Every Word Counts: Theatre Wisdom for Writers


In theatre, there are no throw away words. Each word counts.

Great writing is the same. That’s how I edit (partly): what do these words actually mean? What do I want them to mean? I toss out the throw away words – red lined, no longer welcome.

Often, these are some of my favorite lines. (This falls under the “kill your darlings” rule of thumb.)

Most of us don’t think of Shakespeare as concise, but to perform it you have to analyze each word and use it. That’s part of the key to helping the audience understand stylized Elizabethan language.

I’m terrible at this, by the way. Shakespeare usually makes sense to me, but conveying that to an audience is challenging.

I recently read Alice Hoffman’s Green Angel. I’ve had it sitting on my shelf for ages, though I only picked it up in the last month. The story is beautiful, as well as being a master class in economy of words. Hoffman wastes nothing.

Read it. Trust me.

I may aspire to that level of wordsmith, but for now I will content myself with cutting out those things that don’t truly add to or enhance the story. Without the flab, the story becomes stronger, meaning and layers of nuance clearer.

I also want to read the book again. And do more Shakespeare.


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