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.
The content of all the companion web-pages for this project is in the process of development, and completion is expected 31st December 2023 following the publication of the printed book 31st March 2023. Many thanks for your patience and consideration.
Updates and additions for Chapter 7 ‘Dialogue and the Sound Story’ in Writing Audio Drama by Tim Crook published by Routledge in 2023.
Dialogue is the mainstay of sound story narrative and drama. It is the conduit for conflict, characterization and plot development.
This chapter debates whether the imperative of a sound story is better achieved by dialogic imaginative exposition or the interception and interplay of first singular narrative?
The chapter references Timothy West’s training script This Gun That I Have in My Right Hand is Loaded, as an example of how not to write audio drama dialogue, distinguishing successful dialogue based on situation and character in the Dad’s Army British sitcom of the 1970s, model dialogue in Anthony Minghella’s Cigarettes and Chocolate, verse drama dialogue in Norman Corwin’s The Undecided Molecule, Giles Cooper’s Without The Grail, and Morten Wishengrad’s The Battle of the Warsaw Ghetto.
Extracts selected and analysed in the printed text for the purposes of criticism and review, scholarship and learning.
This Gun That I Have in My Right Hand is Loaded (1959) by Timothy West.
Analysis engaged page 127, paragraphs 1 to 5:
(BRING UP MUSIC THEN CROSSFADE TO TRAFFIC NOISES. WIND BACKED BY SHIP’S SIRENS, DOG BARKING, HANSOM CAB, ECHOING FOOTSTEPS, KEY CHAIN, DOOR OPENING, SHUTTING)
LAURA: (off) Who’s that?
CLIVE: Who do you think, Laura, my dear? Your husband.
(approaching) Why, Clive!
RICHARD: Hello, Daddy.
CLIVE: Hello, Richard. My, what a big boy you’re getting. Let’s see, how old are you now?
RICHARD; I’m six, Daddy.
LAURA: Now Daddy’s tired, Richard, run along upstairs and I’ll call you when it’s supper time.
RICHARD: All right, Mummy.
(RICHARD RUNS HEAVILY UP WOODEN STAIRS)
LAURA: What’s that you’ve got under your arm, Clive?
CLIVE: It’s an evening paper, Laura.
I’ve just been reading about the Oppenheimer smuggling case. (effort noise) Good gracious, it’s nice to sit down after that long train journey from the insurance office in the City.
LAURA: Let me get you a drink, Clive darling.
(LENGTHY POURING, CLINK)
CLIVE: Thank you, Laura, my dear.
(CLINK, SIP, GULP)
Aah! Amontillado, eh? Good stuff. What are you having?
LAURA: I think I’ll have a whisky, if it’s all the same to you.
(CLINK, POURING, SYPHON)
CLIVE: Whisky, eh? That’s a strange drink for an attractive auburn-haired girl of twenty nine. Is there … anything wrong?
LAURA: No, it’s nothing, Clive, I –
LAURA: No, really, I –
CLIVE: You’re my wife, Laura. Whatever it is, you can tell me. I’m your husband. Why, we’ve been married – let me see – eight years, isn’t it?
Dad’s Army by Jimmy Perry and David Croft and adapted for radio by Harold Snoad and Michael Knowles.
Episode ‘The Loneliness of the Long Distance Walker’
Analysis engaged page 128, paragraphs 4 to 6, and page 129, paragraphs 1 to 3:
KNOCKING ON A DOOR
BRIG: Come in.
CAPT: Excuse me Brigadier.
BRIG: Yes, Captain. What is it?
CAPT: There’s a Mr Mainwaring and a Mr Wilson to see you sir. They have an appointment for five o’clock.
BRIG: Oh good lord. I’d forgotten all about them. Yes, it’s all the fault of that damn brother-in-law of mine.
CAPT: How do you mean sir?
BRIG: Well, he’s CO of this PT outfit. And he’s a mad keen heel and toe merchant.
CAPT: Heel and toe merchant sir?
BRIG: Yes, long distance walker. He won the London to Brighton race in ‘37.
CAPT: Oh, I see.
