Autobiographers and biographers might begin their books at birth. And chances are that was where their story began, “in the beginning God created’ someone.
But this beginning generally does not offer the kind of hook that will move the story forward. Authors often start too soon and tell too much. Choices…about structure, about where to start, and most importantly, about what to leave out…have to be made early on, whether to tell through exposition or action, or not at all. Everyone expects the author to make these choices; and most beginning authors start too soon. There is always a struggle here. Objectivity often gets lost; the author becomes enamored with what she or he has written and wants to keep it all. The plan disappears. It simply happens like that, and often we don’t even get to where we should’ve began. (When the two brothers actually start hitting each other, the plot can easily progress from there.) And from there the struggle can easily be identified. To see the two brothers fight is to know that there is something-serious going on.
But a playwright can’t accept what is accepted from a biographer of a famous person. The biographer’s canvas is broader. The playwright must work with condensed material; and given that he or she most probably will have to begin much later in the story than a biographer. Suddenly, perhaps for structurally reasons, or because an audience will demand it, the playwright has to move from exposition to the struggle. He or she has to decide to leave out much of what had seemed critical in the beginning and leave much of the back-story for the actor and the director to create.
The happiest playwright believes in collective genius. He or she must learn to trust other people. He or she must let go; he or she must be ready to accept the ideas of other people, rather than be the ultimate authority on his or her work. I like to take the stance that I know nothing. When asked, I like to say, “I don’t know.”
A few of my biases, Randy Ford