Tag Archives: 31p31d

Reflections on 31 Plays in 31 Days 2016

Well, I have completed the challenge for the fifth year in a row! I sure do like looking at five years’ worth of complete lists of everything I wrote.

I went into this wondering if maybe it wasn’t a good idea to do the challenge this year. I was finishing up a piece, the Hood pilot, which meant it would need more editing than generating very soon into the month. And then I had to focus on writing a bible for the show right after. It wasn’t the most conducive situation to a challenge where you’re just supposed to write new scenes. I was nervous that having to keep up with the challenge would become a burden and a distraction from the work I was supposed to be completing at this time. And then I’d just end up posting old scenes anyway that were written already.

I did end up needing to post some scenes that were written before the day I put them up. About four, starting with Day #7, were posted because I needed to do other writing work on that day. A few before that were posted because, even though I wrote new scenes, I didn’t want to post ones that revealed later climactic parts of the piece. So shockingly, most of what I wrote was new. I wrote scenes for Adonis, the Frasier spinoff idea, the Bridesmaids comedy, and Mrs. Hawking parts 4, 5, 6, and 7. All useful for projects I care about! Given that I wrote at least one scene a day for every day of the previous month as well, it’s probably one of the most solidly productive periods I’ve ever had.

Since 2013, the second year I did this, I’ve shifted my focus away from writing original standalone pieces and towards writing scenes for larger projects that are important to me. It’s been a really useful thing for me to do. I find that I am most productive when I use a drafting process— as in, bang out some garbage just so it exists, and then go back and improve it later. It prevents me from getting so hung up on imperfections that I don’t actually write anything, which is a problem I’m inclined to. Frankly, it works better if I’ve done outlining and planning beforehand so I know what each scene is supposed to include. That didn’t really happen this time, as I’d been working on the Hood pilot in the lead up this time around. But even without that, it definitely lowers the mental barrier to just getting writing done. My brain craves structure, and 31P31D effectively provides it.

Here’s a breakdown of what I wrote this year:

Mrs. Hawking – 11 = 35.5%
– Part 4 – 3 = 9.7%
11. “Bloody Great Fool”
17. “Reginald Managed It”
28. “Loyal Servant of the Empire”
– Part 5 – 3 = 9.7%
1. “A Separate Battlefield”
10. “As My Guest”
12. “The One You Should Fear”
– Part 6 – 2 = 6.5%
16. “From a Bloody Nightmare”
30. “Alone”
– Part 7 – 1 = 3.2%
29. “After Two Years”
– Miscellaneous – 2 = 6.5%
25. “Wedding Toast”
31. “True Gentleman”

Crane Boys – 8 = 25.8%
14. “The Cousins Crane”
15. “Subtle But Unmistakeable Disappointment”
19. “Lucky Bear”
20. “Reaching Out”
22. “Men of the Ivies”
23. “Hanging”
24. “Grading Circle of Hell”
27. “Grow Up”

Hood – 7 = 22.6%
2. “Bullseye”
3. “Rich Boy Out of Water”
6. “More Than Flash”
7. “Let the Grown Ups Handle It”
8. “Get the House in Order”
18. “He’ll Show Them”
21. “Run”

Adonis – 2 = 6.5%
5. “Carrying”
26. “A Small Thing”

Bridesmaids – 2 = 6.5%
9. “Nothing in Common”
13. “About Me”

Beloved Monster – 1 = 3.2%
4. “The Part of Me I Kept for You”

Freddy Crane – 8
David Crane – 6
Nathaniel Hawking – 6
Robin Locksley – 6
John Prince – 5
Marian Doncella – 4
Victoria Hawking – 4
Scarlet Scathlock – 4
Mary Stone – 4
Maureen Bell – 2
Nancy Breyer – 2
Hannah Brodsky – 2
Jess Diaz – 2
Elizabeth Frost – 2
Guy Gisborne – 2
Clara Hawking – 2
Leah Keoh – 2
Paulina Rao – 2
Tanya Stern – 2
Arthur Swann – 2
Beast – 1
Callisto – 1
Diana – 1
Alice Doyle – 1
Reginald Hawking – 1
Maid – 1
Morna – 1
Much Miller – 1
Pavilla – 1
Eleanor Prince – 1

As with last year, when I had to sub in scenes to post, it’s not a totally accurate representation of what I wrote this month, but I do like looking at the data anyway.

