Chapter 17

International Submission Formats

While the Manuscript Format as described in this article is the rule in the United States, Australia and New Zealand, and most theaters anywhere in the world will accept it, there are other formats prevalent in other countries. Look below for some helpful hints:

Canada, France, Great Britain

Conclusion - The 15th Commandment

The playwriting ideas in the body of Playwriting 101 are the ones most common to today's playwriting mainstream, and as a writer just starting out, it's best to keep ideas like the need for conflict and the three-act structure in mind. In fact, beginners should probably stop reading here. But if you feel you've mastered the basics and are ready for a curveball, read on. Playwriting, more so than screenwriting, has always been a home for writers with unique ways of telling a story, or for writers who don't tell a story at all-on purpose.

For example, think of Beckett's Waiting for Godot, one of the greatest plays ever written. What's the conflict? There really isn't one. There's barely a story: it's just two guys waiting for a third man that never shows up. And by the end, nothing has happened. For the audience, the fun of the play is listening to the back and forth between Vladimir and Estragon as we slowly fill in the landscape of the world in which they live. This "landscape" structure works as an alternative to the more conventional conflict-crisis-resolution structure.

Some plays use a technique called "gapping" instead of lots of onstage conflict and plot. The scenes are episodes, and between each episode, time has passed, and things have changed. What happens during the scene, again, is that we as the audience fill in what these changes have been.

Or your play can be a "process" structured around some event. For example, two people wait for a bus. When the bus arrives, the play ends. Or maybe the play is a collection of characters, each following a story that happens at the same time as the others but seems disparate. In the end, all of these stories meet and add up to one. Examples of this more "anecdotal" structure can be found in the work of the great Russian playwright Chekhov.

Does this mean that conflict and the three-act structure are dead? That we should throw out everything we thought we knew about playwriting? Of course not. But remember that there are only a limited number of plots out there (some people say seven, others fourteen, others thirty-six). Look at Shakespeare. Romeo and Juliet, in terms of its plot, is just a cookie-cutter tale of forbidden love. What makes it great is the rich, often beautiful dialogue that Shakespeare creates, the wonderful moments between the characters, the variety of textures and moods in the scenes. That's what we remember-not what a clever story he wrote or how much conflict there was.

So what, practically speaking, is the Fifteenth Commandment? It's the commandment to know what really makes a play memorable to an audience, and to use that knowledge to free yourself as a writer. And hey-if you can write as well as Shakespeare, that wouldn't hurt either.