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Words Of Wisdom For The Writer from Stephen Schwartz – Part 2


Two weeks ago, I posted 20 bits of advice that I gleaned from my time with Stephen Schwartz last year during the Festival of Broadway. Today, I bring you Part 2!

Again, these thoughts are very much aimed at the writer/composer of musicals, so I hope you find them useful!

Words of Wisdom from Stephen Schwartz:  

  1. Who is the protagonist of the show – whose story are we meant to follow?
  2. What do you want to do with the music – who’s the target audience and how do you hit the widest market?
  3. When writing you need to discover what you’re going to leave out and keep in. Choice, by definition, restrict you – but you need to make them, and work within their constraints. Restricted choice is vital.
  4. When somebody wants something, they do something, and an effect occurs.
  5. Writing a show is a journey of discovery as you are writing.
  6. Is your lyric true to the character’s voice?
  7. People don’t care about the past, they care about the present.
  8. Writing musicals is a collaborative venture.
  9. Songs teach us who the characters are – they illuminate us.
  10. If you start a song at Point A, you cannot finish it at Point A.
  11. Aim for perfect rhymes when writing in musical theatre style – don’t be lazy when developing the rhyme scheme.
  12. Be specific in your songs – avoid ‘general-isms’.
  13. Make sure your opening number serves a purpose – it must make the story move forward.
  14. You need to maintain the audience’s interest in the show – you cannot afford to lose them at any stage.
  15. When you make the audience do work, they are engaged. Don’t tell them everything.
  16. Show the action, don’t “tell” it.
  17. What do I care about? Why should I care about your show? If you can’t answer that, you don’t have a show.
  18. You cannot introduce a second protagonist to solve a problem or create a “work around”.
  19. The more characters you have, the more chances of cliches you have.
  20. The more you have a character sing to someone, the better.

Well, I hope this has helped all you composers and writers out there!

Until next week,

Blog ya later!


Drew has written 33 articles on AussieTheatre
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