At the moment Hood is the most important project for me. I’m really pleased with myself for that one, as I wrote a solid, commercial action pilot with only about two months development. That is ridiculously quick!

I want to continue with the Mrs. Hawking stories, so the fact that I wrote so many scenes for them is definitely valuable, particularly since I want to put together part 4 in the near future. Over the years I’ve done quite a few scenes of part 4 during 31P31D, so I’ve got a nice head start. Also, this was the first time I wrote much for part 5, the plot of which I had literally zero idea for until recently. Figuring out that Nathaniel was going to get taken captive really blew a lot of that open! For some reason it’s fun writing scenes about him being tied to a chair. 😆

The other project I really did a fair bit of work for was my idea for a Frasier spinoff pilot. Now I know it’s not the best use of my time. Unless I get an opportunity to talk directly to NBC, it’s basically just fan fiction. But I actually think I have a pretty strong idea for it, and I ended up writing the first half of it shockingly easily. That probably means I can finish it pretty easily as well, meaning it’s not going to distract too much from other work. I really would get a kick out of finishing it, so I’m probably going to. (Plus Londo asked me to, and I’m a sucker for writing stuff that people enjoy.)

I didn’t work much on Adonis, which I’m slightly sorry about. I haven’t been thinking about it that much recently as I’ve had more pressing projects, but I do want to continue onto the next story. I also wish I’d done more for Bridesmaids, as I think that has a lot of potential as a funny half-hour comedy show. But that pilot will require plot planning, which as I mentioned I didn’t really have time to do. Still, I’m really happy with how the (two combined pieces of the) opening scene came out, so I think it’d be worth working out.

Some random observations. Three of these (#2 – Bullseye, #9 – Nothing in Common and #13 – About Me combined, and #15 – Subtle but Unmistakeable Disappointment) were openers for the pilot episodes of TV shows. I like all three of them, but I think Bullseye is the best screenplay beginning I’ve ever written. I love the idea, and the execution was a bitch, but I’m super happy with how it came out. Amusingly, the other two both use the device of the lead character talking to a psychiatrist about their situation. I guess you could say the repetition’s awkward, but I think the device works in both cases.

Freddy Crane, who was in all 8 scenes I wrote for his pilot, is the character who appeared most frequently. Mrs. Hawking appears in the most 31P31D scenes over the five years I’ve done it, but she only ended up in 4 this time around. The second, third, and fourth most common characters were David Crane, also appearing in the Frasier spinoff, Robin Locksley the protagonist of Hood, and Nathaniel Hawking, all with 6 scenes each. Despite these frequent appearances, I wrote about twice as many different female characters as male.

My favorite scenes I wrote this month? I have a few. As I said, #2 – Bullseye is an awesome TV show opener. #17 – Reginald Managed It explores some really important emotions of Mrs. Hawking’s. #1 – A Separate Battlefield has Clara and Mrs. Hawking clashing, which is always fun. #9 – Nothing in Common is actually pretty damn funny, and sets up the Bridesmaid cast really well. #31 – True Gentleman is cute and sweet.

Least favorite? Mostly the ones I know will be important scenes but I wrote so fast and so sloppily they didn’t come out well. #28 – Loyal Servant of the Empire is a particular offender, as is #29 – After Two Years and #30 – Alone. #26 – A Small Thing feels like a waste. I am so eager to examine Pavilla’s objectification of Aidan, but I can’t quite figure out how extreme to take it, so I keep backing off and taking the teeth out of it. But you know, mostly what I wrote I’m pretty pleased with— at least the ideas in them, even if most of them will have to be edited to make funnier, sharper, or less rushed. I notice they tend to cluster near the end when I’m pushing to finish.

