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WorldCrafters Guild(tm)

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     Syllabus for Online Course
"The Radio Play"

Given By

Veteran Radio Producer Brian Hoolahan     BrianHoolahanPhotosmall.jpg (7342 bytes)

A)how to ENROLL for  "The Radio Play" and how to Audit without enrolling.  (as of 2005 - this course is "standing" -- you may do it as independent study and post to the Board and writers-l)
B) The schedule for quizzes and tests and assignments,
C)Links to examples to study
click to see this full size
D)Submission instructions for First Assignment which enrolls you for the course.
E) Class-schedule for real-time chat meetings. 
F) How to prepare an HTML text file to submit 

This course syllabus is being written and posted as the course develops, tailored to the requirements of the Enrolled   students.    Bookmark it and check it regularly.  There will be additional quizzes and exercises. 

Additional Assignment instructions and elaborations will be in WorldCrafters-L Newsletter.  Late arriving auditors, check back issues.  The Newsletter will carry instructions on how to prepare your Assignments to be turned in.  It will also carry instructions on how Auditors can post their work for evaluation, and changes in the schedule.

Students are expected to Register for this School, to subscribe to the WorldCrafters-l Newsletter or pick up the archived copy from our web-page regularly, and to apply to enroll by completing and turning in the first Assignment  of this course.

Every Assignment turned in for evaluation by the instructor must be in html format (see easy instructions and easy-to-use TEMPLATE ) must have at the TOP of the page your BYLINE and your COURSE EMAIL ADDRESS - the email address you used to Register for the School.  You must also include the title of the Assignment and a paraphrase in your own words of what the Assignment is so the instructor will know what you were trying to do -- even if you fail to achieve your objective.

ENROLLMENT is limited to 15 students. 

To ENROLL IN THIS COURSE you must complete the following 5 steps

1. Register in the School  

2. Subscribe to WorldCrafters-L (subscribing to writers-l is optional; WorldCrafters-L is obligatory.)

3.Read the Student's Agreement and agree to it and all relevant agreements.

4. Turn in the FIRST ASSIGNMENT as described below between the earliest date and deadline date ( listed in the table below) -- anything not yet posted in this Syllabus the first time you read it will be detailed in WorldCrafters-L and then posted into this syllabus. 

EMAIL your Assignment 1 and all subsequent Assignments as attached files to radio@simegen.com   -- in html format.  For instructions on how to html a straight text file, see How to Submit in HTML

All assignments submitted to the Course must be in HTML format, and must be "attached" to an e-mail message addressed to radio@simegen.com

In the body of your message, please be sure to include your name, the e-mail address you used to join the WORLDCRAFT-L writers list and register in the school, and your 'by-line'.   Since your course Assignments will be posted to the Web, you do NOT have to use your real name as your byline, but your byline should match the name on your email return address. 

In the Subject of your message, please include   WORLDCRAFTERS RADIO PLAY ASSIGNMENT#.  Be sure to add the assignment number [IN PLACE OF] # (i.e. 1 or 2 or 5  [insert number of Assignment].   This is to ensure that your submission is properly time stamped and routed to its destination.

Include the title of your piece, the approximate playing time, and your by-line which includes your e-mail address.

These Assignments will be posted to the Studentshowcase (By Dec. 5, the password protection will be removed) -- and the teacher's comments will be posted to the attached Bulletin Board inside the Studentshowcase bulletin board.

For this course, the Studentshowcase and the Bulletin Boards will not be password protected, so the entire school can watch and learn with the FIRST 15 students to successfully submit their Assignment 1.  Acceptance into the course is on a first-come-first-serve basis.  (Other courses may be "consent of the instructor".)

Other students may post their own efforts at the homework Assignments on the Bulletin Board named "radioplays", or start threads of discussion regarding the posted Assignments or teacher commentary.  The instructor will comment directly only on the enrolled student's work. 

The listserv writers-l will carry discussions among all the students regarding the course work. 

5. Be one of the first 15 students to turn in an acceptably formatted and readable Assignment complete with working return-email address and all other particulars detailed in WorldCrafters-L.   Enrollment will be on a first come first served basis.  If 15 students enroll, it is likely that Assignment commentaries by the instructor will take about 3 weeks to be posted.     


