For the past few years I have been Writing Tutor on the MA Screen at Drama Centre, Central St Martin’s. The students are thrown in at the deep end, with a tight and difficult brief to write a 10’ short that will showcase the actors on the course and also give the student directors something to get their teeth into.
Students often arrive with a project they’ve been nursing for a while. I see my job as to get them away from a cherished idea (which they can return to later) and to develop the ability to generate stories fluently and quickly, while simultaneously exploring what most interests them, what ideas, themes and predicaments drive them to write.
This new ad for The Guardian demonstrates perfectly what I do. (Except that I use ‘Little Red Riding Hood’.)
Maybe it’s my own background as a journalist, that I’m trained to go looking for the story, but what I try to teach is that plot doesn’t matter, plot comes last, all that counts is story, and story is “what it’s about”. Plot is merely a way to dramatise an idea – and the only way to do that in drama is through character.