Writing for the Radio

The details
Literature, Film, and Theatre Studies
Colchester Campus
Undergraduate: Level 4
Thursday 03 October 2024
Friday 13 December 2024
22 March 2022


Requisites for this module



Key module for

BA W800 Creative Writing,
BA W801 Creative Writing (Including Year Abroad),
BA W803 Creative Writing (Including Placement Year),
BA W808 Creative Writing (Including Foundation Year),
MLITQ392 Creative Writing,
BA WW80 Drama and Creative Writing,
BA WW81 Drama and Creative Writing (Including Foundation Year),
BA WW82 Drama and Creative Writing (including Placement Year),
BA WW83 Drama and Creative Writing (including Year Abroad)

Module description

This 10-week module will explore writing for radio and audio, from its origins in early radio drama to new possibilities in audio drama as it now operates in the digital age. We will listen to a wide range of radio/audio drama, and discuss the possibilities that writing for listeners offers the writer – from the artistic to the practical. Students will be introduced to the basics of writing audio drama and short stories. Topics will include creating location, characterisation, dialogue, and plotting. We will also cover how to format and set out an audio script, and students will be introduced to the radio drama schedule: what kinds of dramas are broadcast, when, and for whom!

Much of what we discuss will focus on techniques of writing drama that can be applied to other media such as theatre, television or film. However, throughout the module we will be thinking about the particular possibilities and the constraints of audio: how does the listener know where they are? How many characters can we have in one scene without confusing the audience? How do sound effects work and when should the writer organise and select them?

We will also explore the possibilities offered by what Angela Carter calls 'The Amazing Picture Palace': the freedom to travel to exotic or impossible locations; the opportunities for the poetic or interior; the creation of intimacy. We will look at key figures in the history of radio drama who have expanded its potential, from Dylan Thomas to Samuel Beckett to Angela Carter and contemporary writers , whilst also looking closely at the state of audio drama and story-telling today - thinking about opportunities for new writers and looking at the practicalities of how to explain and pitch ideas. Teaching is by weekly sessions that will involve listening to and reading radio plays, tutor talks, discussion, individual writing exercises and group work.

Module aims

This module aims to:

1. provide students with an understanding of the wide range of artistic and practical possibilities that radio/audio offers the writer

2. help students develop their skills in creating location, characterisation, dialogue, and plotting while writing drama for radio/audio

3. develop the techniques of writing drama that can be applied to other media such as theatre, television or film.

Module learning outcomes

After successful completion of this module, students should:

1. have developed a critical understanding of the key figures in the history of radio drama who have expanded its potential

2. have investigated and critically evaluated the state of radio drama today, including its opportunities for new writers

3. have gained an understanding of the practicalities of how to explain and pitch ideas.

4. have developed their skills in writing drama for radio and developed techniques of writing drama that can be applied to other media such as theatre, television or film.

Module information

Our main resource will be listening to drama broadcast on BBC Radio 4 and 3.

BBC Sounds has radio drama which you can listen to normally for 30 days after first broadcast.

All the online resources at BBC Writers' Room are invaluable:

Students will be expected to listen to radio dramas during the course of the term and discuss their thoughts on these plays. Some classic radio plays which we recommend reading are:

Beckett, Samuel. All That Fall in Samuel Beckett: The Complete Dramatic Works. London: Faber, 1986.

Carter, Angela. Come Unto These Yellow Sands in Come Unto These Yellow Sands: Four Radio Plays. Newcastle: Bloodaxe Books, 1985. (In library).
Hall, Lee. Spoonface Steinberg and other plays. BBC Books: London, 1997.

Plath, Sylvia. Three Women. (available online, or photocopy can be purchased).

Thomas, Dylan. Under Milk Wood. (In library).

Recommended Reading on radio drama:

Grove, Claire and Stephen Wyatt. So You Want to Write Radio Drama? Nick Hern Books: London, 2013. (Highly recommended for this module).

Caulfield, Annie. Writing for Radio: A Practical Guide. Crowood Press: Marlborough, 2009.

Crisell, Andrew. Understanding Radio. Routledge: London and New York, 1994.

Crook, Tim. Radio Drama: Theory and Practice. Routledge: London and New York, 1999.

Davis, Rib. Writing Dialogue for Scripts. A and C Black: London, 2005.

MacInnerny, Vincent. Writing for Radio. Manchester University Press, 2001.

MacLoughlin, Shaun. Writing for Radio. 1988.

Roberts, Philip. (ed.) Plays Without Wires. Sheffield Academic Press, 1989.

Spencer, Stuart. The Playwright's Guidebook. Faber and Faber: London, 2002

Teddern, Sue and Nick Warburton. Writing for TV and Radio. Bloomsbury: London, 2016.

Boardman-Jacobs, Sam (ed.). Radio Scriptwriting. Seren, 2004.

Hill, Christopher William. Writing for Radio. Bloomsbury, 2015.

Learning and teaching methods

Anticipated teaching delivery: Weekly 2-hour class


This module does not appear to have a published bibliography for this year.

Assessment items, weightings and deadlines

Coursework / exam Description Deadline Coursework weighting
Coursework   Script Proposal (formative)    0% 
Coursework   Radio Drama Script, Commentary and Listening Diary    95% 
Practical   Participation Mark    5% 

Additional coursework information

Participation 5% (This is a mark based on your consistent preparation and participation in class discussions and exercises) Coursework 95%. (This is the written assignment described below.) Written Assignment: This has three components: 1. A Writer’s Proposal A concise outline of your script idea – location, characters, story, atmosphere, themes, how you will exploit the medium of radio. (One side of A4) 2. A script for an original 10- 15 minute piece of radio drama. N.B. The best way to estimate the running time of your script is simply to read it out, including any pauses and SFX. 3. A concise 500-word commentary in which you discuss your own script; your models, your inspiration and your process; you articulate how you are using the medium of radio; and you evaluate your achievement. The 10 – 15 minute play can be developed as an ongoing process throughout the term, with plenty of workshop exercises offering possible ways into character, dialogue and plot.

Exam format definitions

  • Remote, open book: Your exam will take place remotely via an online learning platform. You may refer to any physical or electronic materials during the exam.
  • In-person, open book: Your exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer to any physical materials such as paper study notes or a textbook during the exam. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, open book (restricted): The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer only to specific physical materials such as a named textbook during the exam. Permitted materials will be specified by your department. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, closed book: The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may not refer to any physical materials or electronic devices during the exam. There may be times when a paper dictionary, for example, may be permitted in an otherwise closed book exam. Any exceptions will be specified by your department.

Your department will provide further guidance before your exams.

Overall assessment

Coursework Exam
100% 0%


Coursework Exam
100% 0%
Module supervisor and teaching staff
Prof Elizabeth Kuti, email:
Professor Elizabeth Kuti
LiFTS General Office - email Telephone 01206 872626



External examiner

Dr Eleanor Perry
University of Kent
Lecturer in Creative Writing (Poetry)
Dr Christina Papagiannouli
University of South Wales
Research Fellow
Available via Moodle
Of 1880 hours, 11 (0.6%) hours available to students:
1869 hours not recorded due to service coverage or fault;
0 hours not recorded due to opt-out by lecturer(s).


Further information

* Please note: due to differing publication schedules, items marked with an asterisk (*) base their information upon the previous academic year.

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