1. Fulfill requirements 1-3 above.  

2. THEN YOU MAY do the Assignments and post them to the radioplay Bulletin Board  for others to comment on after seeing the commentaries of the Instructor.   You may also choose to attend the Live Classes and the Guest Lecturer chats. 

3. Since this course material and student work and commentary remains posted to the web, future students joining the school will have all the materiel necessary to take the course by themselves, or with the help of former students in this course. 

This course may be a pre-requisite for future courses in drama and script writing.  Radio drama is the foundation of all television script writing, and an essential part of all narrative writing.  If your dialog skills are shaky, do this course. 



Revised 01/06/00
email to

Required & Suggested Reading & Listening Quizzes Tests Examples
Assignment 1 & Registration
Read Instructions for Assignment 1
More details To Be Announced in WorldCrafters-L Newsletter during November 1999

You must Register for the WorldCrafter's Guild and obtain the WorldCrafter's Newsletter which brings details on your Assignments, deadlines and additional information. 

NOT BEFORE Dec. 1, 1999
Dec. 5, 1999

NOTE: simegen.com will experience an outage during the first week in November lasting several hours.  When it comes back online, the URLs and links will be entirely different.  The old link will automatically forward you to the new URL for the following few weeks.  Each time you log into a page on simegen.com after that, you should re-save your favorite links. 

All deadlines are as of 6PM Pacific Daylight Time on the day specified.

Email as attached file, in html to radio@simegen.com

  Select a few Tapes of Radio Drama in the field you aspire to write for and study them.
1.Tapes of a radio drama course.

2. Start hunting here.

3. Write your own search criteria here.

4. Investigate our First Guest Lecturer, script writer Joe Doran

Quiz #1


  Get books of plays and dramas cheap.



Read Log of Meeting #1

See WorldCrafters-L  for instructions on various ways to find our private Chatroom for this class by MiRC or Pirch, or by java so you don't have to download software. 

See WorldCrafters-L for announcement of the URL where the LOG of the Class will be posted for those students who couldn't make the time.

  Class logs will be posted, so be sure anything you add to the chat log during class is something you'll be willing to see posted to the web.      
Assignment 2

Assn 2-Jan 16, 2000        
Assignment 3:

Assn 3 Jan 30, 2000 Recommended Additional study of the art of Parody. 

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Parody Contest -- read the posts, enter the contest. 

ST:Voyager Presents Captain Proton, Defender of The Earth,
Pocket Books, Nov. 1999.  (click the title to see s review by Jacqueline Lichtenberg)

Read House of Zeor by Jacqueline Lichtenberg, available for free reading online. 

Read the parody of House of Zeor available for free reading. 

    Example #1 - an actual radio play to study -- and you will have the chance to meet the author, Joe Doran, Online to ask questions.
Assn 4 Feb 13, 2000        





Assignment 5


Assn  5 Feb 27, 2000        
Assignment 6
Assn 6 Mar 12, 2000       EXAMPLE NUMBER TWO
Assignment 7

Assn 7 Mar 26, 2000        


"The Radio Play"



The best thing about radio is that you only need one instrument to communicate your message to an audience of possible millions, and that is the microphone. Unlike television you don't need a large crew to help you realise your broadcast. You just switch on the microphone and you're sitting in everybody's living room!

Another good thing about radio (unlike television) is that it is very personal. Broadcasting on radio and listening is on a one to one basis - which in turn gives you the possibility of writing a great radio play that will keep your listener glued to the radio. There are many ways to write books, there are fewer ways to write film scripts, but there are even fewer ways to write radio plays.

This may sound pretty simple, and it is. You have dialogue, sound effects, and possibly a running commentary by a narrator to help the story along. As you see there is really not a lot too it! Or is there?

A good radio play can grab hold of your attention - as well as any book or film. But it can go a step further. A good radio play can cause mass hysteria across the country, as in 'War of the Worlds'. It can even develop from an ingenious radio play into a best selling book 'Hitchhikers guide to the Galaxy'.

How can you write a very good radio play? Here again the answer is pretty simple. Write the radio play you would like to hear yourself.

Someone wrote on the net recently 'I would never read or buy what I write myself'. That's what I call digging your own grave. If you don't like it, who will?

