Additions and updates for Chapter 6 Characterising the Sound Story 

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 Six

Updates and additions for Chapter 6 ‘Characterising the Sound Story’ in Writing Audio Drama by Tim Crook, published by Routledge in 2023.

This chapter retrieves and evaluates the large amount of debate about what needs to be added and aspired to in sound playwriting from the point of view of characterization.

There is consensus that it is critical to avoid same age, same background, same way of talking in order to prevent listeners not being able to distinguish between their characters when only having their talking and existential sound available for imaginative construction, understanding and sympathy.

The advantage of this emphasis is that characterization through speech alone reaches a higher standard of vocal identity.

Because the auditory imagination is dependent upon the word alone or other characters’ words to what extent in sound drama should the writer respect the principle of less is best and allow for subtext?

References and discussion in this chapter explores anthropomorphic characterisation, particularly of parrots, and giving voice to inanimate though symbolic objects and body parts.

Analysis of writing by Juliet Ace, Giles Cooper, J.C.W Brook, Tiziano Scarpa, and Morton Wishengrad, and the importance of effective characterisation in recent podcast series such as Bronzeville and Margaritas and Donuts.

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

Giving Up (1978) by J.C.W Brook 

Analysis engaged pages 114, paragraph 2 and 115, paragraphs 1 & 2:

[Sleep noises from all over the body.]

RIGHT EAR:        Right ear to Brain. Right ear to Brain …

LEFT EAR:          [Overlaps] Left ear to Brain, left ear to Brain…

RIGHT EAR:       You keep out of this. I heard it first.

LEFT EAR:          I’m doing my job. When I hear something I report it. Left Ear to 

                                  Brain, Left Ear to Brain …

RIGHT EAR:       [Overlaps]  Right ear to Brain, Right Ear to Brain.

                             [Grunts and groans and bestirring noises from all over the body.]

OMNES:              Shut up Ears … Go back to sleep …Stuff some cotton wool in your

                                  orifices …etc.

BRAIN:               [Wakes] Errrmmmm … ahhh…ummm?

EARS:                 Alarm clock. Brain – alarm clock; time to get up.

                             [Ringing of alarm clock comes echoing through ears.]

BRAIN.               Oh dear…

RIGHT ARM:     Right Arm here, Brain. The usual?

BRAIN:               Ummm, please.

RIGHT ARM:     Stretching now…[Stretching noises] O.K. Fingers, first one on the

                                 button gets a manicure.

(Horstmann 1991:27)

Lobby Talk  by Juliet Ace BBC Radio 4 1990.

Analysis engaged page 115, paragraphs 3 to 7, and page 116, paragraphs 1 to 2:

(SQUAWKS) …My name is Coco. I might have preferred the dignity of Charles or Winston or Dwight …but in these difficult times, Coco is probably safer. My owner, a journalist whose name does not spring immediately to mind, left me here some years ago. Fouad, the Manager, could see that the ladies and gentlemen of the press, far from home and family, would appreciate someone who could speak to them in their own language and be sympathetic in their darker moments. So here I am. (SQUAWKS TWICE) I rank pretty high in parrot terms. I may not match particular parrots who appear in novels of magical realism … But – and this is important – I exist. I am internationally famous and I have learnt to speak more languages than any other parrot I have heard of. You must understand however that I cannot separate one language from another … I do not have that facility. Therefore I hear all languages as one. A language whose vocabulary extends into millions of words. More complex than Esperanto and without accent. What I hear, you will hear.


WALID:  OK. Wake up. But behave yourself. One word out of place, I might shut you up for good.

COCO: (INTERNAL VOICE) Boring little man.

(ALOUD. SQUAWKS) Gimme a scotch.

WALID: Shut up

COCO: Gimme a scotch. A large one you fool.

WALID: (HIGH PITCHED) Shut up! Shut up!


WALID: (OFF) One day he’ll open his mouth once too often.

COCO:  (INTERNAL VOICE) And so will he.

(MacLoughlin 1998:14-16)

Popcorn by Tiziano Scarpa RAI Italy 1997.

