This week my writing group very kindly gave me feedback to the middle section of the script of my radio drama. None of the other members have written scripts in any script writing genre. Two are many-times-published fiction and memoir writers, and the other has a fascinating memoir well underway which anyone WILL want to publish.
They made astute comments and helped hugely.
We talked about setting. One member could not imagine how a soundscape could do the same job as descriptive writing of setting, or at least make it very specific, e.g. a study. Another couldn’t see how you could convey such sudden switches in location by sound alone. We discussed collaboration – the drama being completed by the sound engineers, the actors and director rather than the writer – and this was a challenge to some – much bigger additions, they felt, than by those of an agent or publisher who altered rather than finished off the work. (Though I think that raises interesting questions about what cover design, book layout, marketing etc does to the book’s aesthetic.)
One writer felt there needed to be much more of what could be termed backstory. We talked about whether that was as necessary, and if so, how would it be conveyed in a medium where narrative exposition is and audio challenge within a 44.14 minute time limit. We concluded it was not so much about the history of the characters as wanting the characters to be rounded.
The absence of narrative also showed how tricky it is to convey information purely through dialogue – though I think there are creative alternatives to the conversational – interior monologues, announcements, advert style, broadcasts. I’m now looking for the radio equivalent of the flashing up in lights of Bridget Jones weight, cigarette and alcohol consumption in the background of the places she was shown walking in London. Any suggestions?
Someone wanted to know why two characters weren’t married to each. Well they’re just not, they’re neighbours. But what does that serve in the drama? Actually, nothing. I have married them. Just like that. It makes the writing easier, loses a question that might distract the listener’s concentration, and, as less important characters, they are less in the way of the more important.
I’ve realized that writing a radio drama is a great medium for honing editing skills and focussing on the essentials of the text, on what MUST be there to tell the story and show the characters in an as alive a way as possible, and the kind of material and information that’s completely unnecessary to achieve that end.
Apart from the very helpful feedback from the group, there was a huge surprise. MAJOR, MAJOR BONUS. One member of the group’s son is a Bafta winning script writer. His mum asked him to read MY script to help HER!!! Location changes? No problem, he said. Information imparting? Needs a bit more work. Characters? Pretty good. Dialogue? Some very good, well on the way. Story? Great.