After you have thought out your playlet, you set down so much of it as you feel is necessary in the form of a scenario. But you do not consider this scenario as unchangeable. Rather you judge the value of the idea by the freedom with which it grows in effectiveness. And while this process is going on, you carefully select the basic points in the beginning of the story that must be brought out prominently.
Then you develop the story by making the points that foreshadow your “big” scene stand out so as to weave the enthralling power of suspense. You let your audience guess what is going to happen, but keep them tensely interested in how it is going to happen. And you prepare your audience by a carefully preserved balance between the promise and the performance for the one big point of the climax which changes the relations of the characters to each other.
After you have shown the change as happening, you punch home the fact that it has happened, and withhold your completing card until the finish. In your finish you play the final card and account for the last loose strand of the plot, with a speed that does not detract from your effect of complete satisfaction.
In seeking to “punch up” your playlet, you go over every word, every bit of characterization, every moment of action, and eliminate single words, whole speeches, entire scenes, to cut down the playlet to the meat, seeking for lost punches particularly in the faults of keeping secrets that should be instantly disclosed, and in the too frank disclosures of secrets that ought to be kept in the beginning. And out of this re-writing there rises into view the “heart wallop” which first attracted you.
Finally, when your playlet is finished, you decide on a proper title. Remembering that a title is an advertisement, you choose a short name that both names and lures. And then you prepare the manuscript for its market—which is discussed in a later chapter.
But when you have written your playlet and have sold it to a manager who has produced it, your work is not yet done. You watch it in rehearsal, and during the “breaking in” weeks you cut it here, change it there, make a plot-line do double duty as a laugh-line in this spot, take away a needless word from another—until your playlet flashes a flawless gem from the stage. The final effect in the medium of expression for which you write it is UNITY. Every part—acting, dialogue, action—blends in a perfect whole. Not even one word may be taken away without disturbing the total effect of its vital oneness.
THE ELEMENTS OF A SUCCESSFUL ONE-ACT MUSICAL COMEDY
If you were asked, “What is a one-act musical comedy?” you might answer: “Let’s see, a one-act musical comedy is—is—. Well, all I remember is a lot of pretty girls who changed their clothes every few minutes, two lovers who sang about the moon, a funny couple and a whole lot of music.”