Write the radio play you always wanted to hear! In fact write the radio play that you know would keep you glued to the radio. You are writing for an audience - but the first person in that audience is yourself. If you don't like it, who will? I'm going to begin with some basics. It is not difficult - even I can do it! but it does help to stick to a few basic rules.

 (If you find these basic descriptions too brief, you can read about them in more detail in The Essence of Story and in the Writer's Workshop.)


The beginning

The beginning is the start of your adventure with the listener. If you don't grab them immediately, you're history with the flick of a wrist!

Your listeners have gone to find something else that will hold their attention. Unlike a book or film, a slow explanatory build up of background and atmosphere does not work in radio drama.

With the help of audible atmosphere from your actors, and appropriate sound effects, your radio play must quickly "establish" itself within the first thirty seconds.   The listener must know, a) who the protagonist is, b)what the protagonist's problem is, and c)where and when the story takes place.

To get the best out of those first thirty seconds, capture your listeners with an important dramatic moment, and using that give them a roller coaster ride to the climax.


Those who believe in the classical structure of Beginning, Middle, and End should stick to it. However an explosive opening can be more dramatic than the resolution! Don't be too concerned. Whatever structure that will make for better radio is the trick, so long you keep the listener on the edge of his/her chair throughout.

 The Plot

 Many people believe that radio drama consists of one plot, and one story line.


A good plot with plenty of twists and turns, together with one or two sub-plots will add to the listening pleasure.

One thing is important. The sub and main plot have to be joined with an umbilical cord.   While following one, the listener must not entirely lose track of the other. 

And of course the plot and sub-plot must  come together at the end of the play.


The general rule is that your main character should have the sympathy of the listeners.

However modern drama has shown us that the main character can change from a badie to a goodie or vice-verse!

Listeners have to identify in some way with the main character - but that does not mean it is the type of person you would like to invite around for dinner.

Drama is conflict, and that's what you're after.  And that conflict lies at the core of characterization. 

A character is defined not only by what conflicts he or she is wrestling with, but by the style and manner in which he/she handles (or fails to handle) that conflict. 

Even a good comedy can have great drama, it's just the way you lay it out, and the style in which the main protagonist approaches and handles the particular conflict! 

But, unlike a book or film, radio drama must be carried forward by dialogue alone.  

There are no scenic descriptions, revelations of thought, or engaging camera shots. It's all down to dramatical dialogue by which we will amuse, argue and inform the listener as to what is happening in our radio world.

Keep your dialogue relevant to the story. Idle chat serves no purpose and can lose you listeners.

Creating an atmosphere

Atmosphere and ambiance are the decor sets not unlike a film. A picture would not get far if the actors played their scenes in front of a blank screen. The same goes for radio. There are many ways to add the necessary atmosphere and ambiance:

Dialogue, sound effects, and music take over the roll of the decor so that the listener can visualize the surrounding where a particular scene is taking place.

HOWEVER.... there is always an exception to the rule. For instance a radio play built out of a monologue can contain no sound effects or music whatsoever.

The Beat

In order to prevent yourself from writing a radio play that will in some parts bore your listeners,  think of a beat!.... as in music.

If you think your radio play can withstand this form of editing, try it!

Here's how: In reviewing your written masterpiece try to find a beat in the writing that will push your dialogue along at a reasonable tempo. If some part falls short or you lose the timing, scrap the parts that cause the crash. This will usually make you dream up some other scene that will keep the play riding on an up-tempo beat.

 The Climax

If your radio play sounds boring to you when you're reading it, or it is not building up to a tense, intriguing, absolutely fantastic climax, then start all over again.

Layout structure

Writing a radio play is less complicated than most forms of writing but there are a few rules:

Type (keyboard) neatly and double spaced.

Characters names in capital letters down the left margin and please do not abbreviate.

Sound effects or music in italics.

Type on normal A4 ( USA letter size) white paper, in 12 or 14 font size, and keep to regular fonts  such as, Arial, Courier, etc.

A radio play example will be posted after the second lesson. This is to let you concentrate on the dialogue first – after that we will get down to the real thing.

Assignment 1   is the PRELIMINARY ASSIGNMENT for this course. 


