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An audience of one  

One of the many pleasures about writing for radio is that you have an audience of one. This solo audience member has invited you personally into his/her car, home or ears. You and your drama are usually the only other people in the room – it’s an incredibly privileged place for any writer to be. So, how do you convince them to let you stay?

There is an intimacy in your relationship with your audience that is unique in drama, and the pictures you are creating in their minds are unique to them. On the flipside, this means you must earn your place and keep it, as there is nothing to stop them switching you off… perhaps more than any other form of drama, therefore, radio needs characters – strong, interesting characters – with complex and nuanced lives who an audience wants to sit with for 45 minutes. Plot is fundamental, but unless the people who are navigating plot are of sufficient interest, your audience is liable to lose interest.

How do you share your characters? You can take your audience right inside their head; you can observe them in any situation you like – the bath, a transatlantic flight, the Post Office queue, hiding underneath a bush, sitting next to the listener, the lobby of the Hilton hotel in Mumbai – the fluidity of sound means that you can take the characters literally anywhere in the world/space/time continuum and the audience will go with you, unquestioningly.

The richness of your choice is also the challenge – be bold but be sparing – don’t send characters here there and everywhere just because you can. The power of stillness of a bench in an autumn rain sodden park on radio is as potent as a trip to the Kalahari Desert. Don’t tell us everything about them just because you can – radio’s vast palette will still be there for your next drama.

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Can you show, rather than tell?

One of the most popular radio devices is the narrative voice, inside the head. Usually given to the…

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Freedom in Fabrication

The Japanese writer Tanizaki complained that he could not read his contemporaries. Every time he picked up a…

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Radical Reinvention

One way to think about writing is as a tool of curiosity. A way of finding out about…

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Gas Ring – the game

A quick exercise to show the importance of writing high stakes for your characters when writing a play….

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The sounds of your world

Writing audio drama is about identifying significant sound. You need to identify and create the sound world that…

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It is all about the sound

Radio drama is all about the sound. Think sound before you think dialogue – the two are not…

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Exaggerate to accumulate

This is an exercise in what the comedian Stewart Lee calls “exaggerating for comic effect.” He was being…

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Drawing out the comedy

Somebody famously said that writing comedy is harder than writing drama because in comedy you have to do…

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