Archive for June, 2013


There are those who believe that somehow writing can’t be taught, it’s instinctive. They hold that writers are born not made. Well maybe James Joyce or Graham Greene were born writers but for the rest of us writing is hard work, a job of honing the craft and learning from everything that went before. Playwrights aren’t called playwrites. They are play makers and like craftsmen must learn their trade and practice it every day to stay in order to compete in the market place.

For the radio dramatist the best way to learn is to listen to as many plays as possible. Familiarise yourself with the methods, the techniques used, the themes, the rhythms, the dialogue, and everything that goes in to the making of a play. After this read as many scripts as possible. Radio scripts aren’t as commonly available as movie scripts but they are there if you look hard enough. The BBC Writers Room website has a section devoted to television and radio scripts, so click on that site and absorb as many plays in the original formatting as possible.

Then there are the how-to manuals. Again some people dismiss these as unnecessary. I couldn’t disagree more. There is plenty to be learned from these books for both the beginning writer and the experienced professional. A writer is constantly learning and if you only find a few useful ideas in an instructional book then that’s maybe enough. The writer’s mind must constantly be open.

The shelves of bookshops today groan under the weight of scriptwriting manuals for movies and television. Guides for radio are harder to find.

These are a few that I have found useful over the years. They are in no particular order.

Writing for Radio by Rosemary Hortsman
This is a basic text covering all aspects of writing for radio. It includes, as an appendix, the text of ‘This Gun in my Right Hand is Loaded’ the spoof play written by Timothy West to show how radio writing should not be done.
This book is, I think, out of print but here’s a tip, it’s currently available on Amazon at 1p. Get it.

Radio Drama by Tim Crook
This is possibly the most intellectual work on Radio Drama. It’s a highly opinionated but very enjoyable read. He brings in Roland Barthes and structuralism so that’s the territory we’re in. The work includes an excellent critical examination of ‘Spoonface Steinberg’, Lee Hall’s brilliant radio play.

Writing for Radio by Vincent McInerney
McInerney goes into the philosophy of radio writing and examines the theoretical aspects. He covers not only drama, but short stories, documentaries, drama documentaries and poetry. There is also a section on radio advertising.

Writing for Radio by Shaun McLoughlin
McLoughlin’s is an authoritative work, as he spent over twenty years as a drama producer in BBC Bristol. There’s a lot of anecdotal material among the practical advice. As well as dealing with writing, there are sections on directing radio plays and acting on radio.

Radio Drama Handbook by Richard J. Hand

Radio Scriptwriting by Sam Boardman-Jacobs


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