Read Instructions before reading this Assignment

Completing and turning in Assignment 1 on or after December 1, 1999 and before the deadline of December 5, 1999 will ENROLL YOU IN THIS COURSE if you are already registered for the School AND are one of the first 15 students to turn in the Assignment 1.  Pay attention to the WorldCrafters-L Newsletter.  

Assignment 1 will reveal how well you read and follow instructions, how closely you pay attention, how much you rely upon your own mind to figure things out rather than asking questions (i.e. how creative and independent you are -- how well you work by yourself), and how well you meet deadlines.  

We'll begin with something very basic, although essential to the radio play: dialogue used as a novelist would use description. 

Using only dialogue, (two characters speaking) give your listeners a full sensory impression of snow: snow on the ground, snow on the trees, snow falling in the air, snow swirling in the wind, snow blanketing every surface, snow spackling the buildings, snow in a dog's pelt -- snow permeating the entire scene you are setting.  

If you live in a desert or have never experienced snow, set your characters in the silent aftermath of a sandstorm.  If you live on an island and have never experienced either of the above, take us deep into the silent depths of a lagoon. 

The POINT of this Assignment is to DESCRIBE a silent visual effect using nothing but dialogue, not narration, but dialogue -- two people speaking to each other.  

You may not use sound effects in this exercise.  You may use only dialogue. 

It can be as short as you think it to be, but no longer then 3/4 of a page.

Send them back to me at radio@simegen.com   and you will receive my critical judgement. Any questions I will also be happy to answer.

 Assignments, questions and answers will be posted for all the auditors and future students of this course to study.  Watch WorldCrafters-L for more information. 


Assignment 2 --

Back to schedule

Write a ten minute radio play of two people having dinner. To make things a little more complicated, add a dog.

Note: As in a film script, every radio play begins with....



As promised, here is the radio play EXAMPLE:   You must study this example very carefully as a model for your Assignment 3, which is described below.  Note especially the way the type is laid out on the page.  Each type of script, radio, stage play, television, film, has its own format.  Upon submission, your work will not be read if it is in the wrong format. 


Assignment 3:

Back to schedule

 Write a twenty minute piece on whatever subject you like using four subjects. Give it a very strong opening, and try to keep in on a high right to the end – with plenty of twists and turns. Add a sub-plot and some humour for texture.

Try writing it to the ‘beat’ I mentioned in the introduction. Read it through, and if you think you have come to a dip in the dialogue or structure – scrap it and replace it with something upbeat.

If you are wondering ‘how many pages is twenty minutes?’ just read it to yourself ‘aloud’ and time the length of time it takes you to get through it, then add another 1 minute for sound effects/music, natural pauses etc.




Assignment 4

One of the big differences about radio in the USA (as apposed to Europe) is the use of ANNOUNCERS during the course of the radio play or the use of NARRATION to link plots and characters together. Why it is typically American I don't know - but I always smile when I hear it.

Our next assignment is a twenty minute radio play using the voice of a narrator to knit the scenes together, or you may use him/her to introduce and conclude the play.

Five characters maximum (male, female, whatever) and place them in an environment whereby the situation is embarrassing for all! 

They do not have to be in the same room or place at once but there does have to be a connection.

Don't forget that when you're reading it back to yourself it runs with a beat, and sounds like the kind of radio play you would love to hear yourself.

FINAL CHECK before turning this Assignment in: reread Assignments 1, 2, & 3 - reread the instructor's commentary on all the turned in work - double and triple check your work here to be sure you have avoided any errors you or another student made in the previous assignments.  Notice how the complexity is building here.  Each assignment incorporates all the skills developed in the previous ones. 

Assignment 4:INTERMEDIATE: Read Assignment 5  -- develop a series of episodes into a story-arc.

Assignment 4:ADVANCED: Do Assignment 4 starting a series story-arc as for the INTERMEDIATE level, starting with 5 characters in 3 locations, ending   with all 5 characters in location #1, and use narration to knit all these threads together.  Create suspense by foreshadowing the single most embarrassing moment of this Radio Play, and make that embarrassment the final moment and very last line of this episode -- a cliffhanger. 

During the first Essence of Story course, many students attempted the more advanced levels before they were ready and it flattened their learning curve.   It would be wise to do the Intermediate and Advanced exercises AFTER you turn in your own Assignment 4. 

