Skit Writing

Writing samples: Parker 75

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As I start this article I am confronted with what is for me the most difficult aspect of creativity. The blank page! As most of my puppet and clown skits tend to be custom material, I meet the dreaded blank page on a regular basis. Usually I have a theme or subject about which I am intending to create a skit for, but that does not make confronting the blank page any easier.

I know that I am not alone in this and I believe that the blank page is probably the greatest barrier to people writing their own material. In fact it is the most commonly used evidence people cite when telling me they are not very creative. However it is often these same people who show the most creative ability during workshops!

It seems to me that the real problem is that people tend to lack confidence when attempting new things. This lack of confidence then meets up with the dreaded blank page and the creative process stalls. This feeds the lack of confidence further and the whole thing grows until people feel that they are not creative.

I’ll let you into a secret. You do have a creative ability and it is much stronger than you think. Because God himself is creative, He has hardwired creativity into human nature. We are naturally creative beings but our individual creativity takes different forms. Some people prefer painting, others sculpture and others still performing.

Writing is another art form. we cannot all be ‘Rembrandts’s, or ‘Shakespear’s’ but most people can draw a simple animal or write a letter. Skit writing is the easier end of the creative writing spectrum. With a little training most people can learn to draw recognisable pictures, simple poems and skits. A full play would require some gifting but simple entertaining skits are definitely within the grasp of most people.

When first starting out, the blank page is best not looked at until you have a starting point. For me (and I believe everyone else) the creative process cannot be easily switched on at will. Creativity usually comes from everyday life and often at the most inconvenient moments. Creative ideas tend to come when I least expect them. Most often they come as distracting thoughts when I am concentrating on something else.

I have had and lost some brilliant ideas because I was driving or busy when they came to me, so I couldn’t write them down. Try and keep a notepad and pen/pencil with you to record your ideas. You will be surprised how many you think of in a week. If you can expand one or two of these ideas every week you will soon have a vast supply of material that you can use.

Those of us who write new material find that sometimes deadlines mean that we have to push through the blank page barrier and get something written down. By having words written down (even if it is unusable) we provide ourselves with material that we can start manipulating by adding, changing and deleting until our skit is finished. I am using this same method to create this article.

Being confronted with the dreaded blank page, a deadline and no idea as to how I should begin. I simply started to write how I found it a problem. The rest of this article has just developed from that point. I am now on a roll and this article itself is stirring up knowledge and ideas from which I am selecting those I wish to write down.

Another problem people mention in workshops is that they believe their skits are not good enough. I call this the ‘tinted glass syndrome’ because when I look at their skits I can find very little or nothing wrong with them. The problem is that unconsciously they are being more demanding of their own work than that of others. That distorts their perspective and makes them critical of their own work like looking through tinted glasses makes things look darker.

It is a perfectly natural to be stricter or less strict when assessing your own work. However you need to take your own bias into consideration before coming to conclusions. Being unsatisfied with a skit does not mean that you are no good at skit writing. It just means that you can either do better, or you are being too hard on yourself. A good rule of thumb is to keep making changes until you are either satisfied or have come up with the best compromise which gets the chosen message across.

At the end of the day there are only two criteria upon which to judge skits. Does it get the message across clearly and is it entertaining. Anything beyond this is for polishing and fine tuning your skits. I find that a good general pattern for skits is the one listed below. There are exceptions to this pattern but it is a good place to start.

Character introductions and entrances
This usually happens at the start of a skit. Every character needs to be introduced in some way either before or during their entrance. This element can be as simple as “Hi, ‘character name'” or a more complex interaction to set the character type. If your audience is already familiar with the character then the introduction can be very simple. However the character is introduced, the entrance of that character needs to be both natural and in harmony with it’s character.

Plot introduction
This is a crucial element without which your skit will be weak and meaningless. You need to show your audience what question or problem it is discussing. This element sets the scene and prepares the audience for the discussion.

Discussion
This is where the twists and turns can come in. As your characters interact the problem or question is explored. Your aim at this point is to raise the attention of your audience to the various ways the problem or question can be resolved. You do not need (and often have time) to exhaustively explore every aspect but you do need to provide a clear and logical route to your selected resolution which helps put your message across.

Resolution
This is where you deliver the punch. The resolution needs to be clear and have been logically or naturally arrived at. The basic rule here is ‘make your point and exit’.

Exit mechanism
Your skit needs a natural exit. Many mechanisms can be employed from blackouts to complex sets of individual exits. Make sure that your exit mechanism is both natural, does not distract from the message and is not drawn out.

Once you have gained a little confidence, enter some skit writing competitions. Most competitions give you your score sheet so you get independent feedback which has been measured by a set standard. This will provide you with the information you need to see which areas you need to address. When looking at the score sheet you need to focus on any areas where the majority or all the judges marked low. Ignore areas where judges obviously disagree and concentrate on the area they agree most.

When starting out skit writing, it is a good idea to look at other peoples skits for inspiration. Do not ever copy other peoples skits without their permission. That is an infringement of their copyright. Often you can adapt the central theme of a skit when it is not a trademark of a particular performer or team. The golden rule when working from another persons work is ‘if in doubt check it out’.

Creativity is something which comes when it is ready. As you gain experience you will find that it becomes easier to find ideas. Try and create your skits from your own experience so that the skit is completely your own creation. When you develop a good skit all by yourself, it brings you a much deeper level of satisfaction than a skit you have adapted or developed from someone else’s idea. This is because you truly own the skit, it comes from you and you have formed every aspect of it.

Truth2tell Puppets and Clowns
http://www.truth2tell.co.uk
geoff@truth2tell.co.uk

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