SCRIPT: The Dunwich Horror

First, the links:

The full page

Episode 1     Dunwich1

Episode 2     Dunwich2

Episode 3     Dunwich3

Episode 4     Dunwich4

This four-part audio drama is, of course, adapted from the classic H.P. Lovecraft story about a creepy degenerate family in the wilds of New England, who birthed a monster and the possible chaos that such a child of the outside might cause.

It was an exceptionally difficult story to adapt because, structurally, the “story” doesn’t really begin until halfway through, when Wilbur makes his first visit to Miskatonic University.  Everything before that is backstory and foreshadowing.  And while such data is great for tone and creating an unsettling mood, and is really very necessary for the conclusions the characters within the story come to, it is also very dull to front load anything with that much data.  On the other hand, if you leave it out, you lose much of Lovecraft’s atmosphere and get basically “a generic cultist story”, as with the movie adaptation from 1970.

I still feel my version still suffers from heavy data dump, but at least I endeavored to spread it around and bring it in from a variety of sources, so it’s not just one voice all the time.  Plus, I hate losing too much of Lovecraft’s language, since that is one of the key features of his work.

Also vital to the story, for me, were the portrayals of the Whateleys, and (if I do say so myself) my brother and I did a great job as Wilbur and Lavinia.

For writing Lavinia, in particular, I needed to dig really deep to “find” her in the story.  Most adaptations of the story just decide she’s crazy (in that complete loss of faculties fictional Lovecraft way) and let the actress babble and drool.  But Lavinia was never “crazy” – or not any more crazy than she grew up.

Assuming that it was the “mating” that would have pushed her over the edge, her behavior after the birth would have to show the crazy – but in the story itself, people mention how proudly she strutted about town with Wilbur, showing off her baby, and how she looked worried when a jocose fishmonger made some move to go into the sealed part of the house.  Neither being the act of a stereotypically crazy person.

Instead, I found every reference to her and realized she was much more interesting than that.  I took the references to her being a bit of a wild child, left to her own devices, and how she never got taught much, and played with that.  The key, in my head, was to make her someone you could feel pity for, but still would never actually want to be around.

For Wilbur, what I stressed in recording with my brother Danar was that Wilbur sounds and looks like a grownup but is still a child, and we got that petulance and childish tones in there whenever we could.

As a final fun background note, when we had everyone in to record the Dunwich townsfolk, we kept sliding out of the accent and starting again, and the Widow who narrates so much of the town story – but was originally intended to be a male character – came about because Risa could hold the accent better than any of the guys in the room.

Final final – I did a slightly different cover for each episode, slowly shifting the view and making it spookier, and am quite pleased, as they were one of my first really successful gimp compositions.

[All scripts are copyrighted to Julie Hoverson and Wheeality Productions and posting them here is not any sort of waiver of that copyright.  They are posted here for personal use – such as being able to understand the episodes better – only.]

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Published in: on August 13, 2019 at 5:45 pm  Leave a Comment  

Oops – it’s not Wednesday!

I lost track of time while finishing the latest Decadence of Borrowed Silk episode!

But here’s my blog!  It’s something I came up with while half asleep, but think is still worth mentioning…

