Writer's Guide
to The Doctor Who Audio Dramas

 


 

"Advice to would-be writers? Quite frankly, I believe there is only one piece of advice anyone can give, and its exactly the same as that given by the Greek philosopher Epictatus in about 100AD: If you wish to be a writer, write. You can only learn the craft by doing it, and keeping on doing it. You can only get through the door by hammering on it, and keeping on hammering on it, until somebody opens it. And when they do, you must have something of your own to show them, so you must keep on writing spec scripts until one is accepted, or leads to a commission." - Anthony Read. Doctor Who script editor.

If you are a professional writer, or someone who wants to learn the craft of writing, or just someone who has always wanted to write a Doctor Who story, then may we humbly offer the services of The Doctor Who Audio Dramas.

SegalChord Productions is a group of professional, semi-professional, and amateur actors who have been making The Doctor Who Audio Dramas since 1982. Currently, we have over 160 stories and our episodes are downloaded thousands of times a month..

Our aim is not only to create an entertaining show, but to provide a learning experience for up and coming writers and actors. A place where people can "cut their teeth" as the saying goes. The Doctor Who Audio Dramas is an excellent place to hone your skills before diving into the unforgiving world of professionalism. To date, it has been our honour to have worked with several writers and script editors who have already been or have turned professional. Perhaps you will be next!

As a writer, our script editor will work with you, helping you to polish your work for production as well as providing pointers and examples instead of just giving you a "thumbs up or thumbs down" as you would receive from a professional publishing firm or studio.

As requested by many budding writers, here are the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions and a few guidelines to help you get started:

  1. Although they are fun to write for, do not use regulars like the Daleks, Cybermen, Gallifrey, etc. Everyone wants to do them, and there is a very long wait time before such can be scheduled. Only experienced writers are allowed to write for these types of characters, and usually only by invitation.
  2. We do use our own Doctors and companions. So no writing for the 7th Doctor, Romana, etc.
  3. Your story should be no more than three or four episodes. If it needs to be longer, be ready to justify it. In the past, we've had stories that run the episode gambit from a single episode (Mission to the Unknown and The Brown Death) to fifteen episodes (Time's Champions). At this point in our history, we're trying to bring it down a bit and keep the episode average to three or four. We will still accept stories that are shorter than three episodes or longer than four, but you will need to have a really good story that requires such an unusual number of episodes.
  4. Regardless of the total number of episodes a story has, each individual episode must be between 15 and 30 minutes including opening title music and end credits. That works out to an average of about 30 script pages an episode.
  5. Do not crossover Doctor Who with other shows.
  6. Try to control the number of characters involved in the plot. While a large cast may seem more authentic, we only have a certain number of actors and therefore a certain number of voices available. Too many characters will have people doubling up on voices, and that should be avoided. Additionally, try to avoid small roles. Roles with only a couple lines are difficult to cast.
  7. Be sure and give the companion or companions something to do. Gone are the days when the co-star just stood around and said, "Gee, Doctor, what's that?" or "Eeek! Help me!". Though companions are good for drama and emotional impact, they should not be used as ciphers. Make sure they do more than just stand around and act as window dressing.
  8. Humour is an element that should not be ignored. Don't be so dark as to be melodramatic all the time.
  9. Please do not submit stories which are sequels and continuations of something else. Originality is the operative word.
  10. No vulgarity. To paraphrase Bill Cosby, such is the tool of a weak writer who is too lazy to think of anything more intelligent to say. Yes, we know the new series is allowing it, and even the Doctor needs his mouth washed out with soap every once in a while. But not here. Keep it clean.
  11. Regular, satisfactory progress must be made by the writer. While we do realise that writing is a time-consuming endeavour, and we do understand that all this is done in spare time, we must require that a regular effort be made by prospective writers. If you are unable to submit work on a regular basis, we will be unable to consider your story. Generally speaking, each episode should take no more than two months to put together for each stage of the writing process. If you take longer than that, we may think you have abandoned the story. If you need to take longer, at the very least contact us and let us know of the delay. We're very patient as long as you keep in contact. We've had writers that have taken five years to finally get their stories together, but they kept in contact. That was the key.
  12. Keep references to Doctor Who history to a minimum. Not only will continuity-heavy stories make writing more difficult, but with the BBC having resumed the series, continuity has been increasingly difficult since the new episodes have themselves been ignoring series history. Basically, only the television series is canon. Not the books or Big Finish. Check with the script editor if you need more information.
  13. Do not reference events from the spin-offs. (Torchwood, The Sarah Jane Adventures, or anything else they may come up with.)
  14. Be flexable with your writing. Doctors and companions can change while your story is being written. While we do try to give you as accurate information as possible, things can change, especially if your story is taking longer to complete than originally expected.
  15. Do your best to stay true to the BBC series. While we don't mind doing things that Auntie Beeb wouldn't do because of its time slot, we do want to maintain the show's overall whimsy and spirit. So basically, if you don't think it would fly in any time slot on a BBC channel, it probably won't fly with us, either.
  16. Ownership of stories: This question has come up a lot. Essentially, writers continue to "own" any story they submit. You can sell your story to anyone else. The only thing we require is that you can not come back and ask us to remove your story from our lineup. Once we produce it, we can continue to distribute it for all eternity.
  17. If you plan to write an original story for us, begin with a synopsis, a two to four paragraph summary of your story. That way, bugs can be ironed out before work is begun on the treatment and full script.

Finnaly (as if all that wasn't enough), the script format we use is "Hollywood Screenplay". This is the format Hollywood uses for the movies. You do not have to use this format. Write your script in any format that you are comfortable with. Although there are script writing software programmes out there (Celtx, a free programme is highly popular), we want you to write your script using Microsoft Word or compatable programme. The reason is that Word has some far superior editing tools where we can mark revisions and leave comments to each other that script writing software generally do not have or have poorly implemented. You can download a script template for Word which will help you format everything properly.  Google search "microsoft word screenplay template" for a host of templates to use.

When your script is finished, we will import it into the script programme we use. (Movie Magic Screenwriter)

For those interested, click on the appropriate link for an overview of the scripting process and a short essay by an experienced writer on what the writing process is like.

Thank you, budding writers, for your interest. We look forward to doing your story.


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Questions and submissions can be directed to dwad@onepost.net