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Write Action: Introduction to Dramatic Writing

  • Module code: DA5005
  • Year: 2018/9
  • Level: Year 5
  • Credits: 30.00
  • Pre-requisites: successful completion of level 4 Drama or equivalent
  • Co-requisites: none

Summary

This module runs throughout the academic year and introduces students to the craft of writing dramatic scripts for stage, screen and radio. Through a series of practical exercises, writing tasks and feedback students will become familiar with key principles of dramatic writing that apply across the three forms.  A refined sense of how 'conflict' and 'action' build suspense, tension, humour or pathos; of how to create characters that draw the audience's empathy; of the importance of 'subtext' and of how to harness the scenographic dimension through stage directions and settings, all contribute to the craft of a successful dramatic writer. In addition, sessions on radio and screen writing will not only introduce students to the specific conventions of these forms but also, in drawing attention to the spoken word and aural dimension (in radio) and visual story-telling (in screen), students will be sensitised to the power of the scenography as a component of dramatic craft.

Aims

This module aims to:

  • deepen students' understanding of the principles of writing in the dramatic tradition
  • lay a foundation of skills required to write short scenes for the stage, radio and screen, for example characterisation, dramatic structure, dialogue and subtext
  • develop analytical and critical skills in relation to play-texts (including students' own or their peers' work-in-progress)
  • practice these skills, and develop an understanding of the writing process, through a series of writing tasks

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of the module, students will be able to:

  • write effective scenes for stage, radio and/or screen that have the ability to engage their audience and inspire a rehearsal team (Key Skill: Creativity and Problem Solving)
  • employ their understanding of such principles as 'conflict' and 'action', characterisation, setting and stage directions, relation between text and physical action, and dramatic structure in the creation and analysis of dramatic texts
  • navigate the demands of the writing process, through the phases of developing an idea, conducting research, giving and receiving feedback on work-in-process, writing, re-writing and editing
  • give and receive feedback with judgement and tact and so contribute to the development of their own and others' writing (Key Skill: Interpersonal Skills)
  • demonstrate rigour and care in following layout conventions for stage, radio and screen scripts (Key Skill: Communication Skills)

Curriculum content

This module will give students a solid grounding in the key principles of the dramatic tradition, with presentations, class exercises and independent writing tasks covering topics such as:

  • characterisation and character
  • conflict and action
  • dramatic structure and story
  • text and subtext
  • physical action and stage directions
  • settings
  • an understanding of how scenographic elements such as staging, lighting, costume contribute to meaning and effect
  • an understanding of playwriting as a collaborative activity that also involves the creativity of directors, designers, performers and others

Students consider how these principles are articulated in the different media of stage, radio and screen, giving them an opportunity to focus on the live audience, the spoken word and visual storytelling respectively. The curriculum will draw on:

  • principles and techniques of dramatic writing drawn from practical guides such as those published by David Edgar and Noel Greig
  • analysis of dramatic scripts by playwrights such as Harold Pinter and Laura Wade

Teaching and learning strategy

In teaching block one, the two-hour weekly workshops will be taught through tutor-led presentations, analysis of play-texts and guided writing and drama exercises.  Through these activities, students will develop a solid understanding of the principles and skills employed in the creation of new writing for the stage.  Students will also be set weekly creative tasks, building up a portfolio of short scripts from which they will choose and develop the ideas that they will take forward through the second semester.

Teaching block two opens with a series of tutor-led sessions exploring how these general principles are channelled into writing for radio and screen.  From then on, class sessions will be dedicated to 'workshopping' (reading out and giving feedback on) the draft scripts that students are developing for their final assessment. As well as providing peer feedback as a form of formative assessment, these workshops reinforce and deepen students' learning and their ability to analyse dramatic writing in development.

Breakdown of Teaching and Learning Hours

Definitive KIS Category Indicative Description Hours
Scheduled learning and teaching 22 X 2-hour weekly classes. 44
Guided independent study set writing exercises and reading 120
Guided independent study research, develop, writing and editing for assessment 136
Total (number of credits x 10) 300

Assessment strategy

The summative assessment on the module consists

1. A stage script (total performance time of 15 minutes): 40%

2. A script for audio OR screen drama (total running time of 15 minutes): 40%

3. Script analysis (500 words): 20%

Formative assessment takes the following forms:

  1. peer and tutor feedback on writing produced in class or as set weekly tasks. This includes a peer critique exercise of another students' work (teaching block one)
  2. peer and tutor feedback on draft scripts presented during the workshop sessions (teaching block two)

These elements are designed to guide students through the stages of developing their writing: recognising the successful articulation of skills acquired on the module, planning their own writing and developing their work in response to feedback received as formative assessment

Mapping of Learning Outcomes to Assessment Strategy (Indicative)

Learning Outcome Assessment Strategy
write effective scenes for stage, radio and/or screen that have the ability to engage their audience and inspire a rehearsal team (Key Skill: Creativity and Problem Solving) formatively in peer and tutor feedback on weekly tasks and draft scripts; summatively in dramatic writing
employ their understanding of such principles as 'conflict' and 'action', characterisation, the interrelation between text, subtext and physical action and dramatic structure in the creation and analysis of dramatic texts formatively in peer and tutor feedback on weekly tasks and draft scripts; summatively in script analysis and dramatic writing
navigate the demands of the writing process, through the phases of developing an idea, conducting research, giving and receiving feedback on work-in-process, writing, re-writing and editing formatively in peer and tutor feedback on weekly tasks and draft scripts; summatively in dramatic writing
give and receive feedback with judgement and tact and so contribute to the development of their own and others' writing (Key Skill: Interpersonal Skills) formatively in peer and tutor feedback on weekly tasks and draft scripts. Summatively in script analysis
demonstrate rigour and care in following layout conventions for stage, radio and screen scripts (Key Skill: Communication Skills) formatively in peer and tutor feedback on weekly tasks and draft scripts; summatively in dramatic writing

Breakdown of Major Categories of Assessment

Assessment Type Assessment Name Assessment Weighting
CWK Dramatic Writing 40
CWK Dramatic Writing 40
CWK Script Analysis 20
Total (to equal 100%) 100%

Achieving a pass

It IS NOT a requirement that any major assessment category is passed separately in order to achieve an overall pass for the module

Bibliography core texts

Edgar, D. (2009) How Plays Work. London, Nick Hern Books

Bibliography recommended reading

Playtexts by a range of playwrights and writers for radio and screen. These may change on an annual basis

Greig, N. (2005) Playwriting: a practical guide. London, Routledge

McKee, R. (1999) Story: Substance, Structure, Style. London, Methuen

Crook, T (1999) Radio Drama: Theory and Practice. London & New York, Routledge

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