“The Music Box”: My Journey through Audio Drama

play-it-by-ear-audio

I am happy to say that a radio drama that I wrote won a scriptwriting contest and was produced! It aired this past weekend and I couldn’t have been happier with the result.

“The Music Box” centers around Paulina, a ballerina who desires to be the best at her craft and who gets help from the mysterious ballet master, Dmitri, in order to achieve the greatness that she has always desired. Little does Paulina know that her dreams to be the best at her craft are going to go sinisterly awry. If you desire to, you can listen to the music box, you can do so here.

It truly is an amazing experience to hear something that you wrote broadcast over the radio for hundreds of listeners. It’s an eye-opening experience (or should I say ear-opening?) and it truly lets you know that those voices that you often converse with in your head (you know, those characters that give you so much joy as well as trouble) do have a voice and will come to life if given the chance.

I’ve written quite a few screenplays before (I even had won produced after winning yet another scriptwriting competition) and I will say that writing for an audio drama is something totally different. There’s an extra level of difficulty as you have to render everything so as not to be told to the audience. You really have to allow the audience members to experience the story using only their own imagination based on the subtlest queues that you have given them within the story. There’s no room or purpose for such directions as “Harrison looked to his right” or “Margaret went running down the lane”. No, everything must be implied through dialogue and sound – two of the most important features of the audio drama in case you are attempting the exciting journey of writing an audio drama script.

Another thing to remember when writing an audio drama script is that you must not over explain things in order to get your point across. Constantly allowing your characters to describe every little incident and detail is unnatural and annoying in radio. A little description is fine here and there, but remember that it should be as natural as natural speech and nothing more.

There’s also no room for detailed character descriptions, such as what the character looks like. There are little things that you could do, such as “See that lady over there? Yes, the one with the dark hair and the pink dress. Looks a little green in the face, doesn’t she?” because this mimics natural speech. The characters are trying to point out another character and in doing so, offer a description of her – precisely would naturally occur if we were to encounter the same situation in person.

You can have a narrator if you want. For my audio drama, I did because it helped create a mood and gave a background to the characters and story. For my narration, I only used it at the beginning and end because I needed to set the scene and overall wrap the story up and allow other people to understand what had happened in the resolution of the story because it was of a fantastic nature. You can allow your narrator to provide certain descriptions but I would keep this to a minimum because it can start to read like a half-written book if you overdue it. If you’ve ever seen one of the old Sinbad films from the 1940s, there was one in particular that would have the entire plot playing out before our very eyes (like usual in film), but there was a narrator constantly narrating every bit of action: ‘Sinbad jumped up on the deck. He drew his sword –!’ We really don’t need to be told all of this because it’s playing out before us. It’s redundant and the same mistake can again happen in radio if narration is used too much.

Lastly, you will have to think about where to include music and sound effects within your script. The sound effects are pretty easy as we can easily pinpoint a sound, how it’s made, and when it should happen. Adding music is a little trickier because the music is the undercurrent of the film; it helps set a mood and it helps to create a mood. You really need to think about when to include it because it helps to set an emotional impact for your script and/or create a tone that will help readers follow along within the plot.

Overall, writing an audio has its own quirks and idiosyncrasies that you must remember, but it truly is a great mode of expression to work with. For one thing, you can go all out with your audio drama – it can be placed anywhere in the world and have the most fantastic storyline because you won’t need to worry about finding locations to shoot the story like in film, you don’t have to think about garnering a very large cast and crew, and you don’t need to have an expansive budget. All you need is a place to record, some crew members and actors, music, and of course the all-important sound effects!

These are my thoughts on writing audio drama and if you go forth to write your own script, I hope you take this advice with you and (most importantly) have fun writing your script!

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