Analysis engaged page 116, paragraphs 3 and 4:

LUCIANA: Come out of there, do you hear me!

LORETO: I wouldn’t dream of it! First of all you must prepare me a proper lunch!

LUCIANA: I’ll knock the door down!

LORETO:  I haven’t eaten for three days, jailer!

LUCIANA: Is it my fault if you don’t eat anything? I put the food on the table and you don’t even look at it. Open the door!

LORETO: Thanks for nothing! The day before yesterday it was boiled chicken, yesterday hard boiled eggs and today roast chicken! You do it on purpose!

LUCIANA: Listen my dear, if you don’t like the menus in this house, take yourself down to the gardens. Sit yourself on the bench, wait for the old ladies to come by, tell them your usual stories…

LORETO: I don’t tell stories!

LUCIANA: … that will touch their hearts and they’ll crumble up a lovely cracker biscuit for you.

(Scarpa 1997)

Without The Grail by Giles Cooper (1918 – 1966)

Analysis engaged page 118, paragraph 3, and page 119, paragraphs 1 to 5:

INNES: (Fade in) … And a toothbrush, razor, tooth-paste, soap and towel.

HAZEL. But, Innes darling, what sort of job is it?

INNES: I’ve got to go and see a man.

HAZEL: All the way to wherever it is to see a man.

INNES: Assam.

HAZEL: To see one man.

INNES: Darling, that’s where he lives.

HAZEL: But why?

INNES: Confidential. Can I have those socks.

HAZEL: Honest, love, anyone would think you worked for the Secret Service, not a tea merchant.

INNES: We have our secrets. Handkerchiefs? Thanks.

      (Cooper 1966:127)

The Disagreeable Oyster by Giles Cooper

Analysis engaged page 120, paragraphs 1 to 6, and page 121, paragraph 1 to 2:

ANNOUNCER: This the BBC Third Programme. We present a play by Giles Cooper entitled, ‘The Disagreeable Oyster’.

BUNDY: You can say that again.

ANNOUNCER: ‘The Disagreeable Oyster’.

BUNDY: They do disagree with me, but how was I to know when I stood on the steps of the Rosedene Family and Commercial Hotel, thinking that the world was my oyster that …

BUNDY MINOR: Begin at the beginning.

BUNDY:  And the beginning is at twelve o’clock on a Saturday morning in my office at Craddock’s Calculators Ltd. It is not a nice office, even the typing pool have a narrow view of St Paul’s, but poor old Bundy …

BUNDY MINOR: My name, Mervyn Bundy …

BUNDY: Deputy Head of Costing, has to put up with an office looking out on an air shaft, and all I can see is the upstairs part of a mercantile bank …


BUNDY: That’s the beginning. I’m sitting at my desk on a fine May morning wondering whether it’s worth starting anything else before the week-end begins.

(Door opens noisily)

GUNN: Bundy! Good man. Bundy, glad you’re still here.

BUNDY: Yes, Mr Gunn?

GUNN: Bundy, there a crisis, pin your ears back and listen.

BUNDY MINOR: Mr Gunn has ginger hair growing out of his ears.

(ibid 85)

The Battle of the Warsaw Ghetto by Morton Wishengrad.

Analysis engaged page 124, paragraph 4, and page 125, paragraphs 1 to 2:

‘And now, we’ll see if you have learned your lesson …There are seven marks of an uncultured man and seven marks of a wise man. Do you know what they are, Samuel?’ (Wishengrad 1945:36).

‘It is not for thee to complete the work, but neither art thou free to desist from it. Yes, tell them to mark that on our graves’ (ibid 44).

[Face on recitation and sobbing of boy]

Narrator Isaac Davidson: This was our degradation. In the Ghetto of Warsaw we divided dead men’s bread. Have you tasted dead men’s bread? The taste is bitter, and it is dry in the mouth because the saliva will not flow. This is what we are and this is how we lived…

(ibid 40)

Companion Website Resources Chapter 6 Page 125

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