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Cover for Playwriting


The Structure of Action

Sam Smiley, Norman Bert (Contributions by)


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A classic guide to dramatic writing now revised and expanded for a new generation of playwrights and screenwriters

This practical guide provides the principles of dramatic writing. Playwrights and screenwriters will discover these essential principles and acquire the tools to put them to use. Sam Smiley incorporates extensive new material in Playwriting: The Structure of Action, a revised edition of the book that dramatists in theatre and film have relied on for more than twenty-five years. No writer, director, critic, or teacher concerned with dramatic writing should be without this intelligent and inspiring guide.

Sam Smiley offers insights derived from a lifetime of writing, teaching, and consulting. While preserving the best of the earlier edition of the book, he offers new discussion on contemporary playwrights (Tony Kushner and Tom Stoppard), on copyright law, on new writing approaches, and on nontraditional dramatic forms.
Reaching far beyond simplistic how-to instructions, the book focuses on identifying and explaining principles essential to creating dramas: plot, character, thought, diction, melody, and spectacle. Smiley explains these classic topics and provides the modern keys for realizing each element in effective dramatic scripts.

Praise For Playwriting: The Structure of Action

“I cannot emphasize enough the importance of this book. Always a classic on the playwright’s bookshelf; now that it has been substantially reorganized, updated, and rewritten for contemporary playwrights, I believe it is a must-own text for the serious dramatist.”—David A. Crespy,Writing for Performance Program, University of Missouri-Columbia

— David A. Crespy

"It's great to see the granddaddy of all playwriting books back in action, more vigorous than ever in this newly revised edition, ready to mentor and inspire a whole new generation of young playwrights."—Paul Stephen Lim, English Alternative Theatre, University of Kansas 

— Paul Stephen Lim

Yale University Press, 9780300107241, 336pp.

Publication Date: October 24, 2005

About the Author

Sam Smiley is a playwright, screenwriter, and former professor of theatre at the University of Arizona. Norman Bert is a playwright and professor of theatre at Texas Tech University.