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This week we continue posting a unit of lessons on audio drama for use in schools. They will eventually be gathered into a book but for now they are available freely here at . We hope you enjoy them and welcome any feedback you wish to provide.
We also offer a great line of audio drama scripts for sale (designed as a dinner party event but eminently suitable for use in classrooms). Our showcase contains a wide variety of FREE hand picked classic audio drama from the golden age of radio and the resources section of our site provides links to great resources on sound effects.


Reading Audio Drama Scripts

In our last lesson we looked at listening to, analyzing, and reviewing audio drama.  We chose one (or perhaps a number) of classic shows to listen to and applied one method of constructing a review.

This lesson takes approximately x hours to complete.

There are no pre-requisites for completing this lesson.

This lesson is designed on the assumption that you will make use of the script to An Ephemeral Deal supplied with the commercial version of this product.  It can, however, easily be adapted for use with other scripts.

You will need sufficient copies of a radio script for each student to take part in the reading.

You will need cards with the character names from the script on them sufficient in number that one set can be provided to each group when the class is divided into groups of from 6 to 8 students.

We recommend any of our Host Your Own Old Time Radio Show scripts.  In particular, An Ephemeral Deal, would be very suitable.  Beyond that, this booklet contains everything you need to complete this lesson.

At the end of this lesson you will be able to…

  • Describe three act structure as it applies to the construction of an audio play
  • Describe character arcs as they apply to the construction of an audio play
  • Recognise and follow directions in a script
  • Confidently participate in a script reading
  • Analyse the key plot and character points in a script

  • Reading Audio Drama
    • Understanding Script Structure
      • 1st Act
        • Inciting incident
        • Initial Obstacle
      • 2nd Act
        • Raising the stakes
        • Point of no return
        • Rising Tension
        • Reversal
      • 3rd Act
        • Final Confrontation
        • Denouement and (optional) twist
    • Character Arc
      • Demonstration
        of existing character
      • Call to change
      • Resistance
      • Commitment
      • Testing of
      • Demonstration
        of changed character
    • Understanding Script Directions
    • Script Reading Activity

One of the main divisions of a dramatic work.
A character acting in opposition to the lead characters in a story.
A momentary pause for the count of one or a single beat.
Bit parts
Small parts in a dramatic work calling for the delivery of very few
A musical or sound based indicator of the transition between one scene and another.
The characters to be represented in a dramatic work and the actors who will play them.
The point in the plot in which a character fully embraces change.
Instruction to the actor to wait for the director to indicate when to begin reading a line (in the absence of a musical bridge or other guide).
Instructions concerning the timing and delivery of dialog, sound effects, music etc.
Fade in
An effect whereby sound or music starts softly and then gradually increase its volume.
Fade out
An effect whereby sound or music starts at normal volume and then gradually decreases its volume.
Fade under
An effect whereby the volume of sound or music decreases into the background to give other sounds, music, dialog etc. prominance.
Inciting incident
The event which introduces change, and requires the protagonist to embark upon the story.
Leading cast
The main characters in the story (often called the protagonists).  These are the characters who tend to deliver
the most lines and who are the people that the story is about.
Off Mic
Lines or sounds delivered or played at a distance.
Point of no return
The point in the plot where the protagonist’s bridges are burned behind them and they must either go forward or fail.
The individual who the story is about.
The things which characters do to resist the changes brought into their lives by the events of the plot.
The moment when everything goes wrong, the characters appear doomed, and all is lost.
Rising tension
The ratcheting up of the suspense and tension as the obstacles placed before the main characters grow increasingly more difficult in the lead up to the reversal.
Sound FX
Ambient sounds intended to evoke the environment in which the characters are acting.
Musical or sound based punctuation (dramatic chords, etc.) that are used to help evoke an emotional response (laughter, fear, shock etc.).
Supporting cast
Supporting cast are not the main characters, but make up the bulk of the remaining significant characters in a dramatic work.  Usually they deliver moderate numbers of lines.
Background sound belonging to the environment (for example, the sounds of a busy street) – usually intended to help set a scene.



Understanding the way that a script is structured and conducting a live reading of a script is a great way to learn how audio drama works in practice.  Easy to read vs. difficult lines and how they impact a performance; ambiguity in the directions and delivery of lines; The way a story builds to a climax;  The methods that help an audience connect with the characters; all of these are much easier to identify during a live read-through of the script.  It is also much easier to appreciate a play from the inside, experiencing and identifying with the characters, during a read-through.

Live reading of plays is a fun past-time engaged in by people of a dramatic bent down through the ages.  It is a great way to experience a story “from the inside” without having to engage in great acting.  It’s not a serious dramatic “performance”, rather it’s something done simply for fun, to get a feel for the story.  As a result there is no pressure.  Messing up lines is expected.  All that is needed is the ability to laugh at oneself and have fun.

Here are some questions to get you started…

Have you ever been in a play?  How do you think a play reading differs from a performance?

What guess can you make about why a group might do a live reading before going into rehearsal for a performance?