Favorite lines? I love the therapist in #9 – Nothing in Common telling Jess “We discussed this. I can’t laugh at everything to make it okay.” In #25 – Wedding Toast, “Now… I’d best straighten my tie and shut my gob, before all this fair regard makes me become truly un-English,” is just a cute little character moment for Nathaniel. I also like him telling Mrs. Frost the title line, in #12 – The One You Should Fear. But I think the very best is from #17 – Reginald Managed It, when an uncharacteristic ally soft Mrs. Hawking says, “Oh, Reginald. We ruined one another, didn’t we?” Then, hardening again, “But he chose it. Not me.”

So, despite my reservations, I am pretty damn happy with having done this challenge. I guess this is why I keep coming back after it year after year.

31 Plays in 31 Days 2017, #31 – “True Gentleman”

I powered through and finished! EARLY too, the earliest I’ve ever finished the 31P31D challenge, but I had the time and I wanted to knock it out.

This last one deals with an idea I’m surprised I’ve never noodled with before. One little character bit in the Hawking stories that I enjoy is the fact that Clara and Nathaniel met through Nathaniel’s older brother Justin, because Clara dated Justin before she and Nathaniel got together. Their mild romantic history is alluded to in Base Instruments; it was Bernie’s idea and he pushed to include it. Basically, as they are the same age (three years older than Nathaniel) they came out in the same year, and so met while attending the same parties. They courted for a little while, until Clara got fed up with his interest in other girls and broke it off. She and Nathaniel got together gradually after that.

This little scene is from five or so years before the first Mrs. Hawking play, and depicts how their relationship began to change into something that would lead to falling in love, getting married, and having a couple of babies.


Day #31 – “True Gentleman”
By Phoebe Roberts

NATHANIEL HAWKING, a young gentleman, early twenties
CLARA PARTRIDGE, a lady his brother courted, mid twenties

London, England, 1875
(A twenty-three-year-old CLARA PARTRIDGE dashes in and paces, fuming with the beginnings of tears in her eyes. After her comes a twenty-year-old NATHANIEL HAWKING. Both are in evening wear.)

NATHANIEL: I say, Clara! Are you— are you all right?

CLARA: Why, Nathaniel! What are you doing here?

NATHANIEL: Pardon me, but I saw you dash out of the ballroom, and worried something might wrong. When Justin didn’t go after you, I thought someone ought to.

CLARA: Well! That’s very kind of you. Justin shan’t be following after me, not if he knows what’s good for him.

NATHANIEL: Whatever do you mean?

CLARA: I mean I don’t think I shall be seeing so very much of Justin anymore.

NATHANIEL: You mean— oh!

CLARA: Yes, well.

NATHANIEL: I— I’m quite sorry. He hasn’t— done anything ungentlemanly, has he?

CLARA: He’s Justin, isn’t he?

NATHANIEL: That prat. What’s he done?

CLARA: Oh, never you mind.

NATHANIEL: If he’s hurt you, miss—

CLARA: Oh, you know him! It’s only that he has a wandering eye. One grows weary of feeling like the plainest girl in the room.

NATHANIEL: Goodness, Clara, you could never be that!

CLARA: Oh, my.

NATHANIEL: I mean— forgive me, but— as you said, that’s his way. It’s no fault of yours that he’s an absolute rake.

CLARA: Perhaps not. But I’ve no patience for it any more.

NATHANIEL: Nor should you.

CLARA: I only hope I haven’t made a perfect fool of myself. Losing my calm with him and dashing out of the ballroom for everyone to see. Certainly I’ve ruined the last dance.

NATHANIEL: Not at all. I’m sure no one paid it any mind.

CLARA: You did. You had to run out here after to me.

NATHANIEL: Well— I hated the thought that you might be alone in your distress.

CLARA: Thank you for that. It’s quite kind.

NATHANIEL: Think nothing of it, miss. And, please… never think that my blasted brother’s conduct means you’re not beautiful. If I may say so… I don’t know how any man courting you could look away from you.

CLARA: Why, Nathaniel…

NATHANIEL: Oh, that was dreadfully impertinent. Now you think I’m just as much a rake as he is.

CLARA: Not at all. Quite the contrary… you are a true gentleman, Nathaniel Hawking.

NATHANIEL: It means a great deal that you’d think so. Is there anything else I can do?

CLARA: You’ve been a great comfort to me tonight. Indeed, I think I shall be presentable to return. You ought to go out and enjoy the rest of the ball. You’re shipping out soon for your tour of service, aren’t you?

