Listen Up!

old irish cottage sWe’ll be working on our dialogue skills for our creative writing prompt this week.

Here in the Northern Hemisphere it is winter. Cold, usually wet  (well, I am in Ireland), miserable –  and at night it is very dark.

Imagine you are alone at home this evening and there is someone knocking on your door trying to persuade you to let them in. You think you know who it is (or do you?), and they are not welcome. So there’s no way you are going to open that door. Or will you?

What happens next? Who is there? Why? What on earth is going on? Has something happened out there, an emergency and they need your help? Or were you expecting someone to call? Have you been hoping this person wouldn’t come your way? Who else knows about this?

Start thinking about the scene using the usual who, what, why, where, when and how questions.

An idea is forming, isn’t it? But don’t write it as a story as such, write it as dialogue.

In other words, think about how you’d make this into a radio play, using just sound effects and the exchanges between the characters. What they say and how they say it is the only way you can tell their story.

Tricky, eh? But a great writing skill to work on.

Try listening to some radio plays for inspiration. Some of them are quite short and punchy at 10 minutes or so, some are considerably longer. Don’t copy (of course) but use them for ideas.

There is a window of opportunity for submitting your radio play to RTÉ Radio 1, from February 1st to March 31st 2021, for possible broadcast in Ireland.

There’s also some sound advice on the RTÉ website here, gems like:

“When deciding the number of characters in a scene, it should be borne in mind that the only ways of establishing someone’s presence unequivocally are either to have them speak or to have them be addressed by name. If there are too many characters in a scene, the listeners will lose track or become confused.”

There’s other valuable information there about timing and script layout. And you can listen back to past broadcasts – or hear a new drama every Sunday evening at 8pm on RTÉ Radio 1.

This is the 73rd new creative writing prompt in a series which began in March 2020 as a Lockdown project to kick-start new writing: drama, short stories, flash fiction, poetry, memoir,  creative non-fiction, whatever. Originally, I created 42 daily prompts and exercises, with a nod to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. Now I post them weekly, every Wednesday at 5pm (Dublin time).  It all began here