

When broken apart, stories are made up of different storytelling elements, usually exposition, conflict, rising action, climax, falling action, resolution. Need a refresher on these elements? Watch this video about the elements of a story (source: Khan Academy).


photo attribution Wikimedia Commons Kaede4 / Public domain

TO POWER UP: Delve into the complexities of your favorite piece of theatre work, whether that’s a play or musical, or even a skit that you’ve performed before. Explain what it’s about, and the key points that happen along the timeline of the story. Then, draw a pyramid like the one pictured here, and identify the elements of the story. Or, you can download and use this worksheet to explore the plot more. This is where you’ll learn what the narrative arc is, and the key points needed for a successful, well-thought out plot.

GAIN EXPERIENCE: Brainstorm your own plot


Now that you’ve made it on to activity #2, you’ve got the basics of describing plot and what makes up a play.

Before you start brainstorming, consider watching this video (source: National Theatre) to hear some tips and tricks from playwrights on how they go about their process.

Next, it's time to begin brainstorming! It doesn’t matter if you don’t have a clear plan right away! Just take as much time as you need and figure out what you’d like to work on. (Remember! Your play doesn’t need to be a thousand pages long! It can be twelve, or five, or as many as you’d like! As long as you have the stages we worked on during the first activity!)

TIP: Write about something you enjoy/are passionate about, that way you keep the ball rolling and don’t lose steam halfway through.

TO GAIN EXPERIENCE: Take some time to brainstorm some ideas for plays you may want to write. Get lots of ideas down on paper, then revisit them and see which one you might want to explore more. Creating a graphic organizer for your idea(s) could be helpful, but if it’s not your thing, feel free to write or draw your process any way you want.

GAIN EXPERIENCE: Give it some Character!


After getting through our last activity, you’re probably buzzing with ideas and excitement to get started on writing your play, but we have to take a pause; did you think of any characters along the way? If so, this activity is how you’ll get those characters into the right “skin”, per say. Who are your characters? What do they like? What do they dislike? Who do they know? Answer some of these questions and more as you build at least one character for your story; they don’t necessarily have to be human, or perfect; just let your imagination run free, but keep your plot in mind!


This article titled "99 Questions to Ask Your Character" written by D.W. Gregory from dramatics.org will assist in making your character(s) more in depth by helping you think of personal questions about their background and personality.

TO GAIN EXPERIENCE: Identify some basic traits about the main character(s) from your story, such as name, age, physical characteristics, personality traits, weaknesses, strengths, and backstory. Feel free to download and use this graphic organizer if you'd like.

DIVING DEEPER: Want to develop your characters even more? Check out the Level Up Challenge - Creating Characters: Level 1.

GAIN EXPERIENCE: Outline and explore your story’s plot


In this activity, you are going to create an outline and a narrative arc for your play. You can include anything you deem relevant to your plot, characters, setting, etc! Be as elaborate as you’d like, as long as it helps YOU get a clearer understanding of your plot and lay out the final details. Remember what we learned from activity #1, because that will help you tremendously!

TO GAIN EXPERIENCE: Identify all of the basic elements of your story. Feel free to download and use this worksheet if you'd like.

  • Setting (Time period, environment, era, etc)
  • Characters
  • Exposition: What is the setup for this play’s plot? Who are the characters? Where are we?
  • Conflict: Why is this story taking place? What are the characters facing? Where do they need to go, what do they have to do, etc.
  • Rising Action: What’s their journey to the climax of the story? What happens before the big turning point?
  • Climax: What is the sudden turning point/”moment they’ve been waiting for”? What changes because of this?
  • Falling Action: Was it a win or a loss for the protagonist (main character), and what do they have to do in order to resolve the conflict from the beginning?
  • Resolution: How does the story end? How does this change/affect the characters? Is it the ideal situation for the characters/story?

FINAL CHALLENGE: Write your synopsis!


You’ve made it to the final challenge! During this journey, you powered up by exploring the plot of your favorite show. You also gained experience brainstorming your own plot and characters, and creating an outline. Now, using the power up and experience points you gained along the way, you are ready take on the final challenge: writing a plot synopsis.

With everything you’ve gathered about your play and your idea, start the first phase of your playwriting journey. Feel free to touch upon any of the documents and resources we’ve used throughout this level, and happy writing!

TO COMPLETE THE FINAL CHALLENGE: Write a 1-3 paragraph synopsis of your plot, including your characters and everything your discovered throughout the activities.