NATHANIEL: If you can call it that. They’re sending me to Newcastle, of all places.

CLARA: Sounds as though you’re in for an adventure.

NATHANIEL: Indeed, fighting off boredom as I keep the logbooks.

CLARA: They’ll make a soldier of you yet. Well, if you’ll excuse me, I had best find a place to freshen up. I’d like to make my return more dignified than my exit.

NATHANIEL: Certainly, miss.

(He bows and turns to go. Just before he exits, he turns back around.)

NATHANIEL: Miss, since it will be so dreadfully dull away in the armory, it would be very cheering to hear a word from home now and again. When I have a moment, might I write you? Some letters might be just the way to pass the time.

CLARA: I would like that, Nathaniel.

(He smiles, then bows again and exits. She watches him go with a new interest.)

Reflecting on 31 Plays in 31 Days 2015

I am proud to announce I have completed the 31P31D challenge for the fourth year in a row! I have to say, however, this year worked kind of… weirdly. I was in the home stretch of finishing the initial draft of Base Instruments when August started, and I thought I would use the challenge to help me finish it. That did happen, as I worked on it every day and did in fact complete the draft, but it had a weird effect on my “output” in terms of the challenge.

As I mentioned, I found myself not wanting to post the scenes I wrote revealing the progress of the mystery, since I didn’t want people reading them out of context. But I wanted to have something to post on my LJ for accountability. I ended up posting others pieces I had that were roughly an equivalent amount of work, but were not actually written within the challenge period. Sometimes I posted previously completed, less spoilery sections of Base Instruments, sometimes other scenes I’d already written that had yet to see the light of day. So while I was fulfilling the dictates of the challenge by writing a scene piece every day, what I used as proof of completion did not actually reflect what work I was doing.

I guess that’s fine. As I keep reminding myself, the point is make myself write and do work on projects that are important to me, which I totally did. But I can’t shake the feeling that I kind of “wasted” the challenge— like, I was already going to push myself to finish Base Instruments anyway, so it didn’t cause me to generate anything “extra.” But that’s totally stupid— again, the point is to use it to write pieces that are important to me, and part three of the Mrs. Hawking series definitely counts! And God knows I can get off track if I don’t have structure to force my brain to focus and get work done.

The other thing that’s unbalanced is the statistics I like to keep. I like to mark down what projects the scenes apply to, and which characters I chose to write about. The fact that I didn’t always post the scenes I was actually writing at that moment, and posted some old scenes in their place instead, means it doesn’t accurately reflect what I was thinking about. But again, whatever, the statistics serve only to satisfy my list fetish and don’t actually have any real bearing on my creative output.

Still, it messes things up when I try to evaluate based on that list, which you know I love to do.
Mrs. Hawking – 14 – 45%
– Base Instruments – 5 – 16%
o 2. Everything I Do
o 3. Of the Mariinsky
o 12. I Have You Now
o 15. Enter Justin
o 17. Lord Seacourse
– Part 4 – 4 – 13%
o 8. Old Friends
o 9. Gravestones
o 25. Black Eye
o 29. How You Hated Him
– Part 6 – 3 – 10%
o 6. Lead and I’ll Follow
o 27. Not Anymore
o 28. What Choice
– Part 7 – 1 – 3%
o 18. Reunion
– Other – 1 – 3%
o 16. Rings

Adonis sequels – 7 – 23%
– 1. Who Was Your Mother?
– 4. Make it Good
– 7. The Mirror
– 11. Orestea Helen
– 20. He Inspires Them
– 21. Britannica Gloriana
– 22. Protect Him

Baker Hall – 4 – 13%
– 13. The Roof
– 14. Perpetual Sophomore
– 19. Gifted
– 31. Skin a Cat

Bombshells – 3 – 10%
– 5. Bombshells
– 10. Pinching
– 30. New Girl

Fan fiction – 2 – 6%
– Bojack Horseman – 2
o 23. Turn It Off
o 24. Parental Approval

