If only I’d had Alex Chadwick as my guide when I was learning to write for radio (and now, for that matter). Wooooboy, life would have been a whole lot easier and my writing a whole lot better. Alex is a master at parsing out what works and what doesn’t. His Transom manifesto on writing is gold.
On this edition of HowSound, Alex and I trade tips on writing that new producers will find invaluable. Between this episode and the manifesto, most of the basics are covered.
During our interview, Alex said one thing that caught my ear. It’s not in the episode or the manifesto. It’s a writing practice I never would have guessed he would use given that he’s a radio reporter and the primary tools are a mic and a recorder. Alex says a lot of what he writes in his narration comes from the notebook he uses while reporting.
Alex has a unique writing style. (For another medium, I’d say writing “voice” but in radio “voice” means something else.) And, it sounds like that style stems from his note taking. He sounds somewhat literary at times, though to be fair, Alex bristled when I said that to him. In radio it’s not a compliment to say someone sounds literary. But, I meant it as a compliment and he understood that.
What I mean is this: Alex’s writing is sometimes more complicated than what is usually considered appropriate for the medium. Occasionally he can be ornate and descriptive. But it works. And that sets him apart. Indeed, it’s what makes his work interesting.
One of the better examples of what I’m talking about can be heard in Alex’s award-winning documentary from the early ‘90s “Natasha Dudinska: Hope and Courage in Czechoslovakia.” It’s a 25-minute documentary recorded as the country forged a new, post-Soviet direction. What follows is a clip of the last few minutes of the documentary plus Alex’s reflection on the value of note taking for writing.