The Importance of Plays

Plays are an important part of every writer’s TBR list. Not only do they constitute an enormously popular art form, but they can also be incredibly helpful for novelists who are trying to shape their new works.

Plays, in essence, must be simple. (Except maybe for Shaw’s, with the many paragraphs of exposition.) For the most part, though, there’s simply dialogue, along with basic stage directions.


I think the author who shifts most seamlessly between his stories and plays is Anton Chekhov. He believed that simplicity was everything; that nothing should be too complicated. As a result, his stories and plays are effortless. It almost seems like he just breathed them onto the page.

In novels and stories, detail is important — but too many details are overwhelming. That’s why some people don’t like Dickens anymore. (And trust me — as someone who used to try to mimic his style, I’ve gotten some harsh criticism.)

Nowadays, and even back in the old day, people just liked things SIMPLE. Good, but simple. Hence the popularity of Chekhov. Alas, it never helped him to become anything but a poor country doctor — but people did love his work.

Konstantin Stanislavski as Astrov in 1899 Moscow production of Uncle Vanya

Reading plays can help writers to understand how to get to the heart of the matter — how to get to the core of a scene, without boring your audience. They’re the perfect example of the combination of wit and brevity.


When we say “wit” — who can we be thinking of but Oscar Wilde?



In a word, plays are a massively useful tool for both practiced and amateur authors. Think of them as a method by which to streamline your mode of thought.


I think Caligula is my favorite play. What’s yours?


21 thoughts on “The Importance of Plays

      1. That is…thanks for the tip. It’s great to have you back C M. I have been working on the story Tempting Fate… it’s quite long now, I look forward to hearing your comments on its progression (or otherwise).

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  1. I love the theater. Plays more than musicals, but I’ll take either one. I am seeing The Importance of Being Ernest in a few weeks, very excited! I think you’re onto something… having 2-3 hours to tell the story, makes the playwright more concise than the author. The author can crowd a story with a lot of details which set the scene whereas the playwright has the stage setting to convey that same information. Same goes for a screen play. Eliminating a lot of words.

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  2. I LOVE theater. I’ve always enjoyed reading Shakespeare’s plays. I know that’s pretty generic, but I genuinely love them. I have a habit of imagining everything I read as though it were playing out in front of me. Typically I do like a more sparse writing style unless it’s Jasper Fforde. I can’t get enough of his literary games.

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  3. Hello there, CM. I was thinking about you today when reading some of my old entries. I just read the post — honestly, can you ever write something bad or even okayish? I don’t think that is possible.

    Anyway, I really wanted to talk to you and ask you how you are doing. I’m pretty much an online social hermit as I’m not on Facebook or Twitter, so I decided that posting a comment would have to do. A email wouldn’t hurt though (:
    (I’m totally not flirting — unless you want me to lol. jk… IS IT?)

    Oh god, I need to stop being so spontaneous.

    Sending you a hug.

    Liked by 1 person

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