I had to shorten a play. The actors I was directing quite naturally wanted to know what criteria I was using for making cuts to their lines!!! "Just cutting out the flab!" was the easy answer.

Flabby writing, of course, should be avoided. When, as writer or director, I have to cut a script I ask this question: Does each line meet at least one of the following tests?

  1. Contains information that advances and is essential to main story line.
  2. Intensifies situation.
  3. Reveals character.
  4. Completes the trajectory of an emotional curve or allows the time necessary for an emotional transition.
  5. Promotes the major philosophical or ethical argument of the play.
  6. Establishes setting or atmosphere.
  7. Has special poetic, rhythmic or dynamic function.
  8. Has distinct and appropriate gag or entertainment value.
  9. Is necessary to cover technical problems such as long exits, costume changes, scene shifts etc.

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Jonathan Paul Cook © 2010