Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Radio Days

Well, sharing information about my participation in the National Novel Writing Month competition had an unexpected result. I received not one but two proposals to turn my competition novel, "The Purple Doom" into a radio drama.

Actually, it might work pretty well. Like all pulps, each chapter ends with a cliffhanger to keep the reader turning the pages. But adapting a print work to radio is more than just transcribing the dialogue.

In order to really do a radio play properly, all the scene-setting elements, such as sound effects and narration, need to be kept to a minimum in order to stay out of the way of the story's forward motion.

For example, here's an excerpt from Chapter Two of the "Purple Doom" (you can read Chapter One here):

Amos Kensington glanced at the mantle clock. Five minutes to midnight! His stance became more relaxed, his smile broadened. The millionaire looked around the small study. The room was a simple box, with a high ceiling. Two walls were covered with bookshelves from the floor up, displaying three generations of rare book collecting. A third wall also contained shelves, framed by two large windows, now locked and completely shuttered from the inside.

Kensington looked to the fourth wall, where the marble fireplace contained a roaring blaze. The light from the fire flicked wanly across the room, unable to complete with the collective illumination from the room’s electrical fixtures and lamps, every one of which switched on by Kensington.
His eyes traveled back to the automatic laying on the desk. Well, he thought, let the Doom come. I’m ready now.

Raymond turned onto the narrow lane that lead to the Kensington estate and looked at the dashboard’s illuminated clock. Five minutes to midnight! He had visited Amos several times before. About five minutes to get to the main gate, another three to get to the front door. I might not be early, but I won’t be late, Raymond thought.

As he approached the entrance, he saw a large dark shape on the road’s shoulder opposite the Kensington gates. The limousine’s headlights played across a familiar sky-blue object. Raymond recognized the Italian sports car that had recently passed him. But why was it here, partially hidden off the road, and where was the driver?

Feeling vaguely uneasy, Raymond pulled into the gates. On a sudden impulse, he turned the vehicle so that it faced out toward the road, and backed off the driveway close to the poplars lining the drive. The motor stopped and the car lights winked out. Silently Raymond moved from the vehicle. His dark shape glided through the gates and across the road to the sports car.

And here's how I would adapt it to radio:

Narrator: Last time, as you remember, millionaire Amos Kensington urgently asked Raymond Barr to come to his house at midnight. Kensington has made a fateful decision.

(sound of crackling fire and a ticking clock)

Kensington: Five minutes to midnight. Maybe nothing's going to happen after all. (breathes a sigh of relaxation). After all, I'm here, safe in my study, alone. My automatic's laying on the desk there, and I know how to use it, too! But there's only one door, and it's locked. (laughs slightly) So let the Doom come. I'm ready now.

Narrator: Not far away, Raymond speeds through the night in his roadster.

(sound of motor and a screech of tires)

Raymond: Almost missed the turn onto this narrow lane. That would have been too bad - it's the only road to the Kensington estate. (thinking aloud) Let's see, about five minutes to the main gate, another three to get to the front door... I might not be early, but I won't be late.

(sound of motor slowing down)

Raymond: Say, what's that in the headlights? That looks like that sky-blue Italian crate that passed me earlier. What's it doing here? And where's the driver?

(sound of tires scrunching on gravel)

Raymond: I'll just back into this grove of trees here. Call it a hunch, but I'm betting I'll have to drive out of here in a hurry.

Narrator: Silently Raymond moved his parked vehicle. His dark shape glided through the gates and across the road to the sports car.
I think the best thing is to finish the edits on this thing as quickly as possible, so folks can read the whole story. These offers may dry up -- but if they don't, this may be the start of a beautiful podcast series...

- Ralph

Day 166 of the WJMA Web Watch.


  1. Now that's going to be a lot of fun to listen to!

  2. Anonymous1:03 AM

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