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Creative Writing 2: Moving on with Scriptwriting

Course Level: 2 (HE5) | HE Credits: 60 | Approx. Duration: 15 months at 10hrs/week

The level 2 scriptwriting course is divided up into five distinct sections, which are outlined below.

Part One: What is drama? How is it different to writing prose? This section will introduce the student to stage and radio drama, comparing and contrasting the two genres. Guidelines will also be provided which will help the student decide whether their idea is more suitable for stage or radio.

The next section, Dialogue, will develop the knowledge base on writing good dialogue, introduced in the level 1 Introduction to Scriptwriting course. Through a rich variety of examples it will allow the student to investigate the function of dialogue in stage and radio drama, exposition and what is left unsaid – subtext. Assignment 1 will ask the student to complete a dialogue exercise using the techniques in Part One plus a reflective commentary.

Part Two: Writing for radio will begin with a brief history of radio drama from the recording of live stage broadcasts in the early twentieth century to the contemporary purpose-written output from broadcasters such as the BBC and RTE. The power of radio drama will be revealed through a short case study of the furore created by Orson Welles’s 1937 broadcast of ‘The War of the Worlds’. Using a range of examples from radio drama this section will introduce the student to the techniques required for writing radio drama. These will include script layout with technical guidance on, for example, special effects, ‘The Theatre of the Mind’ which will reveal the potential and limitations of radio drama using case studies such as Dylan Thomas’s ‘Milk Wood’ and ‘The War of the Worlds’, and writing for the ear: how to create a soundscape using sound effects and contrast and variation. Assignment 2 will ask students to write a 15-minute short radio play.

Part Three: Writing for stage will include a brief history of the theatre from Aristotle’s Poetics to Jez Butterworth’s Jerusalem. By the end of this section the student will understand that dramatic action is the key difference between writing a short story or novel and writing for stage. The section will also include guidance and exercises on script layout for stage, genre in theatre from the modern tragedy e.g. Death of a Salesman; the whodunit e.g. The Mousetrap to the political e.g. Enron to the state of the nation e.g. Jerusalem, structure in the stage play – from the one-act play to the five-act play, and an introduction to the different types of stages e.g. the proscenium arch; setting and locations; props.

For Assignment 3 the student will complete a 15-minute one-act play for stage or a 15-minute extract from a longer play plus a reflective commentary.

Part Four: Narrators, Soliloquies and monologues will give this scriptwriting course students an opportunity to broaden and flex their range of dramatic techniques (especially in terms of dialogue) using a range of case studies and exercises. The student will discover the various roles of the narrator in drama eg. help tell the story, reveal information, comment on the action. It will also offer guidance on the pitfalls and advantages in using a narrator for stage and/or radio. The Soliloquies section will introduce students to the soliloquy: ‘a speech of extended length and internal coherence, delivered by a single speaker, that does not include another’s response.’ Examples of soliloquies will range from Shakespeare to contemporary playwright Martin McDonagh. In the Monologues section the student will be given examples from plays written entirely as monologues such as Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads and Willy Russell’s Shirley Valentine. They will also discover how to bring other characters into the monologue and the use of the confidant. Assignment 4 asks students to complete a dramatic exercise of approximately 10 minutes duration using a narrator, a soliloquy or a monologue plus a reflective commentary.

Part 5: Adaptation, planning, drafting and editing, the markets will include the art of adaptation for stage and radio. The student will study some examples of successful adaptation e.g. The Woman in Black and serialisations of classic novels on BBC Radio 4, planning, crafting and fine-tuning a piece of stage or radio drama, and the markets and outlets for stage and radio drama. Assignment 5 will ask students to complete a 30 minute full-length radio or stage drama plus a reflective commentary.

Aims

The course aims to:

  • A1 Introduce you to the basics of plotting, structure, character and dialogue
  • A2 Enable you to explore and understand the differing technical and creative requirements of stage, screen, and radio drama
  • A3 Develop skills in editing, redrafting and improving writing appropriate to this genre.
  • A4 Develop your reflective skills and ability to rectify perceived weaknesses in the light of constructive feedback.

Outcomes

On successful completion of the course you will be able to:

  • LO1 Use the primary skills of narrative – story, character and dialogue – by analysis and practice. (A1)
  • LO2 Demonstrate an understanding of the demands of differing specific media for script (stage, screen, radio). (A2)
  • LO3 Edit and redraft your narrative and dialogues texts. (A3)
  • LO4 Show judgment of your own work in response to constructive feedback. (A4)

Course content

  • Part One: What is drama? How is it different to writing prose?
  • Part Two: Writing for radio
  • Part Three: Writing for stage
  • Part Four: Narrators, Soliloquies and monologues
  • Part Five: Adaptation, planning, drafting and editing