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 8 ‘Sustaining the Sound Story’ in Writing Audio Drama by Tim Crook published by Routledge in 2023.
This chapter reprises the developing techniques, devices and conventions of sustaining listening commitment to sound dramas.
What can be learned from the ‘great’ writing in the visual drama media?
Significant focus is made on ironic transposition- a concept developed by the author as an enduring method of involving the listening audience in the emotional, political, cultural and humanitarian dimension of dramatic understanding, identification and sympathy with plot and characterization.
Does the listening medium require an embedding of climactic resolution, mystery and intensity within a specific linear time unit?
The author suggests a five minute frame and explores how this can be achieved.
How can sound transitions between scenes enhance and advance the exposition of audio drama plotting and storytelling?
The author identifies models from film and theatre, as well as the audio drama genre.
Extracts selected and analysed in the printed text for the purposes of criticism and review, scholarship and learning.
Artist Descending A Staircase by Tom Stoppard.
Analysis engaged page 145, paragraph 1:
BEAUCHAMP: I paid him the compliment of letting him hear how my master-tape was progressing…
(BEAUCHAMP’S ‘master-tape’ is a bubbling cauldron of squeaks, gurgles, crackles, and other unharmonious noises. He allows it to play for longer than one would reasonably hope.)
Analysis engaged page 145, paragraph 2:
DONNER: …And how do I know he wasn’t lying, just getting his own back?—you see, I damaged his figure, slightly … He was working on it—I didn’t know what it was—And I brought him a cup of tea—
(MARTELLO is scraping and chipping, and clicking his tongue, and scraping again. He sighs.)
DONNER: That’s it—help yourself to sugar.
BBC Radio Drama 1976. Maigret Sets A Trap adaptation by Aubrey Woods.
Analysis engaged page 145, paragraphs 3 to 6, and page 146 paragraphs 1 to 3:
MAIGRET: The time this latest murder was committed, the stabbing, the slashing of the clothes, all that was identical with the other crimes. But there was one difference. The girl who was killed at the corner of the Rue de Maistre was tall, slim, totally unlike the other victims. Did either of you notice that every woman Moncin struck down was short, plump, similar to yourselves? Madame. Or were you unwilling to admit that every time he killed he was in his mind killing one of you, trying to assert his right to some sort of freedom, some existence apart from you? Do you still think it was worth either of you risking your necks to save such a man? Although I suppose you’d regard it as preserving what you consider to be your property.
MOTHER: I am perfectly willing to die for my son. He is my child. It doesn’t matter to me what he has done. It doesn’t matter to me what becomes of the little tarts who walk the streets of Montmartre at night.
MAIGRET. You killed Jeanine Laurent?
MOTHER: I do not know her name?
MAIGRET You are responsible for the murder committed in the Rue de Maistre last night?
MAIGRET: In that case, can you tell me the colour of the victim’s dress?
MOTHER: I… It was too dark to see.
MAIGRET: She was killed less than five yards from a street lamp.
MOTHER: I didn’t pay attention.
MAIGRET: But when you slashed the material? The colour Madame?
YVONNE MONCIN: The dress was blue.
Dad’s Army ‘The Deadly Attachment’ episode. By David Croft and Jimmy Perry adapted by Harold Snoad and Michael Knowles.
Analysis engaged page 146, paragraphs 4 to 6:
CAPTAIN MAIN: …These men are part of a nation of unthinking automatons, led by a lunatic who looks like Charlie Chaplin.
CAPTAIN MULLER: How dare you compare our glorious leader with that non-Aryan clown. You see this notebook captain? I am going to make a list of all your insults. Your name will go on this list and when we win the war, you will be brought to account.
CAPTAIN MAIN: You can put down what you like there. You’re not going to win this war.
CAPTAIN MULLER: Oh yes we are.
CAPTAIN MAIN: Oh no you’re not.
CAPTAIN MULLER: Oh yes we are.
PRIVATE PIKE (Off) Whistle while you work,
Hitler is a jerk,
He’s half barmy,
So’s his army,
Whistle while you work…
CAPTAIN MULLER: (Interrupting Pike) You boy. Your name will also go on the list. What is it?
CAPTAIN MAIN: Don’t tell him Pike!
(Croft & Perry 2002:167 Adjusted to match radio adaptation)
The Battle of the Warsaw Ghetto byMorton Wishengrad
Analysis engaged page 146, paragraphs 3 & 4:
WOMAN. Come in, this where you stay—in this room.
DVORA. But you live here.
WOMAN. In this corner. The other corner is yours.
DVORA. But I thought …
WOMAN. You don’t know how lucky you are. This room has a window.
DVORA. Perhaps we shouldn’t trouble you. Maybe … some other place.
WOMAN. [Laughing bitterly]. You’ll find out. Before they walled the Ghetto, fifty thousand people lived in these slums …
DVORA. Yes, but …
WOMAN. Do you know how many are here now? Five hundred thousand! A half million! I know a man who sleeps in a vault in the cemetery. Don’t be a fool, come in. It’s still better than the cemetery.
Companion Websie Resources Chapter 8 Page 148 & 149
- Additions and Updates for Chapter 8 Sustaining the Sound Story: Techniques and Devices
- Roy Williams and Radio Drama
- Sir Lenny Henry and Radio Drama
- Tanika Gupta and Radio Plays
- Mabel Constanduros and Radio Drama
- Martin Esslin Radio Drama and National Theatre of the Air