Deadline Assn 4 Feb 13, 2000 --- email Assignment 4 as attached file in html format to radio@simegen.com   -- remember to include the name of the course, the number of the assignment, your byline, your email address,  AND state what you were trying to do according to your understanding of this assignment and the level you are attempting.  (e.g. Using a Narrator Voice Over to knit parts of a story together.)  Give your piece a TITLE that reflects its theme.  For example, "Patricia's Gaff"  -- "Eddie's Stage Fright" -- "Moira's Excedrin Headache #617" -- "The Tax Audit of Extraterrestrial #320."



Assignment 5

In these days of expensive radio and short concentration spans there is a tendency to broadcast radio plays that run like a television soap, yet are very much shorter. This is our next assignment.

Using maximum 8 central* characters write 5 sets, 5 minutes long, that is situated in a small shopping mall.

In a situation like this you have to define your characters very well.  Although the actor will mold the character into a solid person, your character has to have his or her own personality, way of talking, way of thinking. Otherwise they will all sound the same.

This assignment can either be drama, humor, or both. The most important thing to remember is that the end of each set has to end in a cliffhanger! YOU REALLY WANT TO KNOW WHAT IS GOING TO HAPPEN IN THE FOLLOWING EPISODE!!!

Plots do not all have to start at once, although it is important the listener does not get confused.

Keep them coming and going at a significant pace. You have to do literally everything to hold the attention of your listener. 

Plots that start at the beginning should not run through right to the end. 

Beware of insignificant dialogue - in a play like this there is no time for idle chatter.  And watch the beat. 

*You can have more people briefly appearing who do not play a central role in the play.

After you have turned in your Assignment 5, you might want to try the Intermediate and Advanced levels. 

Assignment 5 INTERMEDIATE: continue the story-arc begun in Assignment 4, adding the 3 new characters.  Use dialogue to sketch in the life-histories of these complex soap-style relationships, but be sure the characters do not tell each other what they already know.  Use inference, reference, hint, innuendo, and reparte.   

Assignment 5: ADVANCED: Do all of the above, and make one of your 8 characters a true villain.  This can be comic book style, such as The Penguin and The Riddler, or a more ordinary "soap opera" style of a character-assassin, rumor-monger, or a "JR" style tycoon who rides roughshod over his opposition.  The "advanced" part of this task is to make your villain a popular or sympathetic character -- someone you love to hate.  

DEADLINE: for Assignment 5 is  Feb 27, 2000.  Submission details the same as for Assignment 4. 


Assignment 6  --




presented by

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

PREPARE FOR YOUR FINAL EXAM: Read and study "The End is Near" an example of the Complete 40 minute Radio Play, designed to run without commercial breaks.  (with commercial breaks, the climax structure would be altered). 

As detailed in Brian Hoolahan's biography, "The End is Near" was written for the Dutch audience, translated by Brian Hoolahan especially for this course, and launched Brian Hoolahan's career in national radio with a controversial, attention-getting topic. 

Brian, in his biography, mentioned that this play made a stir because it is controversial.  The main characters are The Lord,  and His Apostles.  Grand liberty is taken in characterizing them interacting with people in this modern world, and some people might find this offensive rather than humorous. 

I believe that if you did not find the movie, "Oh, God" starring George Burns as God, and John Denver as a grocery-clerk prophet, offensive, you will likely not find this radio play offensive. 

Brian says: "Since this play was written before I understood the use of..."characterization by dialog,"   "the beat" -- "keeping the action moving," and  "the use of the absurd in humor" .... I do not think it is a very good example for expaining these.  I think it would be best used basically as a radio play example from myself."

Which makes it a perfect example to study before writing your own radio play that you might send to market to make a name for yourself. 

"The End is Near" seems to me to demonstrate all of the techniques listed above, but perhaps not at the level of accomplished proficiency that years and years working in the radio industry would produce.  Thus, the level of proficiency demonstrated in "The End is Near" is well within the student's ability to reach, after studying the material presented in this course.

Live Long and Prosper,

Jacqueline Lichtenberg


Assignment 7 --




ASSIGNMENT 7 - Professional Level








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This Page Was Last Updated   03/09/05 12:45 PM EST (USA)



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