How Playwrights Write

Tom Smith, ’18
Co-Head Writer/Treasurer,
Followed By a Bear Student Theater Company

Quick Facts

Pen or pencil?
Mechanical pencil.

Favorite punctuation mark?
&  (One day I’ll figure out how to draw it.)

Oxford comma or no?
Absolutely, surely, and always.

Favorite music to write to?
Tons of movie scores & soundtracks. My favorite is Jurassic Park.



SJU Writes: What kinds of writing are you focusing on right now?
TS: Colin [Mallee ‘17, co-head writer of Followed By A Bear Student Theater Company] and I are facilitating a two-act play, which we’re working on with the Followed By A Bear writing team, and our goal is to have it done by the end of the semester. I’m also in a television production class, and we’re writing and producing a TV show which will be finished by the end of the semester. Besides that, sometimes I write other short skits which I hope to film one day.

SJU Writes: What, in your opinion, is the best thing you’ve written in your life?
TS: I really like the scene I wrote for the forthcoming Night of Scenes for Followed By A Bear. It’s about two guys who are on top of a building about to jump, but they don’t know that the other is there at the same time. It’s an awkward situation that delves into black comedy as the piece gets darker and more emotional toward the end; I really liked how I handled it.

SJU Writes: How did you come up with that idea?
TS: Honestly, we had a due date for our scenes, so the night before I was just brainstorming what could make a good dramatic situation. And I thought, “Suicide’s pretty up there. How can I deconstruct that and look at it from a different angle to make it not as serious?”

SJU Writes: What is the earliest thing you remember writing?
TS: When I was in fourth grade, I really wanted to write and direct movies, so me and my buddy had this whole character that we created. He was a superhero with a hook for a hand, but the hand was a candy cane. It was the craziest thing! It was probably a fifty-page screenplay on Microsoft Word.

SJU Writes: When you’re confronted with a writing task, how do you approach it off the bat?
TS: When it comes to writing a scene or any kind of fiction, I approach it by looking at other writing that inspires me – movies that I like, fiction with similar themes. And I ask, what did and didn’t work about them? Especially finding what didn’t work. That helps a lot.

SJU Write: Do you write with the advice of a particular person in mind?
TS: Not a particular person, but other playwrights, authors, and filmmakers whose works I’ve read or seen. No good writing is done alone. You have to get as much input and do as much research as possible and see what does and doesn’t work about drama and fiction. So, I just think back to my favorite authors and what they believed and wrote about.

SJU Writes: How do you feel when you’ve completed a writing project?
TS: I tend to feel pretty proud of it. I’ll want to show it to friends, just to say, “Hey, can you give me feedback?” Even though it’s done I’ll still want to see whether or not people like it. For the most part, I’ll be proud of it, then come back to it two years later and think, “What did I just write?” 

—Rose Weldon, ’19