Week 2



There are no magic rules for developing an idea into a script but there are processes to think about.


Research. If you’re writing about an actual person or event, contemporary or historical, you will probably need to do your research, either primary (interview) or secondary (books, web etc). 


Notebooks. This is more personal - journals, dreams, memories, images, dialogue overheard in the street, evocative sounds or voices, scrapbooks, social media, old photos.


Character(s) and their conflicts- with themselves, with others, with external forces. Usually the conflict between the characters’ desires will drive the nation, although the nature of these desires may not be apparent at  first even to them


Premise. Concepts, hypotheses, thought experiments - how they could be extrapolated. All these elements will interact as you develop the idea. 


Genre and audience - does your idea work within an existing genre? Could you add a new twist to the genre? Who might listen? And on what channel? You can never second guess the audience (average Radio 4 audience is 50 plus) but this might give you some boundaries to work in (Radio 4 pm plays usually 30-44 minutes) Is it a single play or could be serialised?


Planning vs Improvisation

Some writers like to plan every detail - first with a synopsis, and then in a scene by scene step outline, with a totally closed narrative. Some even like to work backwards from the ending. This approach is sometimes favoured for detective/crime drama.


Others prefer a more intuitive approach, exploring the world of the play. They may know the overall arc of the story or they may set off into totally unknown territory with just a voice in their head or an image


Script writing books, especially those on TV and film, will often recommend a three act structure derived from Aristotle. The three-act structure is a narrative model that separates stories into three distinct sections or acts. Act I is the setup or exposition. This establishes the main characters and their goals. Act II raises the stakes culminating in the confrontation between the hero and the villain. Act III resolves the story. The hero returns home, has changed somehow, and the final sequence can serve as a setup for a potential sequel. The sequences can be complicated by surprises or reversals but there is an underlying logic to the action. It’s a useful guide but  followed too literally it can encourage very formulaic narrative. If you follow your obsession, the form will flow around it…



Listen to the BBC Radio 4 Drama The Shard. It's a typical Radio 4 play of 45 minuters with a small cast. How does the dramatist structure the story, using flashbacks and different points of view?



Try one of the following - or a combination.


Think about a soundscape. a fragment of conversation,a voice in your head


Try to pitch the idea and the conflicts it might generate in one sentence. Then expand it into a paragraph.


Write a sketch of the central character - back-story, external/internal conflicts (as discussed above)


Write an overview of the society in which the story develops.Then expand it to a paragraph.


If you already have a sense of a beginning and an end, try writing a one page synopsis that would sell the idea to a BBC producer.


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©Paul Green 2017