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Character, Scene, and Story

New Tools from the Dramatic Writer’s Companion

Will Dunne first brought the workshop experience down to the desk level with The Dramatic Writer’s Companion, offering practical exercises to help playwrights and screenwriters work through the problems that arise in developing their scripts. Now writers looking to further enhance their storytelling process can turn to Character, Scene, and Story.

Featuring forty-two new workshop-tested exercises, this sequel to The Dramatic Writer’s Companion allows writers to dig deeper into their scripts by fleshing out images, exploring characters from an emotional perspective, tapping the power of color and sense memory to trigger ideas, and trying other visceral techniques. The guide also includes a troubleshooting section to help tackle problem scenes. Writers with scripts already in progress will find they can think deeper about their characters and stories. And those who are just beginning to write will find the guidance they need to discover their best starting point. The guide is filled with hundreds of examples, many of which have been developed as both plays and films.

Character, Scene, and Story is fully aligned with the new edition of The Dramatic Writer’s Companion, with cross-references between related exercises so that writers have the option to explore a given topic in more depth. While both guides can stand alone, together they give writers more than one hundred tools to develop more vivid characters and craft stronger scripts.


“If you are a playwright not yet on the Pulitzer short list, or a screenwriter not yet invited to the Oscars, the best thing you can do is get to Chicago and join Will Dunne’s scriptwriting workshops at Chicago Dramatists. If you can’t do that, the next best thing is to get The Dramatic Writer’s Companion and Character, Scene, and Story and sit down to his exercises. Dunne describes clearly and succinctly how each element of drama works—each beat, each scene, each facet of character and stagecraft—and then he sets you to work to master it. The work leads wide and deep, from the hidden past to the strategies of scene, from objectives to the supernatural, from levels of desire to the pressures of conflict. Every hour’s attention to one of these mental journeys will lead you to know more, imagine better, and write more nimbly.”

Janet Burroway, author of Writing Fiction and Imaginative Writing

Table of Contents

About This Guide
Exercises at a Glance

Developing Your Character

Stage 1. Fleshing Out the Bones
Character Interview
Beyond Belief
The Emotional Character
Meet the Parents

Stage 2. Getting to Know the Character Better
Sensing the Character
The Imperfect Character
Objects of Interest
The Invisible Character
Side by Side

Stage 3. Understanding Who the Character Really Is
Character Fact Sheet
Two Views of One Character
Nothing but the Truth
What Is the Character Doing Now?

Causing a Scene

Stage 1. Making Things Happen
The Real World
What’s New? What’s Still True?
The Past Barges In
Levels of Desire
Mother Conflict
Why Did the Character Cross the Road?
The Strategics of the Scene
The Scenes within the Scene

Stage 2. Refining the Action
The Color of Drama
The Emotional Onion
Why This? Why Now?
Relationship Storyboard
Classified Information

Stage 3. Refining the Dialogue
Phrase Book
Better Left Unsaid
Anatomy of Speech

Building Your Story

Stage 1. Triggering the Chain of Events
Facts of Life
In the Beginning
Character on a Mission

Stage 2. Developing the Throughline
Decision Points
Living Images
What Just Happened?
The Dramatic Continuum
An End in Sight

Stage 3. Seeing the Big Picture
Two Characters in Search of a Story
Found in Translation
List It
Different Sides of the Story
Coming Soon to a Theater near You!

Fixing that Problem Scene


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