This is for the headscratchers, the worriers and burners of the midnight oil. If you find yourself writing an audio script and a blank screen is staring back you, here’s a voiceover’s take on the creative process.
Think with your ears.
For radio commercials in particular, those with the greatest impact are the ones that make the most of the unique strengths of audio itself.
Sound is all they’ve got!
But equally the techniques I’m talking about could apply to longer video scripts, telephony, whatever the project.
Start by creating the mood
Think about the image you want to convey and your message.
Consider the overall tone.
Warm, serious, quirky maybe?
Radio has been called the ‘theatre of the mind’ because sound creates memorable impressions on a listener.
The voiceover, music and sound effects are your ‘props’.
You won’t have made a final decision on anything specific at this point.
But just keep an imaginary soundtrack playing in your head as you write.
Think in terms of how sounds can shape your ideas, it’ll get the creative juices flowing.
Your script is going to be said not read.
Who will you be talking to?
Write to suit audience, their attitudes and aspirations.
Can you imagine your words being spoken by someone, rather than just read in the head?
Make your script as easy on the ear as possible and punctuate punctiliously!
The humble , ; and . are key players in giving your message pace, tone and clarity. Punctuation lets us know what to emphasise, where to pause and sound like a real human being that your audience can relate to. So get the most from your voiceover!
They are there to lift the words of the page. On the final script add a direction note –eg someone who is businesslike, relaxed, or who comes across as friendly, conversational, or out of their mind with excitement!
Every word counts
Most audio is written against a stopwatch, and whether you have 30 seconds or 30 minutes, every word must work. You also need to allow time for the ‘white space’ on a page. You may be posing questions, using thought-provoking statements, bullet points or aiming for comic timing, or looking for an easy conversational pace. These are very effective ways to add impact and keep your listener with you, but you often need to allow time for beat pauses in your copy. Those innocent little dots lurking in a web address? A word count won’t see them but they are words, and words take time.
Now press delete
Be the demon of the delete button and ruthlessly hack down lengthy sentences. Your listener has no notes to refer back to and you could lose them in the dark and wordy woodland, never to be seen again! Look for sharper, smarter ways to say all the things you just get out of your head and onto the page in the first draft.
One Last Check
Checking over your script can save you the delay and potential expense of a remake. Don’t just read it back in your head, or mutter quietly at the screen. Read aloud. If the script is a conversation, get a coffee, then try it out with a colleague. This will help you identify if anything sounds awkward, or really is too long. Double check your prices, stats, web addresses, names. Sometimes we get so familiar with them on the page we can overlook a typo.
If there are any words you feel might be unusual, add a pronunciation note or reference.
Writing for audio can be amazing fun. I hope I’ve helped you!