Sunday, January 17, 2016

How I ended up writing an audio drama, Part I: Saying no when you mean yes

As you might’ve guessed from my last post, rather a lot happened in my little life during my absence from this blog. One of the loveliest things was that I got to write an audio drama.

As with many things in life, getting the opportunity to do this came not exactly from what I know, but who I know. And in this instance, that who turned out to be my lovely significant other, who we shall henceforth refer to as The Other Half. Among other things (he’s a veritable swiss army penknife of talents), TOH writes, produces and directs audio dramas, and shortly after we began seeing each other he gave me some episodes of his to listen to. These included some Doctor Who stuff (and assorted spin-offs) and a series that he created All By Himself called The Confessions of Dorian Gray, which suggests that Oscar Wilde’s rebellious literary creation was not in fact a rebellious literary creation, but rather a rebellious real life person, and his confessions are made up of predominantly supernatural tales spanning the last one hundred years or so.

By this point TOH had produced three series of Dorian along with a handful of hour long specials, and I listened to them all in the space of a couple of weeks.

Now, I should interject here to explain that I’ve never really been a massive fan of audio drama because I don’t actually know *how* to listen to it. If I just pop my headphones in and plop myself down on the sofa I tend to fall asleep and thus only get to hear the opening lines and the end credits. And they're not something I can listen to while doing housework because, basically, I don’t do any housework. But as each episode of Dorian was only around half an hour long they were perfect to bung in the car and listen to on my regular drive to the yoga studio - which takes, as if you couldn't guess, about half an hour.

To my delight (because I could imagine nothing worse than having to skirt around TOH’s inevitable questions asking ‘what did you think?’ by nervously shuffling my feet and pretending I was going through a tunnel and clicking my phone off) I found Dorian to be thrilling stuff - exciting, scary, a bit sexy and even rather funny in places, with some wonderful performances. So when the inevitable ‘what did you think?’ question did arise I could honestly answer: ‘I loved it.’ Around this time (late 2014) TOH also started telling me that he planned to produce a two-part Dorian Christmas special for 2015, with him writing the first part and another writer tackling the second. The idea was that the two stories would be loosely connected, with the first being a somewhat lighthearted, scary festive romp, and the second being a bit more serious and tying in more closely with the series’ ongoing arc. Sounded good to me.

As time went on, however, TOH kept dropping into phone conversations that he was struggling to find the time to write his Christmas tale, most likely because he was spending a significant portion of his time in conversation with me on the phone. As a result he said was thinking he might have to hand it over to another writer. “That’s a shame,” I said, because I’m considerate like that. I was nevertheless being sincere, because I knew he had what he thought was a great idea and really wanted to write it himself.

Days and weeks passed and the same thing kept coming up in conversation until eventually one night TOH said: “Do you want to write it?” Now, TOH knew that I wrote stuff - he has a copy of my novella (still available on Amazon, just sayin’), and he’d read and apparently enjoyed a short story of mine - and of course in my head I clasped my hands to either side of my face and shrieked “YES! YES I DO!!” But then I remembered how much he *really* wanted to write it, and how enthusiastic he sounded every time he talked about it, and how he somehow managed to squeeze a ridiculous amount of work into a mere 24 hours each day meaning surely he'd find a way to get it done.

So I said “No.”

Over the next few days TOH asked the question again. And again. And again. And each time I said “No.” And then one day, he just said: “Look, if you don’t write it I’ll just get somebody else to do it.”

So I said “Yes.”

I won’t go into the fine points of writing the script because all that basically entailed was sitting at my desk and relentlessly tapping away at my keyboard. What I will say was that writing it came rather easily to me, mostly because as TOH had planned to write it himself he’d prepared loads of notes for me to work from, but also because having listened to the series in its entirety so recently I really felt like I had a good handle on the characters and their voices. I should also add that while I had all those notes to work from, TOH did give me free rein to go off piste and add in my own bits here and there to spice it up (and then de-spice it later on when he reminded me this was audio and we weren’t working with a £35 million budget). It also helped that I was given a rather tight deadline, and as long-term readers (surely there's at least some still out there?) will know, I do love a deadline.

So anyway, I turned in my first draft just before Christmas 2014 (writing it around the Christmas period certainly helped me bring an authentic festive feel to it) and nervously laughed when TOH said something along the lines of “don’t be surprised if I massively rewrite it if it’s shit.”

As it turns out, he didn’t*. I think the one major change he made was the addition of a scene between two characters (the Toby and Simon one at Dorian’s house, if you’ve listened and you’re wondering) that ties in with the second part, which mainly came down to the fact that I didn’t really know what the second story was all about. Aside from a little bit of fiddling and tidying up here and there, what was eventually recorded was pretty much as I wrote it.

And the recording? Well, we’ll come to that…

*So much so, in fact, that shortly after I'd submitted it, TOH mentioned that at some point in the future he'd let me write a regular episode of my own devising. Being the eager beaver that I am, I subsequently, and very quickly,  devised and sketched out a spooky little half hour episode. Unfortunately for me, around the same time as the Christmas episodes were recorded, TOH and Alex, the lovely chap who plays Dorian, decided that they wanted to end on a high with the fifth series (which has now been recorded and will be released sometime in 2016), meaning my spooky little half hour (which TOH said was a lovely idea) will go no further than the five pages of outline scribbled hastily in my notebook. Ya win some, ya lose some, capiche?


Inexplicable DeVice said...


I mean: What a media whore ::rolls eyes::

No. Really. Exciting stuff. I can totally imagine you shrieking "YES! YES I DO!!" with your hands clasped on either side of your face.

Does this mean that you'll be up for writing other audio dramas that TOH (which is HOT backwards, btw) may produce?

Tim said...

Oh, let's not get carried away!!

kold_kadavr_ flatliner said...

Let this be your catalyst to Seventh-Heaven:

'The more you shall honor Me,
the more I shall bless you'
-the Infant Jesus of Prague
(<- Czech Republic, next to Russia)

Love him or leave him...
ya best lissen to the Don;
if you deny o'er-the-Hillary's evil,
which most whorizontalites do,
you cannot deny Hellfire
which YOU send YOURSELF to.

Yes, earthling, I was an NDE:
the sights were beyond extreme.
Choose Jesus.
You'll be most happy you did.
God bless your indelible soul.