Additions and updates for Chapter 4 Achieving the Long Form Audio Drama 

Writing Audio Drama by Tim Crook published by Routledge 31st March 2023

Book Description

Writing Audio Drama offers a comprehensive and intelligent guide to writing sound drama for broadcasting and online. This book uses original research on the history of writing radio plays in the UK and USA to explore how this has informed and developed the art form for more than 100 years.

Audio drama in the context of podcasting is now experiencing a global and exponential expansion. Through analysis of examples of past and present writing, the author explains how to create drama which can explore deeply psychological and intimate themes and achieve emotional, truthful, entertaining and thought-provoking impact. Practical analysis of the key factors required to write successful audio drama is covered in chapters focusing on audio play beginnings and openings, sound story dialogue, sustaining the sound story, plotting for sound drama, and the best ways of ending audio plays. Chapters are supported by online resources which expand visually on subjects discussed and point to exemplary sound dramas referenced in the chapters.

This textbook will be an important resource for advanced undergraduate and postgraduate students taking courses such as Podcasting, Radio, Audio Drama, Scriptwriting, and Media Writing.

Chapter Four

Updates and additions to Chapter 4 ‘Achieving the Long Form Audio Drama’ for the book Writing Audio Drama by Tim Crook and published by Routledge in 2023

Analysing how sound drama became so central and popular to US networked radio programming by the late 1930s and 1940s and how long form story telling was developed at the BBC in Britain through dramatization of contemporary novels and the writing and production of original full-length plays. Analysis and discussion of developing theories and strategies for writing successful sound drama including Erik Barnouw in the USA in 1940, and the relevance of academic debates and theories about audio drama by the author himself and Erik Huwiler.

The chapter then moves onto detailed and comprehensive analysis of the BBC’s contemporary and award-winning series  Life Lines and using Gordon Lea’s 1926 template Radio Drama and how to write it–  who said creating sound drama was like conjuring  ‘The world in a buttercup and jewels against a background of black velvet.’

Lifelines  is an excellent model and example of sound drama being produced and listened to as a hybrid radio and podcasting experience.

The chapter investigates how the Tom Stoppard of the 1920s, Reginald Berkeley bridged achievements in dramatizing consciousness with modernist technique. 

The chapter further analyses significant examples of long form audio story telling by L du Garde Peach with his BBC play The Mary Celeste: A Mystery of the Sea (1931) and Tyrone Guthrie’s Squirrel’s Cage (1929) and Flowers Are Not For You To Pick (1930).

Gordon Lea’s 1926 book Radio Drama and How to Write It published by Allen & Unwin may be available online from second hand booksellers listed on Amazon or Abebooks. It is held by a number of libraries and these are listed by Worldcat at: At the time of writing three editions were held by 30 libraries around the world.

Tyrone Guthrie’s Squirrel’s cage : and two other microphone plays published by Cobden-Sanderson, London in 1931 is listed by Worldcat in 3 editions and held at 69 libraries around the world. See:

L du Garde Peach’s Radio Plays including Mary Celeste published by Newnes in 1931 is listed by Worldcat with seven editions and held by 40 libraries around the world. See:

Again it is possible these books may be for sale by second hand booksellers.

First Episode of Season Five of BBC R4 Lifelines by Al Smith, directed by Sally Avens


Released On: 15 Sep 2021

By Al Smith

Carrie ….. Sarah Ridgeway
Will ….. Rick Warden
Ian ….. Michael Jibson
Abbas ….. Sharif Dorani
Joyce ….. Helen Norton
Angelica ….. Saffron Coomber
Devin ….. Justice Ritchie
Tom ….. Sam Dale
Jo ….. Grace Cooper Milton
Paul ….. Luke Nunn
Andy ….. Shaun Mason
Chris ….. Joseph Ayre
Gwen ….. Christine Kavanagh

Director ….. Sally Avens

‘The award-winning drama series set in an ambulance control centre returns. Carrie faces a series of heart-stopping emergencies at work. But when her judgement is called into question over a patient who later died, she finds her work and personal life colliding dangerously.’

Extracts selected and analysed in the printed text for the purposes of criticism and review, scholarship and learning.

The Mary Celeste: A Mystery of the Sea– by L du Garde Peach  (1890 – 1970).

Analysis on Page 82, paragraph 4:

ENGLISHMAN: What had happened to her ?

AMERICAN: Nobody knows. There wasn’t enough evidence aboard to hang a cat. All that was ever noticed were a couple of long white marks— kind of cuts, as though they’d been done with a chisel—at her bows, and an axe stuck deep into her wooden rail. There’s no doubt the crew had left in a hurry about ten days before she was found—they discovered that from her log. They’d taken the chronometer and the sextant, but why they left and what had been happening aboard the Mary Celeste remains one of those— (His voice faces into the preliminary noises of Scene 1.)


(The sound of waves and of wind fades in and continues as a faint background.)

(du Garde Peach 1931:73)

Analysis on Page 82, paragraph 5:

MATE: Hello ! Below there. Hello ! Is there anyone below ?

SAILOR: Maybe they’re all dead.

MATE: Or drunk.

SAILOR: No. This ain’t the sort of ship nobody couldn’t get drunk on, not along of Cap’n Briggs, they couldn’t. I sailed aboard her once meself and I know.

MATE: It’s mighty queer.

