In radio reporting, your story is only as good as your clips. You can't fudge the quotes, you can't paraphrase them, approximate them, insert missing words inside brackets, or just plain use your own to tell the story. This sounds like a pain in the neck, but it also relieves you of much of the abstraction and wrestling with themes, arguments and narrative that print reporters endure. Script writing is a comfortingly concrete process. It begins by sitting down and arranging your clips in an order that makes sense. Often the constraints of continuity and logic will make the order self-evident. You can't play the clip of an interviewee explaining the solution to a problem until you have played a clip setting up the problem. You will want to play the audio of notable background noises close to the clip of a person explaining the source of the noise. Other times the order won't be so obvious, but you are at least bound by a finite choice of clips.
I actually write my scripts by putting all my best quotes and ambient sound on recipe cards, one audio clip per card, and moving them around like a jigsaw puzzle. (Many thanks to Kim Kierans of for an idea which has served me well for many years). The clips are rarely sufficient on their own, of course, and I include several cards for narration that will explain context, introduce characters and smooth over the continuity. But I don't write anything on them. I leave them as blank placeholders while I juggle the cards around, searching for the best order. As I do, all those abstract concerns that print writers seek by staring out the window just seem to reveal themselves. And once they do, filling out the narration cards is often a snap.
This exercise simulates that process. I've taken a script for a radio story I produced about immigrant children in Halifax schools and written each quote and piece of ambient sound on a moveable card. The narration has not been written out word for word; instead each piece of narration has been briefly summarized to indicate the main point. Then I've scrambled the cards. Pass your mouse over the cards to drag and drop them in any order you like. Find an order that makes some kind of logical and narrative sense. Then listen to the original report at the bottom of the page to see how your ideas compare to mine.
There is no correct answer, of course. You could write a different script with the same material, but the exercise should give you a feel for how to write a script without actually writing anything.
Listen to the story:
For 15 years, Conrad lived in Mexico, where he worked as a freelance radio and print journalist. His work took him into a minefield, a gunfight, a dugout canoe and the homes of many fascinating, brave and generous people. He is also an avid teacher and has led classes in radio, robotics, soccer, physics and anthropology in a diversity of places, including office towers, lecture halls, fields and palm thatched huts.
Logremos que los ciclistas y motociclistas tengan respeto, yo no ofendo a nadie no uso chofer ni escoltas ando sola… https://t.co/yXTkvgt1ua
1 year, 7 months ago