Speaking of participating… I just submitted a play to the Toronto Fringe Festival’s 24 Hour Play Writing Competition. Got it in with 41 seconds to spare!
We met under a steamy tent in ‘Fringe Ally’ behind Honest Ed’s on Bloor & Bathurst. They gave us four objects/phrases that needed to appear in our play (to ensure we didn’t write the play beforehand) and then sent us on our way. I bought a draft beer and helped myself to a seat at a table in their makeshift pub. I was right in the middle of all the action – people coming and going, talking, bitching, bragging, and sharing stories. Wasn’t at all distracting. Just plugged in my headphones and went to work.
I pounded three pages in 30 minutes before I left to take in another play with Sharon and Frank on Dupont & Spadina. The time I took away from my writing to watch that play seems counter intuitive, but I felt confident in my ability to come up with something. It’s not really about ‘time’ for me. It’s about deadlines. Too much time, and I get nothing done.
I didn’t even stay up late. After watching the play with Sharon and Frank, I excused myself and began sketching out the story structure. You see, I actually had no idea what my story was going to be about. Took my four objects/phrases into account, put two characters in a room, put ’em in conflict, then stood back to see what the collisions would bring.
It was a real head scratcher to be sure. The academic exercise of brainstorming possible inciting incidents was turning up nothing I felt inspired by. There was no crisis decision in sight. My climax was simply beyond me. Back to the two characters I returned. I put the story in their hands. Pushed them further, faster – threw stuff at ’em and watched them squirm. I learned a lot. Went to bed at midnight with a quarter of the play written, and a good sense of where it was headed.
Today, with one hour to go, I still had no idea how the thing was going to end. Four characters in a room together, balls-on conflict, and no clear way forward. I decided to start a new scene. Didn’t even bother ending the previous scene. I needed an ending more than I needed a middle. I knew that I wanted two characters in particular to be in that ending. I had some loose strings to tie up and I had 49 minutes to do so.
With 17 minutes left, I had my ending. Jumped back to the middle and figured out there wasn’t much middle left to go. In fact, I could just ram it right into the end scene, massage the exits a bit, make some tweaks, hold my nose and send it off.
I wrote my final line of dialogue with 60 seconds to go. Quick export to PDF and then sent my play in at 5:59:19 EST.
I called the play Metaphor. I’m still not sure if it has a climax.