BRIG: Yes, he wants to get together a crowd of fellas to make up a crack team.
CAPT: What’s this got to do with the Home Guard sir?
BRIG: Well he thought there might be lots of fellas in the Home Guard waiting for their call up. So he asked me to send out a general round robin to some of the units asking if they’d got any champions due to go into the army.
CAPT: Did you have any luck sir?
BRIG: No, no. No good at all. Didn’t get a single answer.
That was until a few days ago. Then I got this telegram. Look.
CAPT: Thank you sir.
(HE HANDS TELEGRAM TO THE CAPTAIN)
CAPT: (READS) Desirable Walker not called up yet. Will call on you tomorrow – 1700 hours. Captain Mainwaring, First Platoon, Walmington-on-Sea Home Guard.
BRIG. Umm. Odd thing is – that’s not one of the units I sent the round robin to. However, I, I’d better see them and get rid of them as quickly as possible. Bring, bring them in Cutts.
CAPT: Right sir. (OPENS DOOR) Mr Mainwaring, Mr Wilson …Would you come in, please.
(MAIN AND WILSON ENTER)
MAIN: Thank you.
WILSON: Thank you very much indeed.
BRIG: Afternoon gentlemen.
MAIN: Good afternoon sir. Very good of you to see us.
BRIG: Sit down, gentlemen. I can give you five minutes only. Now we’ll just take down the details. What’s this walker’s name?
MAIN: I beg your pardon sir?
BRIG: The walker’s name. What is it?
MAIN: Walker, sir.
BRIG: Do you mean to say you’ve got a walker named Walker?
MAIN: Yes, sir.
BRIG: That’s unusual – eh, Cutts!
CAPT: Oh, I don’t know, sir. I once knew a tailor named Tailor.
BRIG: Oh did you really?
CAPT: Yes, sir.
BRIG Yes, well perhaps you’re right. Well, go on. What’s this Walker’s record?
MAIN: His record, sir?
BRIG: He’s got a record, hasn’t he?
MAIN: (ASIDE TO WILSON) Has he got a record, Wilson?
WILSON: I don’t think he’s ever been found out, sir.
MAIN: No record, sir.
BRIG: Well – is he good?
MAIN: Oh yes – very good, sir.
BRIG: How the hell can he be good if he hasn’t got a record?
MAIN: I don’t think I quite follow you sir.
BRIG: Are you keeping track of this Cutts?
CAPT: I’m doing my best, sir.
BRIG: Look – is he one of the London to Brighton walkers?
MAIN: No, sir. No. I think he’s one of the WaLmington-on-Sea Walkers.
BRIG: Sea Walkers?
MAIN: No, J. Walker, sir.
MAIN: Yes, Joe Walker – that’s his full name.
BRIG: I know what his name is, but how do you know he’s a walker?
MAIN: Because he told us so!
WILSON: That’s right – he distinctly said – ‘I’m Walker’.
BRIG: Surely he said – I’m a Walker
MAIN: No, no sir. No. Not A Walker. – he said ‘I’m J. Walker’.
BRIG: Have you got all this down Cutts?
CAPT: Well I think so sir.
BRIG: Well try and keep up. Try and keep up. Now gentlemen, when is he due for call-up?
MAIN: Oh very soon. He goes for his medical next week.
BRIG: Very well – leave it to me. I’ll see what I can do. Good day. Good day.
MAIN: Thank you very much, sir.
BRIG: See them out Captain.
CAPT: Very good sir. Right gentlemen.
(DOOR OPENS. BUZZER ALARM SOUNDS.)
CAPT: Oh. That’s the air-raid warning. Mr Mainwaring, Mr Wilson. You’d better go down to the shelter in the basement. It’s along the passage and down the stairs.
MAIN: Oh thanks. Good day.
BRIG: A. Walker – J. Walker – those two are up the pole if you ask me. (TEARS UP THE PAPER) If my brother-in-law wants any walkers, he’ll have to get them himself.
CAPT: Hadn’t we better beat it down to the shelter, sir?
BRIG: What! With those two lunatics. You can if you like – I’d rather take my chances up here.
