Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Playwright's Guidebook” as Want to Read:
The Playwright's Guidebook
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Playwright's Guidebook

4.13  ·  Rating Details ·  182 Ratings  ·  17 Reviews
During the more than ten years that Stuart Spencer has taught playwriting, he has struggled to find an effective handbook for his courses. Although most of the currently popular guides contain useful ideas, they all suffer from the same problems: poor organization; quirky, idiosyncratic advice; and abstract theorizing on the nature of art. As a result, they fail to offer a ...more
Paperback, 392 pages
Published March 3rd 2003 by Faber & Faber (first published March 2002)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Playwright's Guidebook, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Playwright's Guidebook

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
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
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.
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
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
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Faheem Anwar
Faheem Anwar rated it really liked it
Aug 27, 2011
Kara rated it liked it
Jul 23, 2008
Simon rated it it was amazing
Dec 09, 2008
Richard rated it really liked it
Mar 11, 2008
Jason rated it really liked it
Sep 28, 2009
B. Christopher Williams
B. Christopher Williams rated it it was amazing
Aug 06, 2016
Megan rated it it was amazing
Dec 25, 2014
Adeline rated it liked it
Jun 07, 2007
Antoinette Botsford
Antoinette Botsford rated it liked it
May 16, 2016
Malayeshia rated it it was amazing
Jul 20, 2016
Brendan rated it it was amazing
Oct 18, 2010
Joao rated it really liked it
Nov 17, 2013
Russell rated it really liked it
Jan 20, 2013
Beth Cottrell
Beth Cottrell rated it it was ok
May 24, 2015
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Notes on Directing: 130 Lessons in Leadership from the Director's Chair
  • Three Uses of the Knife: On the Nature and Purpose of Drama
  • The Art Of Dramatic Writing: Its Basis in the Creative Interpretation of Human Motives
  • Saved
  • The Dramatic Writer's Companion: Tools to Develop Characters, Cause Scenes, and Build Stories
  • Consciousness and the Novel
  • The Baltimore Waltz
  • The Empty Space: A Book About the Theatre: Deadly, Holy, Rough, Immediate
  • The America Play and Other Works
  • Three Plays: Gruesome Playground Injuries / Animals Out of Paper / Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo
  • A Director Prepares: Seven Essays on Art and Theatre
  • Being An Actor
  • Master Class in Fiction Writing: Techniques from Austen, Hemingway, and Other Greats: Lessons from the All-Star Writer's Workshop
  • Tales Before Narnia: The Roots of Modern Fantasy and Science Fiction
  • Creating Poetry
  • The Age of Shakespeare (Modern Library Chronicles)
  • The Best of Uncle John's Bathroom Reader
  • Advice to Writers: A Compendium of Quotes, Anecdotes, and Writerly Wisdom from a Dazzling Array of Literary Lights

Share This Book