In playwriting, most writers follow the standard format of inserting stage directions, which uses few directions and avoids emotional asides. Write stage directions that make sense for a play using this free video from a professional writer.
Hi, this is Laura Turner and today I'm going to talk with you about how to write stage directions in a play. And what I want to talk to you about today is not only just sort of standard format that I'm going to show you for today's sort of standard play format stage directions. I just want to tell you a little bit about what is acceptable and what is seen as a little unprofessional. And to do that I am going to take some excerpts from Eugene O'Neill who was the greatest playwright of America in the early part of the 1900's. Eugene O'Neill liked very much to write stage directions. Like, for example, on this page, "Cregen - (enraged again) Ahh, to hell wid your ladies airs! I'd rather have your insults!" The stage directions state, (He stops abruptly as Nora appears in the doorway at right, getting to his feet sullenly.) "Here's herself. I'll be going up to the wake." (He passes Nora as she comes in and goes out right. Nora sits wearily in the first chair at the center, at the rear of the center table, right.) Seems like alot of stuff to put in between the lines of the play. Especially for standards today. O'Neill has lots of these sort of sandwiched stage directions. Like, (Nora says doley, Nora says sadly, annoyed, humbly.) Things that we don't normally write into plays today. These stage directions are usually called emotional stage directions. And if you write lots of stage directions like this, performance companies will usually think that you are an amateur. And that you believe that you have to put in these stage directions in order to convey the meaning of the line without actually having to write it into the line. So I would eliminate it, even though O'Neill does it, he does it because he's been dead for a very long time. Even though O'Neill does this, and he's a great playwright, I would never, ever use so many sandwiched emotional stage directions as he does. Instead, I would use like I have an example from one of my plays. I use very few stage directions. I would use stage directions only when they're absolutely necessary for the plot of the play to continue. Entrances and exits of characters, like on this page, (Height appears in the doorway) and there she is. Things like that. Because otherwise it's going to be either cut by the director and the director's going to say the playwright is trying to block my play for me. He's trying to tell him to get to his feet and also sullenly, he's trying to direct the emotion and the motion of the character. So just take to heart the realization that stage directions today should be very spare just because directors have such a bigger part to play and playwrights really need to just pare down the kind of weight that they're putting on their stage directions.