The Body – 1 – 3%
– 26. Don’t Panic
Victoria Hawking – 9
Mary Stone – 7
Nathaniel Hawking – 6
Diana – 5
Charlotte Holmes – 4
Aidan – 2
Arthur Swann – 2
Bojack Horseman – 2
Mabel – 2
Morna – 2
Gertie – 2
Jane Watson – 2
Julie – 2
Justin Hawking – 2
Michael Holmes – 2
Pavilla – 2
Saturnina – 2
Captain Sister – 1
Charles – 1
Christie Zwicky – 1
Clara Hawking – 1
Cleo – 1
Daisy – 1
David Solan – 1
Elena Zakharova – 1
Elizabeth Frost – 1
Fay Ray – 1
Gareth Stanton – 1
Gloriana – 1
Hollingsworth – 1
Herb Kazzazz – 1
Luciana – 1
Nicholas Cavil – 1
Reggie Hawking – 1
Reginald Hawking – 1
Yulia Sherba – 1

So it’s hard to draw conclusions from this data when I know it’s somewhat artificial. According to this, 45% of the pieces were from various Mrs. Hawking stories, 16% of which for Base Instruments, but in reality it was probably much more than that.

Roughly speaking, however, clearly I was very focused on development for Mrs. Hawking. I’m hoping to write one of those plays a year from here on out, so this helps me be on track for that. Also, everything I wrote was for an idea I’d already had, and most of which was development for something I’d like to write at some point. After I finalize and release Base Instruments, I plan on moving to the Adonis sequels, so I’m glad I dug into that. Maybe I can’t do anything with Baker Hall, and maybe I’d never actually have a use for a Bojack Horseman spec script as anything other than fan fiction, but they are ideas I’d had in my head. So it was definitely the most focused 31P31D I’ve done, and I’m glad of that.

Reflections on 31 Plays in 31 Days 2014

This year’s 31 Plays in 31 Days is, in my opinion, my most productive and useful yet. I decided to use it to focus on the particular projects I wanted to develop.

When Bernie and I were working on Adonis, we mostly worked well, except we experienced the occasional clash over how how we generated ideas. I tended to be very targeted and to the point— perhaps over-influenced by my dislike of wasted effort —whereas he often needed to work up to things, spin details that may or may not be useable just to see what might come from them. It often frustrated me if I needed an answer to a specific story problem, but he often was able to think outside the box to find solutions when I was getting stuck in it. I bring this up because I notice even in 31P31D, I had a resistance to working on any scene I didn’t think was going to work in context. But experimentation of that nature often brings up things you can’t think of if you only stay in your current paradigm. A thing like 31P31D lowers the barrier for me at least a little bit, and helps me break out of that mindset. Which I definitely think is good for me.

Mrs. Hawking – 12 – 39%
Base Instruments – 7 – 23%
– What If I Don’t Want To?
– Haven’t I Always?
– Your Vessel Has Not Betrayed You
– Look Where That Got Him
– Family Dinner
– Glad to Be Your Man
– The Cuff
Miss Stanton – 1 – 3%
– The Hand You’ve Been Dealt
Ripper – 2 – 6%
– Distinguished Matron in Widow’s Weeds
– Being Married
Otherwise – 2 – 6%
– A Few Days’ Leave
– Do You Miss It?

Disgraced – 6 – 19%
– Companion
– No One Knows You Here
– Repute
– Humiliated
– Adventure Abroad
– No One’s Cad

Brockhurst – 2 – 6%
– Because I Know You’re Not
– As Sisters Should

Fan fiction – 6 – 19%
Cabin Pressure: San Tropez
– Meet Trudy and Cliff
– The Bobsled
– Not Speaking to You
– Ordinary Level of Horrid
– Old Romantic
– Vibrant Rays of Sunshine

Adonis – 4 – 13%
– I Have Weathered You All
– The Stuff of Their Dreams
– Make History
– Burn Your Empire

Other – 1 – 3%
– Never Really Here

Last year I made a good start on Vivat Regina with 31P31D, so I wanted to do the same for the next installment Base Instruments. I wrote myself a whopping SEVEN scenes for it, and though they may not all be ready for inclusion, or even possible to use at all, I am pleased at the raw material I generated. As with that, I know I have a ton of work to do to figure out the overstructure of the plot, but this is a very good start on the trajectory of the characters.

