Writing Audio Theater

Writing audio theater is kind of like the whole audio theater medium. It doesn't quite fit into any of the niches out there. You have only the four tools to work with:
  • Dialogue
  • Sound effects
  • Music
  • Silence
Many good people have written about the subject, and we don't claim to be the last word on it. So here are a number of resources you can use to help you along in learning how to write for audio. Includes things to think about, script format, websites, books and links to some of the best people in the field.


Hints on writing radio drama - http://www.irdp.co.uk/page7.htm
by Tim Crook of
Independent Radio Drama Productions, in the United Kingdom.
A brief tongue-in-cheek introduction to playwriting for the radio, it has some good ideas of what to think about while writing for this medium.

Principles of writing radio drama - http://www.irdp.co.uk/scripts.htm
by Tim Crook of IRDP.
A longer version of the "Hints" article above. Some excellent advice and concerns about writing for radio, from people (Britons) who have been doing it ever since there was drama on the air.

The Well-Tempered Audio Dramatist - http://www.natf.org/wtad.html
by Yuri Rasovsky
Yuri's book is available free as a PDF download through the
National Audio Theater Festivals website. The above link is to a form page. It’s a 217 page book on the writing and production of audio theater by one of the very best there was. Yuri died in 2012, and we’ll miss him.

Tony Palermo's RuyaSonic website - http://www.RuyaSonic.com/
Tony is a dynamo of audio theater. He has several pages relating to writing for audio. Here's the main page from which all the rest are linked. Tony offers advice for beginners and the experienced on adaptations, writing good cues, using a narrator, writing for children, writing horror, and another radio drama script format for MS Word. There are also links to a number of sites, especially several that offer scripts, either new or from Old Time Radio.

Radio Dramas in the Classroom - http://www.ravenradiotheater.com
The Raven Radio Theater offers radio drama scripts complete with casting directions, detailed instructions for finding and/or making the necessary mechanical sound effects, a full set of sound effects cue cards with music and background sounds customized for each play. Most of the Raven Radio Theater plays can be performed by twenty to thirty-five students as readers theater, with sound effects, for school assemblies or recorded. Downloadable scripts now available.

BBC Writer's Room - http://www.bbc.co.uk/writersroom/writing/guidelines_radiodrama.shtml
This page suggests listening to lots of radio drama and deciding for yourself what works and what doesn't. Then it tells you how to submit scripts to the BBC. There's also a page of
Tips from BBC writers and producers on what they are looking for in a script. Even if you're not planning to submit to the BBC, this is useful information.

Independent Radio Drama Productions - http://www.irdp.co.uk/
The company has ceased production, but they left a website up with articles on writing for radio, and the history of British Radio Drama. Look for Tim Crook’s book, Radio Drama, which includes some of these posted articles. It’s good reading, though quite academic in style.


There were a number of books about writing for radio published in the 1940s or published more recently in the United Kingdom. Listed here are some of the more recent ones, and also some books of modern scripts that are worth reading as good examples. I include them because I've seen them available in libraries or in new or used book stores.

Bombs Always Beep: Creating Modern Audio Theater, by Kc Wayland. From the point of view of someone in the Los Angeles Professional mode of productions. Covers everything from writing, through production workflow, to publishing. All from the producer of “We’re Alive!”, a very successful audio drama podcast.

Voices In Our Heads, The National Audio Theatre Festivals Guidebook and Script Collection, Volume 1. Available from NATF, it includes ten scripts, A Radio Theatre Primer by David Ossman, and A Production Guide by Yuri Rasovsky (selections from his book, The Well-Tempered Audio Dramatist, available free above). Ossman's Radio Theatre Primer is published in his book, Dr. Firesign’s Follies, available from BearManorMedia.com.

The Complete Book of Scriptwriting, Second Edition, by J. Michael Straczynski. 1996, Synthetic Worlds, Ltd & J. Michael Straczynski. ISBN: 0-89879-512-5. 424 pages. Published by Writer's Digest Books. Part IV is about writing for radio. The author is the award winning creator of the TV series Babylon 5, and has written for numerous others.

Radio Drama Theory and Practice, by Tim Crook. 1999, by Routledge, London and New York. Chapters on history of radio drama in the UK, and on all aspects of writing, directing and production of audio drama. Very good. Chapters available to read online at http://www.irdp.co.uk/.

Fourteen Radio Plays, by Arch Oboler (including the essay, The Art of Radio Writing, by the author. 1940, Random House, Inc. 257 pages.

The Original Hitchhiker Radio Scripts, by Douglas Adams. 1985. Harmony Books, New York/Crown Publishers, London. 249 pages. ISBN: 0-517-55950-1.

Star Wars, the Original Radio Scripts, by Brian Daley. 1994. Del Rey/Ballantine Books, New York. 346 pages. ISBN: 0-345-39109-8.

The Way To Write Radio Drama, by William Ash, © 1985. Elm Tree Books, London. 136 pages. ISBN: 0-241-11445-4.