The opening 30 seconds of the play - called the "hook".

 'Hook' on to the listeners' attention - so they do not switch off.
 Entertain your listeners
 Let the listeners know the genre of the play - and the mood
 Often (most often?) establish the play's protagonist (leading character)
 In 'art' radio plays, a montage might be used. See EXPERIMENTAL radio drama pieces
 Acting? - you have to work especially at this. You may have to record this early on, before you have fully discovered the character.
 Directing? - try to record this later, when your actors have really discovered character and voice.
 Scripting? - redraft and rethink - this is so important. Listen to lots of radio plays.
 For scripting and production examples, see Signposting - further.
  STRAIGHT IN TO OPENING SCENE (as the 'HOOK')? Make special use of establishing the ATMOS (see techniques there) at the top of the scene.

 In FILM, the hook, is longer and is the inciting incident. It takes usually ten pages (or ten minutes) to grab a cinema audience.

 The scripting and direction must "hook on" to the listeners' attention and encourage them to listen, and not to go for the off switch.

The hook is an established term in radio production.

The hook needs to be the subject of special analysis, in terms of writing, production and how the listener is to get engaged, and of its entertainment values.

A variety of hooks are used, and the greatest contrast is between the BBC afternoon play and the Radio 3 play.

The hook will establish both the mood and genre.

It is vital as a device in establishing these and may make use of extra-diegetic music or diegetic music. It will often use a few clearly-recognisable sound effects. In establishing location too, it functions as the "signpost".

As regards this function, "hook" and "signpost" are overlapping terms.

The hook will generate expectations for the listener not least of being entertained. In some few example, there is an extended sound montage for the hook, or some greater elaboration.

Note the use of symbolism, for example, in music, or a signpost (such as the seagull or train).
The hook carries much greater weight than by contrast with the TV play.

And ditto a contrast to the stage play, which rarely begins the first scene at a rapid pace and by going to the heart of the action.

The hook may also indicate that the dominant genre of the play is a comedy, or serious, or a thriller, even though the opening scene or scenes are in another mood.

To Welcome Page

Comments on the hook
Listeners often take a moment or two to get mentally tuned it.

McWhinnie, THE ART OF RADIO (1959) 132:
Beginnings and endings are always difficult. The sense of beginning must be evoked by the programme itself. There are many ways of doing this; and perhaps the most frequent is the sound-montage. There is not point in building a sound-picture of a deserted chapel on a wind-swept hill unless that picture is relevant to the play as a whole; but there is every point in doing so if the immediately arresting image is like to be of continuing and variable dramatic value.
(Of opening dialogue)
Fade slowly into it, giving the impression of a gradual approach towards a conversation which has been going on for some time? Start 'cold', that is with a character speaking suddenly out of the blue? Or a mixture? Or a 'trick' opening?

McWhinnie, Donald, 1959, The Art of Radio, London: Faber and Faber.


(of the radio listener)
He can switch off when he chooses, and he will make up his mind about it in the first couple of minutes. It is, therefore, essential to get the action moving without delay.

Felton, Felix, 1949, The Radio-play: its techniques and possibilities, London: Sylvan Press.

To stretch a hand out to the switch is an extremely simple action. The attention of the radio audience has to be gripped at once and once gripped, held remorselessly throughout.


Suderman in the Radio Times 31/7/58 p175:
'A Quiet Corner' column
When radio is at its true work, it must tug at the sleeve in the first few seconds as the degree of concentration by the listeners is great, the time factor is obviously important.


Assignment on the hook (students)
Find examples of the hook and its range.
Examine the production of it - Spot effects in the studio, or FX (pre-recorded sound effects mixed in, in post-production)
Find genre examples - comedy, thriller, etc from your listening.
Find examples of hook in standard production.
Write the most arresting and exciting examples you can create.


Further into this site:  signposting

Or back to top of the scene - signposting & description


Setting the scene




 establish presence 

 scene boundaries

  scene boundaries - more

 sound centre and   Point of listening = POL

 To Index 'A' to 'Z' for this site - use to navigate

Structuring the plot




    closure (ending)

   use a 'mystery'


 To index

Production issues in detail



  record 'umms' from all the characters to store

    scene structure

  dialogue is more than words

      SOUND BOX - production sound effects archive

 atmos and soundscapes

  double frame - triple frame


 underscoring music - fighting the dialogue

   'moving camera' technique



 'Will you turn that music down!'

18-second rule 
  drop-ins   sound pictures

 number the scenes carefully with a system  voice in the mind = interiorizing

 time-space rule or jump cut

Styles of production, directing and post-production

  Standard production

 Genre (academic) and types of plays
   story board

    chaining sentences - (characters or character and narrator)

  doubling sentences - overlapping

(narrator and protagonist) 

  economy rule 

 To Index 'A' to 'Z' for this site - use to navigate

Theoretical issues & writing-up your project

writing up your student project work (critique)


 symbol system 
  language based =  logocentric  

 What is radio theory for?

 Theory - what is it?








This site is 'Radio Drama - directing, acting, technical, learning & teaching, researching, styles, genres'. See INDEX to navigate also.  Complete curriculum of scripts, techniques (acting & directing & post-production & genre styles), advice, sound files - effects and atmoses (with no copyright and so free to use), detailed script commentaries, etc.


Academic material on this site is Creative Commons License Alan Beck is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-Share Alike 2.0 UK: England & Wales License.

Learn about radio drama on this site along with my book - Beck, Alan, Radio Acting, London: A & C Black ISBN 0-7136-4631-4 Available on Amazon. CLICK HERE.

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