My favorite scene I wrote for it was Look Where That Got Him, which was very emotionally important for Nathaniel and Clara. I also liked the ideas in Your Vessel Has Not Betrayed You. Though honestly there’s something I like in every single one. Of the non-Base Instruments Hawking scenes, I like the intensity and impending violence of Distinguished Matron in Widow’s Weeds, and the way the future Mrs. Frost lays the smackdown on the totally different young Victoria Stanton in The Hand You’ve Been Dealt.

The Cabin Pressure fan fic pieces were harder than I expected them to be. Humor is not my forte, and I was trying to imitate another writer’s distinctive style. Especially for the later pieces, when I was just struggling to finish them on time, I don’t think I did a great job. I plan to do a lot of editing, and hopefully I’ll nail it then. My favorite of them is probably The Bobsled; I think it’s funny and I got the most right in it.

Working on Disgraced made me realize just how little I know about that idea. I know pretty well what I would want for Elise’s trajectory, but other than that, I don’t know much yet. I want Rosaline to be an equal lead with her, and I need to figure out what’s going on in Newport at that time, and what other figures would be in that world. My favorite scene I wrote for this was Humiliated; I really love the character of Marcus Loring, even though he’s a total ass. I didn’t write nearly as much for Brockhurst as I thought I would. But I think there’s a lot of material there. I think I was a little stalled because I wouldn’t just want it to be a Downton Abbey ripoff.

I’m really excited to eventually work on the Adonis sequel, which is why pieces showed up this time even though I know like nothing about it. The shape of the first one required really careful planning, so I’m certain the subsequent parts— of which I think there has to be two more —will as well. Enough that I hardly had enough to go on in attempting scenes. But I just think there’s such powerful potential there. I think my favorite scene I wrote was either I Have Weathered You All or Burn Your Empire because I love the stark truths they reveal about two of my leads.

The characters I wrote about most frequently are, in order:
– Victoria Hawking – 5
– Elise Charnmore – 5
– Douglas Richardson – 5
– Martin Crieff – 5
– Mary Stone – 4
– Nathaniel Hawking – 4
– Carolyn Knapp-Shappey – 4
– Arthur Shappey – 3
– Trudy Cadwallader – 3
– Clifford Speedwell III – 3
– Clara Hawking – 2
– Arthur Swann – 2
– Rosaline Bay – 2
– Abigail Bellamy – 2
– Aidan – 2
– Diana – 2
– Morna – 2
– Saturnina – 2
– Elena Zakharova – 1
– Elizabeth Frost – 1
– Queen Victoria – 1
– Beatrice Hawking – 1
– Reggie Hawking – 1
– Daisy Marcotte – 1
– Eleanor Haverhill – 1
– Enid Brome – 1
– Marcus Loring – 1
– Rowan Loring – 1
– Christian Chase – 1
– Claudia Bellamy – 1
– Callisto – 1
– Beast – 1
– Maid – 1

Obviously property leads tended to appear most often. And some characters are just inspiring to me. I like having lots of scenes with the same characters, as it helps flesh them out.

Other trivia for this month. Longest scene was Look Where That Got Him with Nathaniel and Clara. Shortest was I Have Weathered You All with Aidan and Saturnina.

The one with the most characters is Meet Trudy and Cliff, which has all the Cabin Pressure lead cast plus my two original characters.

My favorite was Look Where That Got Him. My least favorite is probably either Make History or Vibrant Rays of Sunshine— I was struggling just to finish and it shows.

My favorite lines? Clara’s “The Colonel loved her too, Nathaniel. And look where that got him.” Douglas’s “Do you at least take the hat off for that? Or does she like you to keep it on?” from The Bobsled. Marcus’s “You didn’t scream for me because I was a saint,” from Humiliated. Elise’s “And I do so enjoy the, uh… the persistent cherub motif in the décor,” in No One Knows You Here, at least in context. And Morna’s “All that I did when I was only a slave. And now? Now I am a slave no longer,” from Burn Your Empire; her entire speech at the end, really.

I’d be curious if any of you had favorites, scenes, characters, whatever. Or anything you particularly hated. If you care to let me know.