In my writing room I have several printed promps that hang in front of me. One of these is:
SONDHEIM THREE RULES
1 Content Dictates Form
2 Less Is More
3 God is in the Details
All in the services of CLARITY, without which nothing else matters.
In the seven promps that hang in my writing room, these three short rules by Sondheim are the ones that I put that most importance on. “Less Is More” can be simply interpreted as “Don’t Do What You Don’t Have To Do”, or don’t write what doesn’t need to be written. “God Is In the Details” can be simply put as “Do your homework, work hard and uncover every needed nuance and needed detail.” But for me, “Content Dictates Form” is the one that keeps coming back to alternately reward me and slap me in the face.
“Content Dictates Form” is the rule that I keep discovering over and over again. Let me share with you the mistakes and successes I have had with this rule.
Scroll down and you’ll see a list of all my writing reference books that I use for preparing new musical theater works. I’ve read each of these books cover to cover and some I have read many, many times over and over. I do have some favorites in this list but I’m not listing them in any particular order because what you get from each book may be wildly different than what I learned from each book. We all have “holes” in our knowledge which is different for everyone. For me, these books helped fill in the holes of my knowledge with a deeper understanding of structure, character arcs and story development.
A couple of these books I’ve had for many years but most of these I read in 2018-2019 in preparation for my fourth original musical. This latest musical was widely considered by audience members to be my strongest musical theater work yet. I put the credit to many factors, but mostly it came down to really, really hard work and understanding the content in these books at a gut level.
This 10-part series takes an in-depth look at the process of bringing Shrek to Broadway through interviews with the Tony Award-winning creative team and cast, behind-the-scenes footage and exclusive content.