How to write a Radio Script

Learning how to write a radio script is critical for proper execution of a radio performance. The script must include various cues for dialogue, music, and sound effects and be able to quickly and clearly communicate the writer's objectives to the cast and crew. Here is a guide on how to write a radio script.

Here's how to write a radio drama script...


  • Step 1:
    Figure out the central topic of your radio play. Radio drama can be about pretty much anything, but it has to be driven solely by dialogue, narration and sound effects. This makes plot-driven genres such as science fiction, adventure, suspense and mystery especially well-suited.
  • Step 2:
    Create a protagonist and a few supporting characters. Because radio play has no visual reference, you'll want a lot of contrast in your characters. Having characters of different ages, genders, nationalities and subcultures with different ways of talking will broaden the appeal of your radio play and make it easier to follow.
  • Step 3:
    Come up with a good central conflict. Does the protagonist have to catch a villain before he strikes again? Does he have to discover a way to escape from the strange planet where he has been stranded? Does he have to reconcile with a friend from whom he has been growing apart? Writing out a clear explanation of the central conflict will help you organize everything in your own head before you start writing the script.
  • Step 4:
    Create a villain. Not every story has a villain per se, but a really evil antagonist gives your script that pulpy, over-the-top feel that made old-time radio so much fun.
  • Step 5:
    Pick a script format for your radio drama. It really doesn't matter what format you use, as long as you have a standard way of writing dialogue, stage directions, sound effects and narrative.
  • Step 6:
    Set the scene. Radio plays can create the scene using a narrator, a monologue, a dialogue, sound effects or a combination of the above. The important thing is to let the audience know where they are at the beginning. Within the first few minutes, they should know who the principal characters are, where they are and what they are doing.
  • Step 7:
    Clearly introduce a plot element and place in each scene. The first scene might tell you that the protagonist is on a mission on board her starship, for example, and that she is searching for a ship that put out a distress beacon. The second scene might take place in the science laboratory of the vessel and introduce the character of the head scientist and his theory that the ship fell into a parallel dimension. By tying each scene to a place, event and character, you can, piece by piece, create a vivid world for the listener.
  • Step 8:
    Incorporate sound effects whenever possible. Creaking doors, shrieking alarms and cavernous echoes really make radio more vivid. They help set the scene, raise suspense and hold the attention of the audience.
  • Step 9:
    Wrap it up within 30 minutes. Although radio plays can take hours, don't set too big a task for yourself in the beginning. Keep the script tight, short and simple.

Tips & Warnings

  • Although it is usually best to tell the listener what is going on, there are exceptions. Sometimes the tension comes from the character being lost and disoriented. When this is the case, making the audience feel a bit disoriented strengthens their identification with the character.

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