Abra Goes

on theatre, running, writing, and looking up

Are there elephants in your room?

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The elephant-headed diety, Ganesh, is the Hindu god of success.

The white elephant symbolizes patience and wisdom in Buddhism.

To many Chinese, the elephant embodies energy, strength and power.

And for dramatists, the elephant in the room can be a device for comedy or tension: Auto-subtext, the thing on everyone’s mind, but nobody’s lips. It works on stage because we learn as much from what characters don’t say as from what they do, often more.

Comedy lessons often situate a small class in a circle – each student in character with a given relationship to another character. Instructed to improvise dialogue, students go right into easy banter, mostly absurd. But put an elephant in the room and a narrative emerges.

It’s taken me too long to realize that when querying magazines it does not behoove me to be subtle. To have sub-text. My new routine involves clearing the elephants out of the room.

Switching gears from playwrighting to nonfiction on a daily basis is more than switching hats, it’s turning them inside out – removing the seams and helicopter twirls- and reconstructing the material into something more respectable. Like a kerchief?

But with both non-fiction and playwrighting, the revision process is the same (at least for me). Cutting through and eliminating every word that is not necessary. Asking:

What am I (or the character) saying? Not saying?

What is this about? Or Why is important now?

Is it about the same thing at the beginning as it is at the end or I am writing off of a cliff?

These questions, asked relentlessly, make writing better. Numerous books on writing suggest there may possibly be another question or two that writers can ask themselves when revising.

Care to share yours?


Written by abragoes

April 24, 2008 at 7:55 pm

Posted in writing better

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