Playbuilding tends to be a process involving a group in which decisions are made collaboratively. Writing a script tends to focus on the outcome, a literary work, and usually one author writes the script, though there may be co-authors. Thus in both, the elements of plot and characters are likely to be included but may be reached differently. In playbuilding, the company might decide that two characters are central; the actors playing those characters might engage in extensive improvisation to arrive at the events in the plot. Writing a play, the author could be more invested in the dramatic element of thought, or ideas, and have a definite story in mind with a clear vision of the climax, and then create the characters necessary to bring about that conclusion.
Collaboration is one of the strongest aspects of playbuilding. The group that builds the play can include people with every type of skill and interest. While some may be trained actors, others may be singers, musicians, dancers, gymnasts, or other kinds of performers. Still others may have set or costume design backgrounds. Even more likely, however, is that the boundaries will be blurred among all these categories. The whole group might decide that all of them will dance or sing, and the group will collaboratively work out the movements or vocals.
In writing a script, the author may feel they have the musical as well as literary skills to write songs as well as text. In many cases, however, the writer will retain the services of a specialist in songwriting to carry out that part of the script, or even complete the text first and then have songs written and inserted later.
Within playbuilding, a traditional script is far less likely to be the group's primary goal. Playbuilding is often a type of experiential education in which all participants learn about all aspects of theatrical preparation and performance. Collaboration and building group cohesion may be primary goals in and of themselves. Performances may be deliberately quite unique: the entire performance could be improvised, rather than follow a script, and each successive performance could be totally different from the last.
In writing a script, the author may be highly aware of the plot structure and the language used. Creating specific literary effects may be a writer's higher priority than realizing a production of the play. Some prolific playwrights have seen only a fraction of their plays produced, or write scripts that have not been or were not intended to be produced.
In addition, the classic elements of drama—be they plot, character, and conventions of staging—might be set aside entirely. One notable way this occurs regards the audience, which was traditionally separate from the production. This blurring is more typical of, but not exclusive to, playbuilding. Rather than a proscenium separating play and public, playbuilders might aim for theater-in-the-round, having performers intermingle with the audience, or creating a performance completely outside of any theater, such as on an urban street. In this respect, the spectacle element of drama might assume a much larger role than usual.
Playwrights can emphasize language even over plot, creating lines in dialogue or monologue forms that are very difficult for actors to deliver because of the author's greater interest in the language itself.
While much theater and drama today is likely to combine parts of both approaches, overall, playbuilding and script writing have different emphases.