Term Two – Radio (by Alexis Han Holdren)

Our course leader Jennifer Tuckett began the Radio module of Unit One by having the class listen to and examine a variety of radio drama case studies. The examples ranged from narratives that resembled audio books with sound effects, to extended monologues supplemented with musical scores and soundscapes laden with thematic and synaesthetic meaning, to conceptual pieces that played with dramatic conventions (in one, children voiced elderly characters in a clever utilization of age subversion).

As someone who grew up in the U.S. (where the only accessible radio dramas are BBC imports on NPR), this was the perfect introduction to radio. Because my exposure to radio drama had been limited to nonexistent, it was really rewarding to engage with a new dramatic medium that I had previously dismissed as irrelevant simply because of ignorance, and see, or ‘hear’ rather, how creative and dramatically rewarding radio drama could be.

We then moved on to how to structure and write strong radio scripts. Key points esoteric to writing for radio included cultivating distinct character voices, folding visual details into action/narration/characterization, and the lucid delineation of scenes, imagery, and expositional information through both precise format and the careful incorporation of background noise, sound effects, and aural atmosphere. The main rule seemed to be: clarity is paramount, as much can be lost in the processing of a story, when one only has one sense (sound) to hold on to/digest the narrative.

Along with reading and listening to excerpts of successful radio scripts, we also watched videos that exhibited the process of recording a radio drama. This gave us a fascinating insight into both the production and business factions within the medium, while also providing more practical knowledge on how to formulate an effective and achievable script for radio.

Personally, I had never really considered writing for radio, but realized over the course of the module that my style might be well suited for the form. The medium is prime for writers who enjoy dialogue, which is probably my favourite aspect of dramatic writing, and those who enjoy experimenting with and exploring more streamlined and concentrated modes of drama.

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