Writing Drama (Online)

Course summary

Writing Drama (Online)


Drama is a hugely popular art form. This creative and critical course will help students to turn their passion for drama, whether stage, radio, television, or film, into the craft of dramatic writing, and to understand and appreciate the work of established dramatists.

Listen to Nicholas McInerny talking about the course:

People love drama. Theatre attendance exceeds that of football matches every week, and television audiences are still counted in their millions. Radios popularity is increasing, and Cinema receipts rose to a record level last year. At the heart of all this drama is the script - the focus of our course. The approach of this course is both creative and critical. After a methodological introduction, students will learn the key elements of successful dramatic writing: structure; characterisation; dialogue; and be shown how to employ these in their own work. They will also acquire greater understanding of the four main media: stage; radio; television; and film; as well as insights into genre and adaptation. This course is for anyone who wants to write drama, or to learn more about how drama is written, in an environment that is supportive and inspirational.

For information on how the courses work, and a link to our course demonstration site, please click here.

Programme details

Week One: In The Beginning
Week Two: Where do Stories come from?
Week Three: Structure 1: Building Blocks
Week Four: Structure 2: Focus
Week Five :Structure 3: Variations on a Theme
Week Six: Characterisation
Week Seven: Dialogue
Week Eight: Making a Scene
Week Nine: Difference and Similarity
Week Ten: From Page to Stage

We strongly recommend that you try to find a little time each week to engage in the online conversations (at times that are convenient to you) as the forums are an integral, and very rewarding, part of the course and the online learning experience.


Recommended reading

To participate in the course you will need to have regular access to the Internet and you will need to buy the following books:

  • Edgar, David: How Plays Work (Nick Hern Books, 2009)
  • Egri, Lajos: The Art of Dramatic Writing (Touchstone,New York) either the 2004 edition or 2010 edition will be fine.

In addition, pick one of the following plays and read it. You will be referring to several times during the course.

  • Anton Chekhov, Uncle Vanya
  • Henrik Ibsen, A Dolls House
  • J M Synge, The Playboy of the Western World.

As Synge is out of copyright any edition will do. For consistency on Ibsen and Chekhov translations I suggested Penguin Modern Classics.

Alternatively, you can access all these plays on www.gutenberg.org


To earn credit (CATS points) for your course you will need to register and pay an additional £10 fee for each course you enrol on. You can do this by ticking the relevant box at the bottom of the enrolment form or when enrolling online. If you do not register when you enrol, you have up until the course start date to register and pay the £10 fee.

For more information on CATS point please click on the link below: http://www.conted.ox.ac.uk/studentsupport/faq/cats.php

Coursework is an integral part of all online courses and everyone enrolled will be expected to do coursework, but only those who have registered for credit will be awarded CATS points for completing work at the required standard. If you are enrolled on the Certificate of Higher Education you need to indicate this on the enrolment form but there is no additional registration fee.

Assignments are not graded but are marked either pass or fail.

All students who successfully complete this course, whether registered for credit or not, are eligible for a Certificate of Completion. Completion consists of submitting both course assignments and actively participating in the course forums. Certificates will be available, online, for those who qualify after the course finishes.

IT requirements

This course is delivered online; to participate you must to be familiar with using a computer for purposes such as sending email and searching the Internet. You will also need regular access to the Internet and a computer meeting our recommended minimum computer specification.


EU Fee: £375.00
Non-EU Fee: £495.00
Take this course for CATS points: £10.00


Mr Shaun McCarthy

Shaun McCarthy has had over a dozen stage plays professionally produced and drama series and single productions for BBC radio. He runs Hooligan Theatre Productions through which he develops his new work with co-production partners. He teaches creative writing at Oxford and Bristol universities and the University of the West of England.

Course aims

This course will enable students to:
1. Develop a series of key technical skills that are intrinsic to all dramatic writing.
2. Develop further understanding of both the similarities and differences between Stage, Radio, TV and Film.
3. Practise individually and collectively exercises designed to improve their skills as dramatists..
4. Gain a greater understanding of the collaborative nature of dramatic writing within the context of evaluating both their own and others work.
5. Build a writerly practice around the Portfolio model.

Teaching outcomes

By the end of this course students will understand:
1. Key elements of successful dramatic writing.
2. The practical application of those elements in their own work
3. The collaborative process involved in seeing a project though from initial idea to completion of first draft.

By the end of this course students will have gained the following skills:
1. Enhanced ability to employ a number of techniques in their writing.
2. An increased confidence in the use of those techniques, and their application.
3. An awareness that they are writing out of their influences and into their own voice.

Assessment methods

Assessment for this course is based on two written assignments - one short assignment due half way through the course and one longer assignment due at the end of the course. Students will have about two weeks to complete each assignment.

Assignments are not graded but are marked either pass or fail.


Please use the 'Book' or 'Apply' button on this page. Alternatively, please contact us to obtain an application form.

Level and demands

FHEQ level 4, 10 weeks, approx 10 hours per week, therefore a total of about 100 study hours.