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How to Write an Audio Drama

Mr.  Klingensmith's Online Writing Guide

An easy to understand Online Writing Guide for beginning writers.  Here you will find a list of various writing models, general tips and hints to help guide you to writing success.

The big idea

Writing radio plays is exciting for two reasons: first, all you are dealing with is characters talking (which a lot of people feel is the most interesting thing about writing anyway); second, you get to see (or hear) your writing being performed.  The actors will make it come to life.

Before you begin

A radio play is a story just like any other story, and needs a setting, characters, and a big problem.  If you're confused about these things, see the page about short stories.

How to do it

We'll try to keep this simple.  When you write, be sure that you include this information:

  • who is talking
  • what he or she is saying
  • what sound effects the listener should hear

The important thing to remember is that the listener cannot see what is going on; *you* have to have the narrator (or a character) say what is going on, like "Bob, what are you doing with that knife?" Other things to keep in mind:

  • Watch out for using too much narration.  Yes, you do need to have a little bit of it, but too much narrator stuff can get really boring.
  • Make sure your characters use each other's names when they talk.  You know who's talking because you can see the names right there on the paper in front of you.  Your listener can't, and may have trouble telling one voice from another.
  • Follow your format all the way through the script.  Make it easier for the actors to read.
  • Finally: number each and every cue (that is, each sound effect, bit of music, or piece of dialogue) and restart at number one on each page.  That's how you tell where you are: "Let's begin on page five, cue fifteen." Everyone can jump right to that spot immediately. 

An example

  1. Narrator: It is a stormy October night.  Rain is pounding at the windows.  The wind howls outside, making the shutters slam and bang.  White-hot lightning explodes in the sky as thunder roars in the heavens. 

  2. (SOUND of storm outside.  SOUND of door opening as someone comes inside.)

  3. Bob: Yikes!  That's one of the worst storms I've ever seen, Sue! 

  4. Sue: I know.  And it's not letting up.  I think that the wind is getting worse.  Help me get this wet jacket off, Bob, and we can try to start a fire. 

  5. Bob: Well, you can try, but I don't think you'll get too far.  That wood is soaking wet. 

  6. (SOUND of wolf howling in the distance.)

  7. Bob: What the heck was that? 

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Copyright 1996-2004 by Michael Klingensmith