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Write a Short Play

Course Times & Enrolment

Wednesdays from 17th April 2024 (Code CW058-302) Wednesdays from
17th April 2024 6:30pm - 8:20pm • (10 classes)
LG47 Paterson's Land, Holyrood Campus • Tutor: Caroline Dunford MA BSc PG Dip; MSc Psych For (Open)
This course is now closed for enrolments

Course Summary

Want to write a play, but don’t know where to start? This ten week course introduces the basic premises of playwriting and supports participants to write either a short play or a first act through teaching, lively discussions and engaging, practical exercises.

Course Details

Pre-requisites for enrolment

No previous experience required

Content of Course

1. What is a play?

Considering audience contract, subverting expectations and engaging the imagination.

2. The Three Act Structure.

Understanding how a play is structured and how to write an outline.

3. From ideas to staging.

Understanding how a story is staged.

4. Character Development and the Performance.

Developing characters and understanding the team nature of being a playwright.

5. Dialogue.

How stage dialogue works and making every word count.

6. Subtext.

Continuing with dialogue and the art of conveying story and meaning without telling.

7. Actors.

Writing for Actors, working with actors and keeping conflict on stage.

8. Starting to put it together.

Working on the first draft of the play.

9. Practical Form.

How to iron out problems in a developing play.

10. Presentation of plays by willing participants and feedback on remaining issues.

Teaching method(s)

Each session will include teaching, discussion and practical exercises.

Learning outcomes

By the end of this course, students should be able to:

  • Understand the basic concepts of playwrighting;

  • Have completed a short piece of work they can continue to develop;

  • Be confident in applying a story concept to staging;

  • Understand how to make an audience emote.


Core Readings


  • McKee, R., 1999. Story. UK: Methuen Publishing.

  • Campbell, J., 1993. The Hero with a Thousand Faces. London: Fontana Press.

  • Ayckborne, A., 2004. The Crafty Art of Playwrighting. London: Faber & Faber.

Class Handouts

Handouts will be supplied on key areas of study, such as the three act structure, ways of working with dialogue and on where new work can be submitted.


If you have questions regarding the course or enrolment, please contact COL Reception at Paterson's Land by email or by phone 0131 650 4400.

Student support

If you have a disability, learning difficulty or health condition which may affect your studies, please let us know by ticking the 'specific support needs' box on your course application form. This will allow us to make appropriate adjustments in advance and in accordance with your rights under the Equality Act 2010. For more information please visit the Student Support section of our website.