(Perry & Croft 1998:65-8) [Adjusted to match the radio adaptation]
Episode ‘Keep Young and Beautiful’
Analysis engaged page 129, paragraphs 4 & 5, and page 130, paragraphs 1 & 2:
MAIN: I was pouring scorn upon you and I had no right to do such a thing. No right at all. I have to tell you that um. I too have taken steps to appear, more.. well – more virile.
WILSON: Oh my God, not monkey glands?
MAIN: No, no, no. Certainly not – nothing as drastic as that. Look! When I take my hat off. There. What do you think of that?
[HE REMOVES HIS HAT, REVEALING THE TOUPÉE.]
WILSON: Oh. Ha ha ha! A wig! Oh it’s terribly…It’s awfully good. Ha ha ha. It’s really awfully good.
[WILSON’S WORDS BREAK DOWN INTO UNCONTROLLABLE LAUGHTER.]
It’s really good sir. Ha ha ha. Oh dear oh dear. Ha ha ha.
MAIN: Well be careful. You’ll snap your girdle.
(Perry & Croft 2002:50) [Adjusted to match the radio adaptation]
Cigarettes and Chocolate by Anthony Minghella
Analysis engaged page 130, paragraphs 3 to 5 and page 131, paragraphs 1 to 3:
GAIL: …What are you two doing here? Is this really an assignation?
GAIL: How exciting. Is a threesome out of the question?
ROB: Jump in.
GAIL: How’s Gemma?
ROB: She’s great.
GAIL: She doesn’t ring back when you leave a message on that bloody machine. What’s the matter with her, the old bag? I wanted her to come and look at some places with me. I’ve only discovered this café since I’ve been flat-hunting. It’s really nice, isn’t it?
GAIL: I know that I wanted to ask you Lorna… (Deflected) Look at you both, I forgot you were all in Italy together, look at you, it’s not the coat, well it is the coat, but it’s the colour…it’s February and you’ve both caught the sun! Was it wonderful?
ROB: It was. Tom was wonderful. The grown-ups were okay. Stephen cheated at Scrabble.
LORNA: So did you.
ROB: I cheated openly. Stephen pretended he wasn’t. I always cheat. If you always cheat, it’s hardly cheating at all, is the way I look at it.
GAIL: Did Gemma have a good time? Oh, God, you pigs, I love Italy.
LORNA: Gemma was fine. Political.
ROB: She wasn’t political.
LORNA: She wanted to adopt a Vietnamese baby we saw outside the Uffizi.
LORNA: Why, Rob?
ROB: That’s not fair. The context was…that’s not fair, Lorna. It was because, we were having such a good time.
GAIL: I’m having a nice time. I think I’ll adopt that Vietnamese boy? Was he up for sale?
ROB: No. No, of course not. No, he had Dutch parents. At least we assumed they were Dutch. They wore those funny shoes that you can get in Covent Garden: so ugly you can convince yourself they’re good for you. Only Dutch people wear them.
GAIL: You mean clogs?
ROB: Not clogs. Those shoes which look like somebody ran over a pair of Nature Treks. And they had this Vietnamese boy, extraordinarily beautiful. (Consulting LORNA) Wasn’t he? (To the WAITRESS who’s arrived with the coffees) Thanks. Do you want anything else, Gail? We could get you up to fifteen pounds if you’re interested.
LORNA: I’m going to have to get my skates on shortly.
ROB: Really? Should I cancel the hotel room?
LORNA: (saying ‘Yes’) Sorry.
Undecided Molecule by Norman Corwin
Analysis engaged page 133, paragraphs 3 & 4:
CLERK: The spokesman for the animal king-
dom, et cetera, species of bird,
bee, dog, flea, hen, men—does
solemnly swear, et cetera, in the
name of llama, gnu, auk, yak,
kangaroo, Slippery Dan, Charlie
Chan, the Common Man, and so
That he (or she) will please go forth
And testify to the legal corps.
ANIMA: Thank you. I gladly take the floor.
JUDGE: Mm. Rather pretty. Eh bien. Alors.
