The Writer

WRITING FOR THE RADIO

A FOGHORN BLAST.

FOOTSTEPS. LIGHT, HURRIED.

A SECOND SET OF FOOTSTEPS, HEAVIER, MORE MEASURED.

A DOOR HINGE CREAKS.

FOOTSTEPS, FASTER THIS TIME.

A GUNSHOT.

A SCREAM.

A BODY HITS THE GROUND.

THE GUN DROPS.

FOOTSTEPS HURRYING AWAY.

In radio drama, a sequence of sounds like this one tells a story. The listener can see the progression of events in the mind’s eye, filling in location and detail. The choice of these sounds, their arrangement, and what was left out in this particular sequencing can tell more than one story, depending upon the choices made by the actors, director, and sound artists.

History of the form

Radio drama (and comedy, variety, music, and soap opera) was an entertainment staple between the late 1920s and early 1950s, when 82% of households depended on radio for entertainment. Boston Blackie starring Dick Kollmar and The Adventures of Nero Wolfe starring Sydney Greenstreet (yes, that Sydney Greenstreet, the Fat Man from The Maltese Falcon) were popular in the late 1940s/early 1950s, along with variety shows featuring Tommy Dorsey and Benny Goodman and the comedy of George Burns and Gracie Allen. The 1938 broadcast of The War of the Worlds lives in infamy. Despite a disclaimer labeling the show fiction, some listeners believed the “news reports” of aliens invading New Jersey.

Well-written radio drama allows the listener to fill in visual details, using imagination to paint the picture inside their own head. Instead of being voyeurs, the audience becomes an active

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