What do you think can be learned from conducting a live read-through of an audio play?

Understanding Script Structure

3 Act Structure

What follows is the basic formula of a 3 act play.  It is not the only way to understand story structure (and many writers actively dislike it) but it provides a relatively simple, if loose, framework for understanding the structure of a story.

ACT 1.

Inciting Incident

This is the call to action. Characters don’t go out looking for a story to be part of. They are magnets for it. The story finds them. An event occurs that brings the story to them..

Initial obstacle (minor)

This is something minor that gets in the protagonist’s way.

ACT 2.

Raising the stakes –(moderate obstacle(s))

The characters encounter new and somewhat more difficult obstacles. This scene is usually where the antagonist is identified (at least in part – enough to make the objective clear and the antagonist  concrete).

Point of no return

This is where the character’s bridges are burned. It is where the characters are set on a path that will lead inexorably to the final confrontation. It provide them with a compelling reason why they cannot turn back now.

Rising Tension

The characters encounter even more and increasingly difficult obstacles as the lead up to the reversal


This is the moment where everything goes wrong.  The characters find themselves trapped by their circumstances, find their goals blocked, and victory appears to be granted to the antagonist of the story.  The reversal leaves them feeling all hope has been lost only to find a solution at the last minute.

ACT 3.

Final confrontation and victory(?)

The characters confront their adversary and attempt to achieve their goals.  It is here that the day is won or lost (though victory may not come in quite the way the character hoped or expected).

Denouement (and optional twist)

Whether the story is concluded or is being transitioned into a brand new story, the characters need a moment to catch their breath and see the fruits of their efforts. Who got the girl? What consequences have flowed from the characters actions? What friends and enemies have they made, etc?

The Character Arc

A character arc is the way a character is modified by the experience of passing through a story.  This is another basic formula (neither comprehensive nor the only way to think about characters) that helps
provide a simple, general framework for outlining the development of characters within a story.

Demonstration of existing character

Here we meet the character for the first time and see them living their ordinary life in its ordinary routine.

Call to change

Here we see them respond to the event that upsets their routine existence and calls them to make adjustments.


Here we see the characters resisting change, trying to re-establish the status quo.


Here we see the character commiting to the changes required of them, deciding that it is worth the effort and valuable enough to risk everything for.

Testing of commitment

Here we see the character’s commitment to change being tested.  Will they hold true, or will they fall back into their old ways?  This usually involves one final test in which they could lose everything.

Demonstration of changed character

With the final test passed we see the character living differently, life settles into a new routine that embraces the change they have gone through.

Uderstanding Script Directions

To make it easy to find and keep your place within the script all the lines are  numbered.

Numbers which are to be spoken aloud are spelled out (e.g., thirteen, three hundred and twelve).

Sound effects are underlined and capitalized to reduce the chance that they will be mistaken for a line that needs to be read out.

Speakers are indicated by the character’s name appearing in capitals followed by a colon (e.g., TOM: ).

Occasionally directions regarding the delivery of a line will appear. These are capitalized and bracketed, e.g., (NERVOUSLY) — again to reduce the chance that the direction will accidentally be read aloud.

Difficult-to- pronounce names are treated similarly in order to make pronunciation easier, e.g., Cartagena (KARTA–HAIN–YA).

Each scene is numbered and identified as being either an interior (INT.) or exterior (EXT.) scene.

Usually some indication of the time of day is provided, e.g., NIGHT.

The scene’s title is always followed by a short list of the characters required for the scene in brackets — to give everyone some warning as to how soon they will be called upon to deliver a line.

Occasionally you will see the term [CUE] at the beginning of a line. This simply indicates that there is no sound effect or music to indicate when a line should be delivered and that the actor should look to the director to indicate when to begin speaking.

Sound effects are accompanied by a square bracketed number (e.g., [31]). These numbers correspond to the sound effects lists included in the Appendices following the end of the script.

Commonly encountered descriptive terms and directions found in the scripts include:

(BEAT) — A momentary pause for the count of one or a single beat.

(BRIDGE) — Music played between scenes — the radio equivalent of raising and lowering the curtain on a scene.

(CALLS OUT/SCREAMS) — Achieved by raising the head and mouth to shout or scream to the ceiling.

CONTINUE UNTIL — Let the sound or music play until a particular line number is reached.

[CUE] — The actor should wait for the director to indicate it is time to begin delivering the line.

(DISTANT, OFF MIC) — In traditional radio broadcasting this was achieved by having the actor step away from the microphone before
delivering the line. At the dinner table this can be achieved by stepping back from the table or simply lowering the volume of the voice.

(ENTERING/EXITING) — Approaching or moving away from the microphone.

ESTABLISH — Let the sound or music play for a moment before any other sound or dialog is added.

FADE IN — Start the sound or music softly and then gradually increase its volume.

FADE OUT — Gradually lower the volume on the sound or music until it can no longer be heard.

FADE UNDER — Lower the volume of the sound effect or music until the actors’ voices are clearly audible over it.

