Colorful, Catchy Narrative

Radio Noir

By Annette Rey

This is a repost from April 2017 in case you missed it. It is one of my favorites.

Oh, for the days language was used that slapped the listener in the head, jangled his brain, and imparted a vivid visual view in a flash of a second. Machine gun language denoting so much information the listener is running a sentence behind the descriptive narrative. Radio language was used decoratively, stretching metaphors beyond the meaning of the technique.

When I’m driving, I listen to Sirius Classic Radio broadcasts from the 1930s and 1940s. This is how I can learn from, enjoy, and appreciate stimulating script writing.

I’d like to share the following excerpts with you.

The samples below are taken from a radio broadcast called Pat Nook for Hire with Jack Webb, February 27, 1949. The story was told from the point of view of a private detective.

About the environment – “…more noise than a Venetian blind in a typhoon.”

Referring to an alluring female suspect who opened the door to her apartment:

“She sounded as sad as a tap dancer in moccasins.”

“When I looked at her I got a warm feeling like a grilled cheese sandwich.”

“She was wearing a strapless dress and, let’s just say, she had no worries.”

“She was an option if you don’t mind claw marks.”

At the height of tension, the stunning-looking woman took a fatal gunshot meant for him. As he listened to her last words, he spoke to her – one line, two lines. Then he said to his detective partner, “Come on, I’m talking to myself.”

In concluding the story, he referred to her as having “already picked up her end of the check.”

I long for this type of writing and reading experience again. The words transport me directly to the scene. I see clearly what the shamus is seeing, yet enough is left unsaid that causes my mind to rapidly process the missing pieces. The technique requires me to mentally participate. I follow the protagonist to a luxury apartment or onboard a battered, ill-used boat, bobbing at the dock in the night fog. Wherever we go, mystery, danger, and surprise are sure to be found.

My emotional involvement is created by the writer’s choice of words.

I suggest listening to old radio programs. The scripts can teach today’s writers a lost art – the art of communicating effectively to draw your readers into your story.

When you have given this resource a chance (many chances), begin writing with this style in mind. Your goal is to become a better writer. The world needs more of those.

Please share your efforts with me in the comments. Let’s enjoy the journey together.







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