Understand codes, conventions,styles and structures of radio drama genres By Matthew Wheeler
• Words: Words are very important in any media production, but especially in radio drama where words are the only audible way of telling a story.• For example lets say that George is watching TV and Ben has just walked into the room. Visually the audience would understand that Ben had just walked into the room, but audibly they would not be aware of this. The way around this would be for George to say “hey Ben have you come down the stairs to watch the football with me”. Just by saying this sentence the audience would immediately have an understanding of what was happening.• Voices: Voices play a strong role in radio drama’s because the audience needs to know who’s saying what. By using different voice actors or changing the pitch of your voice you can make the audience more aware of when the character has changed.• Voices are also important in radio drama for expressing the feeling of the charcter involved. For example if in your radio drama your character was angry you would make the voice actor shout his lines or put on an angry tone of voice. This would help the audience relate to what emotions the character are feeling at the time.
Codes continued…• Ambience (background noise): Ambience is a key code for when producing a radio drama. For example if your script said the location of your scene was at a park you would add background noise such as wind blowing, bird’s and other necessary noises. If all you had was just the characters talking then the audience may get the impression that they are talking inside a building rather than outside at the park.• Music: Music is very useful in radio drama’s for setting up the mood of scenes taking place. For example if something good was happening in the radio drama you could play an upbeat tune to give the audience the positive vibe feeling. Another example could be like Jaws when the song starts when jaws is moving in on his next victim which builds up a tension and suspense with the audience.
Conventions• Cliff hanger endings: cliff hanger endings are important to include in radio drama’s. For example in my radio drama at the end of my first episode it ends with the main character being arrested for carrying a gun that wasn’t his. This will make the audience be curious about what will happen in the next episode. A lot of big-time TV shows use this such as LOST. It is a great way getting your audiences attention and making them eager to sea what happens in the next episode.• Flashbacks: Flashbacks are a good way of telling a short story to the audience that requires little time and explains allot. Allot of TV and Radio shows use flashbacks at the very beginning of each episode which briefly explains what happened in the previous episode. Almost like a catch up.• Use of scene changes: In my opinion Scene changes are vital for radio drama production. For example in my radio drama when my scene changes from two characters walking out of a house to the next scene which is where both the characters are in a van. I tell the audience that the scene has changed by playing a familiar brief tune (4- 5 seconds long). This signals to the audience that the scene is changing.
Conventions continued…• Narration: Narration is a key element to setting the scene or mood for a scene. For example the narrator could say “It was a bright and sunny day as Joe ran down the road chasing butterflies”. The audience can easily relate to this because they now have a strong image in their heads of what is happening and they also get a positive vibe for the mood of the scene.• Narration is a quicker and more detailed way of describing to the audience what is happening rather than using direct speech.• Direct speech: Direct speech is the heart and soul of nearly radio drama. Nearly every radio drama has direct speech included in it because it is pretty much the only way to explain to the audience what is a happening in the radio drama.
Styles• Appropriateness to target audience: Appropriateness to target audience is very important in planning or development of your radio drama. Once you have a chosen a target audience you must keep your script aimed at that target audience. For example if the script was about an old couple who drink tea and talk about “the good old says” and it’s target audience was teenagers (16-22) then the target audience would not be ideal for the script.• Radio drama styles, Narration/ voice of god: Having narration has good and bad side effects when being used in a radio drama in my opinion. The good side is that with a narrator in the radio drama they can be more detailed in story telling the plot they can also talk about what individual characters are feeling. The negative side is that it is much easier for the audience to lose track of which character is talking or being spoken about by the narrator.• Radio drama styles, First Person: Direct speech in my opinion is the best style to use for a radio drama. It takes longer than narration does to develop a plot of the radio drama. But in the long run, your audience will find it easier to follow the plot and understand who’s talking if you use direct speech.
Structures• Duration: Duration is an important factor to remember when producing your radio drama. Depending on the length of your radio drama you have to keep your drama action packed throughout or have a build up to the action. For example in a short radio drama (3-5 minutes) you would want to keep the drama plot small but interesting throughout. If the radio drama was long (25- 30 minutes long) then you would have the plot of the radio drama build up to the action and keep the audience interested throughout.• Narrative structure: Narrative structure is one of the best and easiest ways to explain an action or plot happening in a radio drama. It is also useful to use for setting a scene or mood for a radio drama. Voice of god is also a great similar structure you can use to set the scene.• Development of plot: As mentioned above development of plot is split in to two categories. On being for a short 5 minute radio drama where the drama jumps straight into the plot and is action packed throughout. The other category would be for 30 minute radio drama’s where the plot develops bit by bit and gradually builds up to an action, by using this technique the audience will be captivated.