Off the top— you must understand that the beginning is everything. It is beneficial to parachute the listener/audience right into the thick of dramatic action.  Any necessary background will find its way into the story later.  The key to start is trying to find an appropriate MOMENT to join the story. This is what is called the ‘Point of attack’.

7 Keys to Radio Drama:

1. Emotion

It is crucial that you work to generate an emotional response from the audience. (Preferably to the main character)  An emotional connection between the writing and the listener = good radio drama.

2. Structure

The typical structure of a radio play includes three steps:

1. Set up     2. Struggle 3. Resolution

3. Story

A story can best be defined as an overview or synopsis.  It is as simple as producing one sentence/paragraph as you may explain it to your friend.

A good story should have:

1. Character Development 2. Dramatic Tension        3. Humour

4. Plot

A plot is the organization of your story.  These details include:

  • A clear structure (Beginning, middle, climax and ending)
  • A clear conflict (An emotional, financial, human, moral, physical struggle so your listeners can laugh or cry.)
  • Crisis at the beginning is dramatic and a great start. (Point of attack)
  • Twists and turns. (Example: Foreshadowing)
  • Two story lines (Plot and sub-plot.  Example: Spiderman vs Green Goblin and Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson.) The best system is a major and a minor storyline linked to one another. Get them to come together at the end.
  • Entertainment.

Atmosphere

Worlds are not created by dramatic dialogue alone. There is attitude and atmosphere. This is determined by detail and relevant detail. It could be in a sound effect. It could be in the writing. It could be in the music. It could be in everything. But the result is that the fifth dimension of radio writing – the imagination of the listener – is stimulated to become a picture palace of the mind.

Character

Your main character must:

  • Have the sympathy of the audience. Your audience has to identify with your main character.
  • Have a clear goal/motivation Serve a purpose within the plot
  • Start with a stereotype to ensure rapid recognition, then twist the stereotype. Give each character a dominant physical or behavioural characteristic. Make the dominant characteristic purposeful. Make it extreme. (Example: big, nasty antagonist or villain.)
  • Be consistent
  • Face and conquer adversity (Must be changed by the plot.)
  • Be identifiable (You cannot identify with people who are unlike ourselves…too perfect, no beliefs…take themselves too seriously…lack a sense of humour.)
  • Have the occasional private moment (When they drop their guards and allow us into their minds and hearts. Make the listener privileged. Use this moment for revelation.)

Vocal work/Dialogue

  • Seeing that there is no visual action in your radio play, your vocal work must tell the story.  Your voice and dialogue should:
  • Use emphasis (Exaggeration) and vocal technique (Breath support), vocal variety (Pitch and tone to convey emotion)
  • Use comic relief through dialogue
  • Establish an emotional state for the characters at all times.
  • Use heightened language (Vocal expression serves not only the development of the plot and character, but it also presents the view of the writer.

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