How to write a radio play
Read our guide: How to Write a radio play
Fiona Ledger, BBC Drama Producer, offers the following thoughts on writing for radio.
Radio is an extraordinary medium. A radio play can travel through time and space, between centuries and continents. It can take place in an aeroplane, down a goldmine, on a ship; it can also take place within the confines of somebody's mind.
In addition to speech, the writer needs to think about sound effects, music, and, something rarely appreciated by the inexperienced writer, silence. Silence can convey a variety of things: suspense, anxiety, tranquillity. Pauses also help listeners take in what they have heard and help prepare for what happens next.
You can write on any subject that tackles the lives of Africans. Your play can be set in the past, present or future. Try not to cram too much in, whether in terms of events or ideas.
A radio play has scenes like a stage play, but these can be swift and fragmentary, as well as long and solid. It is useful to think of a scene as a sequence. One sequence, or scene, might consist of one line of dialogue, or it might just consist of a crucial sound effect (know as FX).
Number of characters
Do not have more than 6 characters in a half hour play. There is a risk of confusion if you do. Remember also that the listener only knows the character exists if that character speaks, or if another character refers to him or her by name.
Information for Actors
It is very useful for actors to write into the script adjectives describing the way in which a line should be said, e.g. angrily, regretfully, trying to be brave.
Thinking in Sound
These should be used sparingly and effectively. They can be used functionally, e.g. door opening, or to create a mood, e.g. dogs barking in the distance on waste-land. If used to excess they become tedious and pointless.
Radio plays can very rarely be produced without some changes to the script sent in - this applies even to very experienced writers. If your script is accepted for production, be prepared to work with the producer, making cuts and changes in scenes if necessary.
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