Write a Short Play! (3 of 4)

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For Part 1 in the "Write a Short Play" series, click here!
For Part 2 in the "Write a Short Play" series, click here!
FAQs About our 3rd Annual Short Play Festival
Annual Call for Scripts: Submission Guidelines


By now, you should have thought of
  • A character
  • Something he/she is going to do, and 10 different ways to do it
If you're like me, you have Paul Simon's "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover" stuck in your head, too.

Ready for part 3?

Exercise 3: The Antagonist

Conflict is central to most plays. As Julie Jensen, playwright, playwriting teacher, and friend of Native Voices says, "Someone wants something, someone else is in the way. Write that exchange, that negotiation, that argument."

Your main character wants something, but... someone is in the way: the antagonist. Think Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader. Harry Potter and Voldemort. Aragorn and Sauron!

Who is standing in your main character's way? And moreover, what does this antagonist need from your main character? It could be an item or object– something physical and tangible– or it could be an emotion (respect, love, admiration, etc).

What will the antagonist do to try to get this thing from your character, or to keep it? List 10 different ways your antagonist will counteract your main character. For each of the 10 ways your character pursued an action in the previous exercise, come up with 10 realistic ways for your antagonist to stop them.

In my example for Exercise 2, I decided that Jane wanted to break up with her boyfriend. Today, her boyfriend, Joe, needs her to stay. He desperately loves her and won't take no for an answer!

Joe must keep Jane from breaking up with him. He can...

1. Fake having bad reception on his phone so that she can't break up with him by phone call
2. Break his phone on purpose to avoid receiving the break-up text
3. Ignore all of his emails, or set his inbox to recognize Jane's mail as spam
4. Take Jane to a very crowded, public place on Valentine's Day, where it will be difficult and embarrassing for her to break up with him
5. Fall asleep or run out for dessert immediately after dinner to avoid a post-dinner break up conversation
6. Whisk Jane away on a romantic vacation to someplace she's always wanted to go, so she can't pack her bags and leave
7. Refuse to leave, because the apartment, furniture, and dog belong to him, too
8. Undertake a missing persons search, including pictures on milk cartons and ads, and a private investigator, so that Jane can't easily fake her own death or simply disappear
9. Be the best boyfriend ever, so that Jane's attempts to make him break up with her go awry
10. Put on his sneakers and literally chase Jane down the street if she tries to run away from him

As you might imagine, Jane is going to get very irritated with Joe. Joe is probably very upset with Jane. Yikes! It seems inevitable that my protagonist and antagonist will have some kind of argument or altercation.

Who is your antagonist, and what does he/she want? What are 10 ways he/she will get in the way of your main character? What kind of argument or confrontation are they likely to have?

Revisit the blog soon to try Exercise 4: The Short Play!

For more info about our annual call for scripts, click here.

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