_______________________________________________________________

People like to help.
Or I should say, people like to help, if they feel it is merited.  If they feel their help is being abused, they get resentful.
For example, any of us, at a grocery store, would feel abused if we offered to carry the bags of a seemingly helpless elderly person who took us to the far end of the lot, then climbed into a huge limo, complete with chauffeur, and then whizzed away without a thank you, let lone any kind of tip.  Conversely, if we offered to help a well off looking individual, convinced we’d be compensated, and took them a block home only to find it was a facade, and they lived in utter poverty, we might refuse even a dollar.
I don’t know where I expected to go with this statement – a discussion of character motivation for writers, or a screed on how to deal with actors, but I decided on the latter.
Actors like to act.  The especially like to act when a role is challenging, and when they feel appreciated, either by their peers, their “employer” (you), or their audience, or all of the above.
Money often comes second for actors, as we are all aware that there is seldom much money flying around to share – for instance, I have a Patreon and ko-fi accounts for
19 Nocturne and @A_D_Infinitum (my twitter feed that promotes all scripted audio drama).  They bring in enough each month to pay for the website costs, a few new sound effects, and some tiny part of the time I put into making shows, promoting shows, etc.
Conversely, if I do at some point hold a kickstarter or similar fund raiser and  make a couple thousand dollars and then snub my actors in favor of something else (buying a complete new home studio setup, building a website, etc.), the actors could easily feel justified in being a bit miffed.  Why not just wrap in an extra stretch goal to cover something for them as well?
On the other hand, we cannot overlook the underlying costs of production, simple as they may appear to be.  I’ve heard any number of producers say they plan to pay the actors and then shrug off getting paid themselves or say something like “well, I do my own production, so I don’t have to pay for that.”
Most shows I have seen fall apart did so because of losing a producer – of someone who just decided they did not want to put in the time any more.
Audio drama is, in a way, the last place you can truly quote the old “We have a barn – let’s put on a show!” kind of sentiment of the old Judy Garland / Mickey Rooney films, and make something out of essentially nothing.
Except time.
LOTS of time.
For every hour each of your actors spend on planning and recording their lines, the sound editor (whatever title you give them – the person actually assembling the show) can literally spend ten hours or more assembling them, choosing and adding effects and music, etc.  not to mention the time spent writing, promoting, casting, making art, chasing down lines, etc.
And if you’re a one man band – or as I prefer to call myself – “diva”?
self-care is not selfishness.
Until it is.
–Julie
Published in: Uncategorized on March 13, 2020 at 8:17 pm  Comments (1)  

Narration

One of my pet peeves that comes up from time to time (too often, particularly with new writers) in audiodrama is the inclusion of a narrator, just because you think you need one.

I lean heavily toward the “no narrator at all, ever” school of thought, but there are some exceptions I will agree to:

  • The “protagonist as narrator” of the diary-type story or the classic noir macguffin, where the “narration” is as much about the character’s thoughts and opinions as it is about described action and items.
  • The “narrator as comedy” where the intrusion is more for humor than for useful information.
  • The “story so far” narrator who brings the audience swiftly up to date at the beginning of a new episode, and then disappears.

But, but, but…. I hear you say “how will I tell the audience what’s going on if there’s no narrator?”

  • Use sound.  Instead of someone saying they go into a store, have a door open and a bell ring, and store noise in the background.  Unless something is utterly impossible to “tell” with sound, this should be your primary choice.  If something *IS* impossible to describe in sound, you have two options:
    • Rework the scene to avoid the impossible event; or
    • put the bare minimum of description into the mouth of one of the characters.

For example, which sounds more EXCITING:

  • NARRATOR :  As the T-rex circled the table, Bob and Mandy desperately held their breath.
  • SOUND:  (getting closer) T-REX FOOTSTEPS
    • BOB (barely a breath)  It’s getting close!
    • MANDY (also barely a breath)  shhhh!  (gasps in a breath!)**

Listening to a narrator is passive listening, and takes the audience a bit out of the moment, while BEING THERE, experiencing it just as the characters are is more active.

Ah, but —- again I hear you say “how can we describe things without the characters just mentioning what everything looks like – doesn’t that sound awful?”

The simple answer is:  Don’t.  Just don’t.

Seriously, listen to some of what you think of as the best shows out there, and really pay attention to how much anyone says about what they or other characters look like.  Really.  How many of them do you know their hair color, unless it’s in the cover art?

We don’t even realize it, but we very often *KNOW* the characters, and have no real concept of what they look like.  And that’s fine.

Finally, if you worry about dumping too much description of the action into the characters’ mouths, try breaking it up.  Drop some now and some later.  Have a scene which listeners can puzzle at and explain it later in the episode – then they go back and listen again!

Leave the audience wondering.  They’ll follow along.  Your listeners are paying attention and smart enough to remember what they learned last time – they don’t need to be spoon-fed.

–Julie

**If you want to argue that the T-rex would have heard them – don’t be silly, it’s not listening to your podcast!

Published in: Uncategorized on March 5, 2020 at 4:52 am  Leave a Comment  

Keeping with the topic…. SFX

First, a tip of the day:  when collecting free fx, make sure to listen to each one, and clean out any background noise and re-save it, so you’re not cleaning that same darn file every time you use it.

Now the main topic – SORTING

What a pain in the butt, right?  Trying to keep everything straight, figure out what each file is named, and where you put it, all that.

