The Radio Drama Handbook – Writing For Radio

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In order for this project to be of any use at all, I need to create a captivating and interesting story. Without a good plot and script, the best production values and soundscapes in the world would be little more than elevator ambience.

I bought a copy of the Radio Drama Handbook: Audio Drama in Practice and Context by Richard J. Hand and Mary Traynor recently and have thoroughly enjoyed it. I really like the fact that the authors draw on many online examples and don’t seem to suffer the tunnel vision of ‘the only radio drama is BBC radio drama’ that some other textbooks do.

The chapter on writing was very helpful, the authors points and the selection of quotes used were pertinent calls to action, I will take a look at some of them in this post.

On page 104 Scott Hickey and Robert Madia are quoted, responding to the “show, don’t tell” advice for writers and arguing that “Dialogue is showing for the ear. Narration is telling.” This is a great point in my opinion, I’m personally not keen on using narration in audio drama and don’t plan on having any in this project. I think there are plenty of ways around it, use of television and radio running underneath character conversations for example, feeding you chunks of the story world from the story world itself, not outside of it.

Throughout the book, Hand and Traynor are keen to refute the well repeated claim that radio drama is a “blind medium”. On the same page we see a quote from Rosemary Horstmann, who talks about ‘the theatre of the mind’, and the fact that “the writer can move his characters instantly backwards through the centuries, or forwards into the future. He can set the first scene on an airliner and the next at the bottom of the sea. If he chooses to send his protagonist to the South Pole we can go with him every step of the way. This is liberation indeed.”

The authors expand upon this, suggesting that audio drama is not “blind”, but instead “has the potential to be limitless to an extent which would challenge any other medium. Exotic locations and elaborate set pieces could propel a film budget into multi-millions. Even what we might expect to be a ‘quick fix’ with CGI can be technically demanding and expensive. It may be the greatest sequence ever envisioned, but practical or financial reasons make it utterly prohibitive. However, audio drama has the potential to realise anything.” (page 105)

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