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.
1. In The Beginning
- All for one, one for all
- Online resources
- The Writer’s journal
- Don’t get it right, get it written
2. Where do Stories come from?
- Nothing new under the sun
- What works best?
- Building a world
- The iceberg principle
- Giving the audience what they want but not in the way they expect it
- Working through the complexity to the simplicity beyond
3. Structure 1: Building Blocks
- The rules
- Changing the rules
- Rules within rules
- The 3 R’s
- Story v plot v narrative
4. Structure 2: Focus
- Who is Hamlet?
- Axis and currency
- Author, author!
- Moral centre
5. Structure 3: Variations on a Theme
- Working with genre
- Genre in television and film
- Anti-genre and high concept
- Cops ‘n docs
- Adaptation – Different takes
- Character – A short history
- Character – Base camp
- Character – Inner v outer
- Character = action
- Conflict and jeopardy
- Sympathy v empathy
- Sub-text and metaphor
- Theatre, radio, television or film?
- Finding a voice
- Show, don’t tell
8. Making a Scene
- Scenes – Programme
- Scenes – Context
- Scene – Action
- Scene – Situations
- The obligatory scene
9. Difference and Similarity
- Writing for the theatre
- Writing for the radio
- Writing for television
- Writing for film
10. From Page to Stage
- Rewriting and editing
- Script editing
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.
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 it 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.
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. He is currently adapting Strindberg's Miss Julie for an Oxford based theatre company, to be set at a country house party in Oxfordshire in 1963.
Shaun says, somewhat bizarrely..., I have had an article published on the adaptation process long before the play is fully written (!), the link is:
This course will enable students to:
- Develop a series of key technical skills that are intrinsic to all dramatic writing.
- Develop further understanding of both the similarities and differences between Stage, Radio, TV and Film.
- Practise individually and collectively exercises designed to improve their skills as dramatists.
- Gain a greater understanding of the collaborative nature of dramatic writing within the context of evaluating both their own and others work.
- Build a writerly practice around the Portfolio model.
By the end of this course students will understand:
- Key elements of successful dramatic writing.
- The practical application of those elements in their own work.
- 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:
- Enhanced ability to employ a number of techniques in their writing.
- An increased confidence in the use of those techniques, and their application.
- An awareness that they are writing out of their influences and into their own voice.
Assessment for this course is based on two written assignments - one short assignment of 750 words due half way through the course and one longer assignment of 1500 words due at the end of the course.
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.
Terms and conditions
Terms and conditions for applicants and students on this course
Sources of funding
Information on financial support