(ibid 79)

Analysis on Page 83, paragraph 1:

CAPTAIN M. You’ll stay aboard with two men. Shake out that reefed topsail and keep her close. She may be a mystery, but she’s salvage, and that’s where you and me come in, Mr. Deveau. All the same, I’d give a fist full of dollars just to—  Say, do you know what some of the last words was that ever I heard Cap’n Briggs say ? He said to me, “The sea’s a mighty queer place, Cap’n, as you’ll one day find out. A sailor needs religion, I guess, more’m most.”

(His voice faces to Scene VII.)


(Captain Briggs’ voice echoes the words spoken by Captain Morehouse, word for word as they are spoken, and his voice swells sup as that of Captain Morehouse fades out. This is to indicate a cut back in time to the supper party before the MARY CELESTE sailed.)

CAPTAIN B.: The sea’s a might queer place, Cap’n, as you’ll one day find out. A sailor needs religion, I guess, more’n most.  Ten o’clock. I must be going. I sail with the morning tide.

(ibid 82)

Analysis on Page 83, paragraph 2:

2ND MATE (coming up) : Careful, damn you. We’ll need that. (Confused noises with cries of “Steady,” “Hold her off,” “Jump,” “Look out below,” etc.)

STEWARD: All clear.

2ND MATE: Push off. (The sound of waves is now louder. A moment’s pause.)

MRS. B. (screaming) : Look !  Look !

CAPTAIN B. (with terror in his voice) : My God ! An octopus—a giant octopus ! Row ! Row for your lives ! Pull—for God’s sake—


(ibid 110)

Squirrel’s Cage and Flowers Are Not For You To Pick, by Tyrone Guthrie (1900 – 1971).

Squirrel’s Cage 

Analysis Page 84, paragraph 2: 

There is no “narration” ; scene and interlude follow one another without a break. After the end of each episode there should be one stroke of a bell, then the scream of a siren, suggesting a rush through time and space.

    The “Scenes” should be played very intimately— in rather a low key ; in contrast to the “Interludes,” which are to be bold and reverberating, each one working up to a thunderous climax.

(ibid 14)

Analysis Page 85, paragraph 1: 

(The rhythmic puffing of a train accompanies the dialogue.)


Tickets please, show your tickets, please. Season, sir ? All right ! …She’s late again. I have to run to the office as it is … Do you mind if we have the window open ? …Care to see the paper, sir ? … Do you mind if we have the window shut ?… Tickets please— all tickets ready, please. Season, sir ? All right … Do you mind if we have the window open ?… It simply means I’ll have to go on the 8.10…I don’t know what this line’s coming to … Do you mind if we have the window shut ? … All tickets ready please—Season, sir ? All right … Late again. I don’t know what this line’s coming to … Do you mind if we have the window open ? …Simply means I’ll have to go on the 8.10 …Care to see the paper, sir ? … Do you mind if we have the window shut ?…

(Guthrie 1931:59)

Analysis Page 85, paragraph 2: 

(Fragments of Interludes II and III are repeated.)

[They cross-fade one into the other.]

The effect should be a composite image of the “Commuter’s” day—trains fading into typewriters—railway-lines merging into lines of print—the columns of bobbing bowlers into columns of pounds, shilling and pence….Dissolving view.

(ibid 75)

Flowers Are Not For You To Pick

Analysis Page 85, paragraph 5: 


    It is said that their past lives float before the eyes of drowning men. From a ship, bound for China, a young clergyman has fallen overboard…even now he is struggling for life in the water…

[The sound of Waves fade in.

His name is Edward. And before his eyes float pictures …voices sound in his ears …voices …voices…his past life …

[The Waves fade as the first scene begins.

(Guthie 1931: 141)

Analysis Page 86, paragraphs 1 to 3: 


I wonder what time it is ? … time …where am I ? …no ground beneath my feet …no sky…then …ah, yes, they say it floats before one …floats … the past… the past, the present and the … sudden death … from battle, murder and sudden … Litany … must say the litany … Dunwoody, I want you to lead the responses in the litany … a long … time … ago … I was on board … someone said good-night … I went to my cabin, at least, I thought it was mine … perhaps I made a mistake … I suppose if anyone was watching they would see a chain of bubbles— floating, bobbing to the surface … bob, bob, bob, bob, bob, bob, bob, surface … they say one rises to the surface … three times … and after that … I wonder … There go my spectacles …sinking … sinking … I knew I’d shed them off at last … One thing, I’m glad I went down in my dog-collar.



Hide your eyes, Edward … you’re to stand under the cedar, Edward, till you hear us call cuckoo.


Edward, look, the first star.




Ah-ha-ha, Mr. Edward.


I suppose it’s as well to admit frankly that one’s groping.


Yes, groping…searching…and the more one searches the more difficult the truth is to find.


Like Hide-and-Seek. The meaning of things seems to call cuckoo from behind the trees.


You know quite well that the flowers are not for you to pick.


In the Independent…you didn’t see it ?


Wh-what is it ?


She’s married.


Mind my wee cactus.




Don’t get lost in China—you must come back safe home.




Look, Edward, the first star.


Vanessa… I love you.







    (Faintly, far-off) Cuckoo.


    (Answering) Com-ing.

    [Waves—then silence.

(ibid 207)

Companion Website Resources Chapter 4 Page 86

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