LET IT FINISH — Play the sound or music until it is complete without fading it.

(STAGE WHISPER) — A loud whisper uttered by the actor, intended to be heard by the audience but supposedly unheard by other characters in the play.

(STING) — Music used to emphasize the emotion of a moment. The “dum-de-dum-dum” that plays when a body is discovered or the “bada-bing” cymbal crash of a joke being delivered etc.

(TO ROBIN, TO ALL) — Dialog to be directed to one or a number of characters in the scene.

UNDER — Continue a sound effect or music at low volume under the dialog or action taking place.

(WALLA) — Background sound belonging to the environment (for example, the sounds of a busy street).

Script Reading Activity

Explain that the class will be broken into small groups to read through the script.

Explain that some parts are larger than others and that students who take on small parts will probably need to do multiple parts.

As a class read through the casting sheets for each character (see appendix in back of script booklets).  Answer any questions students might have about the characters.

Divide the class into groups of from 6 to 8 students.

Hand each group a set of character cards (see appendix – character cards) and have them choose which parts to take.

One person should take the role of the director (reading the script directions, sound instructions etc. out)

The two lead roles are probably enough for one person each to handle.

The major roles could possibly be paired with a minor role each.

The remaining minor roles should be shared among any who still do not have parts.

Distribute copies of the play (one to each student).  Each group should now read the play.  Emphasize that performance is not important during a live read through.  The goal is to have fun.


How is Tony Wells drawn into the story?

What problem does Claire Templeton have?

What obstacles do they face at the beginning?

How does the Winter Queen limit the characters’ choices?

At what point do the characters appear doomed?

What are the good and bad things that result for the characters from Tony’s solution to Claire’s problem?


The following chart attempts to show how the different elements of plot link with those of a character arc of the protagonists.  Complete the chart  by adding examples that illustrate each element.  Not every character element is evident in every story, but try to be as complete as possible.

PlotAn Ephemeral DealTony WellsClaire TempletonCharacter Arc
Inciting incidentDemonstration of
existing character
Call to change
Initial ObstacleResistance
Rising Stakes
Point of no returnCommitment
Rising tensionTesting Commitment
Final confrontation
DenouementDemonstrated change
of character

What big themes were addressed in the script?

What message (obvious or disguised) did the script present?

How legitimate do you think the message is?

Does the script’s theme or message have any relevance for today’s world?

What can be learned from this script (if anything)?  Are there examples to follow or avoid? Are there propositions to be convinced of or refute? Is the subject matter safe, or discomforting?  Why? Why not?

Write a short paragraph summarizing the plot of the play you read, identifying each element of the three act structure.

Write a short paragraph summary for each character arc (for Tony Wells, Claire Templeton, The Winter Queen, and the Summer King).   Don’t worry that they do not all move through each element of the model described earlier.

For assessment:

Summarize the events of the plot in sequence and their impact on the character arc of Tony Wells (500-750 words)


A live reading of a radio drama can be a great deal of fun.  It’s a low pressure way to enjoy the story “from the inside”.

Plot can be defined as the events which happen to the characters.

A character arc is the change which occurs in a character as a result of the events of the plot.

A simple mechanism for mapping the plot of a story is the 3 act structure.

Act 1 consists of the inciting incident and initial obstacle

Act 2 consists of raising the stakes, the point of no return, rising tension, and the reversal.

Act 3 consists of a final confrontation and denouement

A simple mechanism for mapping character growth is the character arc.

In a typical character arc, the character is seen in their usual routine, reacting to the disruption of that routine, resisting change, committing to change, having that commitment tested, then living with a new routine.

A typical script can be analyzed using the three act structure and character arc models.

contain numerous scripting conventions and directions.

sheets are useful for getting to know characters prior to taking a part.

A live reading is a great way to get a feel for the flow of the story etc. without having to deal with the pressure of a performance.


What are the elements of three act structure?

What are the elements of a character arc?

Give examples of at least three script directions?

In our next lesson we will learn about creating an audio performance with sound effects and music.


Appendix – Character Cards

TONY WELLS:Private Detective



FRED:The Magical Sword



THUG#1:A Rock Golem
THUG#2:A Rock Golem
TEMPLETON:Mother of Claire
CLAIRE:Claire as a young girl (11 years)
QUEEN OF WINTER:Fairy Queen of Winter within the realm of light and twin sister to the King of Summer
KING OF SUMMER:Fairy King of Summer within the realm of light and twin brother to the Queen of Winter.


EBERON:Fairy Prince — Son of Oberon (King of the Realm of Light)
FINBARRA:Fairy Prince — Son of Finyarra (King of the Realm of Darkness)


THE MOON KING:Luna, clan chief of the fae family to which the Queen of Winter and the King of Summer belong.
SFX:SFX: operator (1 required).Reads out sound effect directions.




DIRECTOR:Provides direction and pacing. Reads out scene intros etc.

The content of this lesson is copyright © 2015


Worked Example (Radio Adaptation of Rapunzel)