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The Playwright's Guidebook: An Insightful Primer on the Art of Dramatic Writing
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The Playwright's Guidebook: An Insightful Primer on the Art of Dramatic Writing

4.13  ·  Rating Details  ·  162 Ratings  ·  18 Reviews
An accessible, contemporary guide to the art of dramatic writing

During the ten years that Stuart Spencer has taught playwriting, he has struggled to find an effective playwriting handbook for his courses. Although most of the currently popular handbooks have good ideas in them, they all suffer from the same problems: they're poorly organized; are composed mostly of quirky,
Paperback, 392 pages
Published March 29th 2002 by Faber & Faber (first published March 2002)
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Levent Mollamustafaoglu
Jan 31, 2015 Levent Mollamustafaoglu rated it really liked it
Stuart Spencer's book is faithful to its title, namely it is an unpretentious guidebook, trying to guide the aspiring playwright (or a student) to use the various techniques playwrights have accumulated over centuries and added to their arsenal.
The book is structured in 4 main chapters titled Structure, The Creative Process, Dealing with Problems and Some Advice. It also has a set of Appendices suggesting materials to read and also extra material to enable writing exercises.
Although it is mainly
Aug 01, 2013 Neal rated it it was amazing
THE playwriting must-read. Just read it.
Mark Johnson
Jul 03, 2012 Mark Johnson rated it really liked it
Shelves: theater
This is the finest book on writing for the theater that I have encountered, and, believe me, I have read them all, from Aristotle's Poetics through Lajos Egri's classic "Art of Dramatic Writing" (1940), and the mountain of books devoted to various magic formulas guaranteed to generate the next Oscar-winning original screenplay. What sets this manual apart is the author's thoughtful consideration of topics which are almost never touched upon in books of this sort, but which are the very topics wh ...more
Nov 03, 2015 Pippa rated it it was amazing
I've read several books on playwriting, and been part of a professional theatre-writing lab for years, but this is the first book to really teach you how to build up the structure of a play in manageable little chunks (called - confusingly - 'beats'). Somehow I'd written plays without knowing about them, but they will certainly make the process easier. It's a pretty good all-round guide.
Jul 27, 2015 Feliks rated it liked it
A very easy-to-read overview and 'watershed' for all the basics and fundamentals of playwrighting. Topics treated: dramatic structure, characters, motivations...really, the history of all the well-known theatrical conventions and traditions. The language used is simple and effective, all the concepts laid down on the page in terms anyone can understand. Facile examples are prepared to illustrate every point. I found it a bit *too* simple, myself; but of all the 'basic primers on theater' out the ...more
The Gatekeeper
Jan 29, 2014 The Gatekeeper rated it really liked it
A very clear and helpful guide to writing plays. It's taken me so long to find a book on playwriting (as opposed to screenwriting or writing in general). I'm glad I finally found this one. I'll definitely be referring back to it often.
Jun 23, 2007 Allison rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: artists in the theatrical fields and theatrical artists
Shelves: drama
Edward Albee called this book, "Indespensible." I couldn't agree more. Even if you're not a playwright, learning about how plays are composed allows you to delve into dramatic texts on an additional level. Spencer writes to the point, and gives pragmatic advice, and helpful exercises to aid in teaching lessons. He also gives provides a reading list and some suggestions on getting your play produced and filing your taxes. What more could you want?
Mar 04, 2012 Korri rated it liked it
Shelves: theatre, writing
Though the vocabulary Spencer uses may not be in line with what the reader already knows (multiple meanings of beat & scene; how action means a character's objective, goal, need), the concepts he presents are straightforward, logical & helpful. He clarifies action, conflict & event, reminding playwrights to focus on structure first.
Jessica Barkl
May 17, 2010 Jessica Barkl rated it really liked it
I am currently re-reading this great guidebook in preparation to teach playwrighting at the penitentiary this summer and at main campus in the fall. It was written by my playwrighting teacher from Graduate School, and I think it is really simple and easy to understand. I can't wait to see how the prisoners do with it.
N.A. Ratnayake
Jan 18, 2011 N.A. Ratnayake rated it really liked it
Shelves: theatre, writing
Excellent reference. Will be keeping this one and referring back to it for a long time. It's advice on the writing process aside, from the perspective of a director who works with original material quite often, it is highly useful to know the principles on which sound plays are built. An enjoyable and useful read.
Jan 15, 2008 Ivy rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: beginning playwrights
Stuart Spencer gives you a lot to think about, not just about writing plays but about art and life, and how that ties in with what you're trying to create. Some of the things he talks about can also apply to a lot of other writing disciplines, not just plays. Thought-provoking, well-written and just spot on.
Apr 05, 2015 jen rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
It is clear and it helped me to become familiar with terms that I had not picked up in other types of writing. I read it for a writing class. It changed the way I think about drama, I hadn't given it a lot of thought before. Words like "action" did not have a dramatic meaning in my vocabulary.
Mar 08, 2010 Aaron rated it it was amazing
I will surely read this book over and over again. Stuart Spencer offers excellent advice to writer's of any skill set or experience. A must read for aspiring writer's of any genre, especially playwrights.
Julie Rose
Jan 18, 2011 Julie Rose rated it really liked it
This is indeed a fantastic primer. A great deal of very useful practical advice, as well as welcome reminders about the alchemy of the creative process.
Scott Wagner
Dec 20, 2013 Scott Wagner rated it it was amazing
If you're a playwright, this will give you great insight. Great advice that will come to you while you write.
Oct 29, 2012 Lisa rated it it was amazing
The best book I've read on the subject. I will be reading this one again and taking extensive notes!
Paul Pellicci
Nov 17, 2010 Paul Pellicci rated it really liked it
Shelves: drama
The Playwright's Guidebook is full of good information which is easy to find and understand.
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