ANIMA: I could fascinate X with the mystery
Of our considerable natural history,
And tell him the fame
Of each colourful name—
JUDGE: Go on. I’m goose-pimply and blistery.
ANIMA: I could tell of a bird named the smew
And another yclept urubu—
Of the dziggetai, dzo,
And of zingel roe—
JUDGE: And a fish that is called inconnu.
ANIMA: Quite true.
JUDGE: And a monkey that’s called wanderoo.
ANIMA: Quite true.
JUDGE: Oh, I just love to listen to you.
Holy Grail by Giles Cooper.
Analysis engaged page 135, paragraphs 4 & 5:
(Fade in Car running: It slows and stops.)
INNES: What’s the matter?
INDIAN DRIVER: Stop to cool engine.
INNES: Okay, you’re the driver (Pause.) So this is the jungle.
DRIVER: Yes, all jungle here.
INNES: H’m. . . . Very dusty looking.
DRIVER: The road is making it dusty. Inside is green.
INNES: There’s a railway line over there. Where does it go?
DRIVER: No place into the jungle, stop.
INNES: Eh? . . . Why?
DRIVER: Military reasons. Now abandoned.
DRIVER: Yes, wartime. In Assam there were armies all the time. Now in the jungle here live all things.
INNES: Er—animals, you mean?
DRIVER: No, things. Wheels and chains gone rusting. Old guns and tanks not moving. In one place were fifty thousand teeth-brush, abandoned. All Abandoned.
(Car starts and moves off. Fade out.)
(McWhinnie 1959: 52)
The Battle of Warsaw by Morton Wishengrad
Analysis engaged page 136, paragraphs 4 & 5, and page 137, paragraphs 1 to 3:
NARRATOR. We were left with hunger. And where there is hunger, the plague always follows. The plague came and 17,800 persons died of spotted typhus in Warsaw. And of these 15,758 were Jews. A pestilence imprisoned behind a brick wall, a great achievement of medical science—I say it without irony. Yes, 15,758—and Dvora Davidson, my wife …15,759. [Gently on cue]. Samuel leave her. You cannot help her any more.
BOY. Mama, mamma!
NARRATOR: Come here. Come here, Samuel. She cannot hear you. You are a big boy. You mustn’t cry. Here, let me wash your face. She wouldn’t like to see you with a dirty face. Stop crying now.
BOY. I’ll try.
NARRATOR. Will you do something for me, Samuel?
BOY. Yes, if I can.
NARRATOR. I want you to go to your corner; I want you to try to go to sleep.
BOY. I couldn’t … I couldn’t sleep, papa.
NARRATOR. Then go to your corner and turn your face away. Mind me. Do as your father says. [Pause] That’s right, to the wall. You are a good boy, Samuel.
BOY [Off mike, suggesting face turned away in his following speeches].
You will not hurt her, papa?
NARRATOR. No one can hurt her. [Pause] I am taking off her clothes. Her apron, her dress, Uncle Avrum’s shoes—everything. Naked came I out of my mother’s womb and naked shall I return thither.
BOY. [Sobbing]. You are going to carry her into the street.
NARRATOR. Yes, after dark I am going to carry her into the street … and I will leave her there …cold, naked, nameless. You know why I must do this, Samuel. They must not be able to identify her. They must not know who she is.
BOY. [Sobbing]. It’s because of the bread card, papa.
NARRATOR. Yes, it’s because of the bread card. If they identify her as Dvora Davidson, they will take it away. They must not be able to identify her.
Companion Website Resources Chapter 7 Page 137
- Additions and Updates for Chapter 7 Dialogue and the Sound Story https://kulturapress.com/2022/08/12/updates-for-chapter-7-dialogue-and-the-sound-story/
- US Radio Drama History
- Winsome Pinnock and Radio Drama
- Radio Drama and Dramatising Classical and Modern Literature
- Short Story Radio Drama – Broken Porcelain by Tim Crook
- Independent Radio Drama Productions IRDP
- Arch Oboler and Radio Drama
- Archibald MacLeish and Radio Drama