While I won’t recommend my method, it might spark some similar ideas and functionality for your files.

One thing I wanted, going in, is to keep the basic directory as short as possible – separating everything into big categories, then smaller and smaller ones with folders inside folders.  So what categories are my main ones?

I might use:

AMBIANCE – all ambiance and background noise
ANIMALS – all animal/bird/insect noises
PEOPLE – any voices, groups, screams, cries, etc.
TRAVEL – cars, trains, planes, anything that moves
HOME – kitchen, bathroom, clothing, paper, jewelry
LEISURE – games, sports, casino, dice
COMBAT – guns, swords, body falls, punches, grunts
WOOD – boxes, doors, chairs, fire, chopping
METAL – grinds, smacks, things dropping
MACHINES – typing, phones, fans, engines
NOISES – whooshes, boings, bits of music, bells, gongs, cartoon noises
WATER – washing, pouring, dripping, hose, sprinkler, creek
Special categories – “scifi” “horror” “victorian” “western” etc.

It’s not perfect, and odd things fall through the cracks, but I can always remember where the basics are.

🙂

–Julie

Published in: Uncategorized on February 27, 2020 at 3:45 am  Comments (3)  

An Audio Palette

How many files is safe and comfortable to have open in [insert name of your own software, I use Audacity] at one time?

As a short cut, in a lot of ways, I tend to take all my most stock effects – doors, footsteps, chairs, thumps and rustles – and put them all in one file (line by line, not all in one track) where I can access them easily over and over.

I have my super basic SFX file, with opening, closing and slamming doors, chair noises, footsteps on wood and dirt and concrete, rustling of clothes, thumps for fighting, a body drop or two, and other miscellaneous sounds like a switch, a key in a lock, a gunshot or two and a knife being drawn.

In addition, I have world-specific files:  for instance, if I was doing a Star Trek (TOS) fanfic, I would have whooshy doors, beepy communicator noises, and phasers, as well as feet on metal.  If I was doing Rocky Jordan (an OTR series I’ve been bingeing), I would need drinks pouring, guns being drawn, knives being thrown and a good solid thud where Rocky gets knocked out in 60% of the episodes…. and the squeak of the chair of Captain Sam Sabaya of the Cairo police.

Ultimately, these sfx “palettes” (similar to having your paint mixed and available on a paint palette) can cut down on the number of screens open, the amount of hunting you have to do, and can streamline your process.

🙂

–Julie

Published in: Uncategorized on February 21, 2020 at 5:59 am  Comments (2)  

What makes a show an Audio Drama?

This is an existential question each of us has to answer for ourselves, ultimately, since there is such a wide field to choose from – from old time radio classics to liveplay semi-edited game recordings.

I’ve been promoting shows through my @A_D_Infinitum facebook and twitter presence, and have drastically limited what I will cover.  The criteria I use for the @A_D_Infinitum twitter feed is:

  • It must be scripted (not improv, gameplay, chat show, etc.)
  • It must be written in script format – not prose (more on that, below)
  • It must usually involve some modicum of music / sound effects / multiple voices
  • I am also not covering Old Time Radio (replays or re-creations) or anything which must be purchased.

None of this is intended to make hard lines and say “this is good” and “this is not”.  In fact, it’s not even some personal objection to the excluded types of shows – instead, it’s simple expedience – I have to limit the scope of the project or it will get WAY out of hand and I will not be able to handle it single handedly (and, alas, I am single and handed).

For the prose versus script thing, that’s the greyest area – particularly with the rise of what I call the “narrative” audio drama (in the form of journals, reports, second person narrative, found footage, etc.) and the dramatized novels, it’s often completely subjective as to which way a show goes.

My first rule of thumb with a narrative audio drama is – is the narrator addressing a person (even a hypothetical one)?  In other words, is the recording, journal, etc., intended or expected to be read/listened to by someone else, someday?

My second rule of thumb is how much descriptive narration is there?  A journal might describe things, but it will more often be about feelings and actions than “he said this, she said that” the way prose is.  The more “he walked”, “she said”, “they could see that she was across the street” bland narration there is, the more I consider it to be prose.

The essence of drama is to show, don’t tell, so narrating what’s going on is utterly superfluous.

