Inner Voices: How writers create character

When writing drama for TV or radio, how do you find the voice of your character?

From William Blake to Charles Dickens, authors have written or talked about experiencing auditory verbal hallucinations when writing fiction or hearing voices that others cannot hear. So is this the same when writing for radio or television? And if so, do writers hear characters as clearly as if a real person were speaking or as an external voice outside of themselves?

In this podcast we hear from accomplished TV and radio writers Sarah Phelps and Al Smith and from Dr. Jennifer Hodgson, co-author of The Writers' Inner Voices project, the first ever large-scale investigation into how writers and storytellers hear voices.

“The people in your head are sometimes more real than those in real life!" – Sarah Phelps

They discuss what it feels like to hear characters, whether there’s a difference between creating characters for television, radio and written fiction and the practicalities of script writing.

Sarah Phelps penned the demise of Dirty Den in EastEnders. She brought to life iconic Dickens characters Miss Havisham and Fagin for her TV adaptations of Oliver Twist and Great ExpectationsShe also wrote the World War One drama The Crimson Field and adapted JK Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy for BBC One.

Al Smith has written for TV and radio. He has written for EastEnders and Holby City, co-created teen drama The Cut for BBC Two and wrote Life in the Freezer and The Postman of Good Hope for BBC Radio 4.

Dr. Jennifer Hodgson is a writer and teacher. She holds a PhD in English Studies and has taught on the undergraduate Introduction to the Novel and Post-war Fiction and Poetry course at Durham University as well as postgraduate courses such as Research Methods and Resources modules.

The podcast is presented by BBC Academy producer Helen Hutchinson.