It’s something I tried years ago and keep meaning to go back to it. I talk to writers who love it and wouldn’t write anything else.
I’m talking about Radio Drama.
Since the ‘wireless’ became a source of entertainment in the 1920s, radio plays have been around. And the reaction to Orson Welle’s ‘War of the Worlds’ in 1938 was a demonstration of the power of radio drama, how it can evoke such strong emotion from an audience.
Radio drama is unique in that the story, the entire world and every character are created and portrayed using only sound. This might seem limiting but it also completely liberating – unlike TV and film where budget controls so much, radio drama can be set in any world that can be represented through dialogue or foley-created effects.
As with all forms of writing, there are certain guidelines (I don’t like to use the word ‘rules’) that need to be known when writing radio drama, both technical and in relation to story-telling. For example, it might be very tempting to come up with a scene that will blow our audience away and change the way they think forever. But if that scene involves a daring stalker and all your audience hears is someone walking over dry leaves…well you see what I’m getting at.
StoryInsight.com goes into more detail on this and gives us some other great advice for writing a radio play.
The most active producer of radio drama in this part of the world is, of course, the BBC, where BBC4 has always been the recognised home of radio drama. With its long-running daily ‘The Archers’ as well as one-off and serialised stories told over thirty minutes or an hour, all writers of radio plays have seen BBC as the holy grail. And now with their digital radio stations, we have a much wider choice of drama to listen to. Of course, there’s no better way of finding out what makes a good radio play than to listen to one…or loads.
BBC also recognise that we want to write for radio but we might not be sure how to go about it. On their World Service website and in the BBC Writers Room, they offer comprehensive and practical advice on both writing a play and then getting it produced and broadcast on one of their stations.
Closer to home, our own national broadcaster frequently produces plays for their Radio 1 ‘Drama On One’ slot. RTE encourage both new and established writers – two plays by John Boorman were recently broadcast – to submit 40-minute radio drama scripts.
RTE also run the annual PJ O’Connor awards for radio drama. This is a competition for 40-minute plays, written specifically for the radio (as in not adapted from a film or book). The competition is currently open for submissions so if you have an idea for a play, get cracking. You can also listen to a live performance of last year’s winner, ‘The Bacon Slicer’ by Andrew Fox.
So there you have it. There really is no better time to get writing a radio play.
“Radio drama is the most intimate relationship a scriptwriter can have with their audience.” – BBC Writers’ Room
Shur I wouldn’t know where to start.
StoryInsight.com’s advice on writing Radio Drama that will get produced.
“Radio is a descriptive medium. It is the medium of the word — where anything that can be described can be imagined.”
The Holy Grail.
The BBC is considered, by many, to be the home of Radio Drama.
…and how to find it.
The BBC offer their own advice on writing a radio play and getting it produced.
“Radio is an extraordinary medium. A radio play can travel through time and space, between centuries and continents.”
There’s no place like home.
RTE are a great supporter of radio drama and welcome submissions from new writers for their ‘Drama On One’ slot.
“The Drama On One team are always eager to find new voices and to bring new stories to our audience.”
Nothing like a bit of healthy competition.
The annual RTE PJ O’Connor Awards are currently accepting entries.
“The PJ O Connor Awards for Radio Drama celebrate the best in new Irish writing.”
And the winner is…
The live broadcast of PJ O’Connor Award winner, Andrew Fox’s ‘The Bacon Slicer’.
Additional Useful Links
John Morrison is a script writer based in Belfast; two of his scripts have been broadcast as BBC Radio Afternoon Plays. He runs a blog specialising in radio writing http://