Following on from last week’s blog entry – 6 GREAT REASONS TO WRITE FOR RADIO – I thought I’d look at some great ways to write great radio scripts!
The BBC offer downloadable guidelines for submissions which, over the years, have reiterated certain tips. I’ll be highlighting some of them for you in this blog. So what do radio commissioners want?
1) DRAMA FOR CURIOUS, KNOWLEDGEABLE MINDS
The afternoon drama slot is a daily narrative drama strand; usually a complete story that is imaginative, accessible and entertaining. Radio 4 has been described as “radio for curious minds” with a highly engaged and knowledgeable audience, making plays that link with current affairs a good option.
2) RELEVANT HISTORY
History is popular, but it needn’t be “typical” historic biographies. Put a spin on your story and think about how it reflects today’s people and their lives. Whatever genre you approach, do it in a fresh way.
3) POWERFUL, CHALLENGING STORIES
Don’t be afraid to tell that story you are passionate about – the more challenging the better!
4) STORIES WRITTEN IN YOUR OWN VOICE
Research is great, but don’t feel you have to emulate the voices of other writers. Tell YOUR story in YOUR voice and your passion will come through.
5) A STRAIGHT THROUGH-LINE NARRATIVE
Nonlinear structures are super fun, but less so when you don’t even have visuals to help you understand them. Avoid cross-cutting, multiple thread narratives and instead focus on telling your story well, in your voice, with great dialogues (but don’t forget stories must be driven by sound in general and not just dialogues).
6) STRONG CHARACTERS
Another of my favourite pieces of advice from the guidelines:
Strong characters who you have put in a potentially life-changing situation is always a good starting point.
7) STORIES THAT HIT THE GROUND RUNNING
Radio has a big turn-off rate, so make sure you hook listeners from the get go! Another great piece of advice from the guidelines:
Cut the preamble and emotionally tie the audience down!
8) GOOD STORYTELLING
You can write in any genre ( contemporary, period, comedy, tragedy, crime, thriller, domestic, drama doc, biographical, fantasy, horror, original writing, fiction, nonfiction, poetry, etc.) but it should never be dull or routine. Strong story with a good hook will go far.
Feedback from listeners indicate they like gripping, thought-provoking, atmospheric and realistic stories.
9) NO CLICHES
Feel-good and heartwarming stories are great, so long as they’re not soap, dumbed down or cliched.
9) STORIES WITH A STRONG ENDING
Like with any storytelling medium, radio plays must end with a strong resolution to the issues raised. You need to satisfy the audience, and if you’re pitching an idea to producers then make sure you know your ending!
10) STORY STORY STORY
This line is in every commissioning guideline I’ve read over the years. Simple and to the point. To write good radio (and good anything to be frank) it’s all about story story story!
London Screenwriters’ Festival often have sessions on writing for radio. Wanna come? Use my special discount code: SOFLUID-16X to get a £23 discount!