🙂

–Julie

Published in: Uncategorized on February 14, 2020 at 1:42 pm  Leave a Comment  

Type “P” for Plosives

I’ve been listening to a lot of audio dramas recently.

A LOT.

And something I hear in quite a few shows that I want to bring everyone’s attention to – and once you hear it, you’ll never unhear it – is the vanishing of ending plosives.

And what’s that, when it’s at home?

The last sound in a word, the trailing tip of sound – but specifically, the hard consonants like “k”, “t”, and “p” (and to a lesser degree “g”, “d”, b” and even “f”).

A lot of us (me included) use – at some point in the sound cleaning and editing process a noise gate, or some other kind of program that silences everything between words, or blanks out every noise below a certain level, to speed up the cleaning process.

But these tools are very blunt instruments, and the plosives at the end of words can be wiped out with the chaff.  This leave you hearing lines missing a bi_ li_e “the to_ o_ the worl_” (“d” and “f” and a hard “g” like in pig can also be affected).

So what can I do?  I hear you say.  I don’t want to lose the speed that a noise gate gives me.  That would involve a ton of boring manual select and silence bits.

OK, two tricks:

One:  If you hear an occasional lost plosive, you can sometimes copy it from somewhere else.  Find a similar word, from the same voice, and copy the little “dot” of sound that it makes and paste it into the missing spot.  Takes a little practice, but it works for most simple plosives – luckily they tend NOT to be the part of the word that includes inflection, so they won’t vary too much from one instance to another.

Two:  This is a bit more tricky, but more reliable.  When you clean the track and go to use the noise gate, first duplicate the track.  Keep the two tracks together while you edit.  The duplicate track stays “as is” while the other is cleaned.  Any deletions or insertions must go into both tracks, to keep them identical.  That way, when you encounter a missing sound, it can immediately be copied from the unaltered duplicate into the cleaned track.

Once you get used to doing it, it doesn’t even really slow down the process, and if it improves your overall sound at all, it’s worth that little bit of extra work.

🙂

–Julie

Published in: Uncategorized on October 4, 2019 at 10:31 pm  Leave a Comment  

Let’s hear it for sound!

Without sound, audio drama is just mime.
Invisible podcast mime.
That being said, there are a lot of ways sound can be bad.

Recently, I’ve been binging a ton of shows, just catching up on everything that’s come out since I went into hibernation (hint: years ago – just look at the last time my show’s main website was updated!), particularly since I have long drives to work at the moment.

And I’ve been hearing a ton of terrible things.

I’m not pointing fingers, but you probably will know who you are, when I address a few things that have been driving me mad.  Consider this an old lady “get off my lawn” rant.

  •  Please put some kind of intro on your show.  With all the people in the world, the odds that I am the only one who will be listening to multiple different shows in a row and HAVE NO CLUE which one is yours, or what new file is starting without some kind of cue, be it the title, the opening music, or something familiar being said.  Something, even a content warning (like I have on Fatal Girl) to cue the listener in.
  • Please, when you first begin making a show, take a look at what volume the majority of shows are coming out at, and export yours at a similar volume.  When I have to crank the volume to hear your super-quiet one-voice production and then the next track suddenly starts with volume loud enough to shatter my car windows – even though it’s actually at normal volume – I am significantly less likely to appreciate the nuance of your program in future.  And if that was in my earbuds?  I might consider murder.
  • Sound within a show should be relatively constant also – again, whether it’s in earbuds or a car speakers, each time the listener has to adjust the volume, that’s a chance to lose that person’s interest – or just piss them off.  I have noticed particularly with shows that want to bleep or redact certain words, the bleep is often INCREDIBLY PAINFULLY loud compared to the voice around it.  Don’t do that, please.  There are many other ways – or other sounds – to make this happen.
    My ears are already pierced.
  • But what if I have quiet scenes and loud scenes?
    …You may ask.
    We’ll be able to tell.  Make the loud scenes a bit less in volume and the quiet ones a bit more.  It’s theater.  We’re paying attention.  We’ll understand that better than having to crank up and down our volumes over and over again.
  • A gap of silence is so cool.
    Said no listener ever.
    If you are leaving a pause for effect, either keep it short – under 5 seconds – or have some kind of background noise or music under it so the listener can tell their speakers are still functioning.
  • Never place anyone or anything 100% to the left or right in your soundscape.  That just makes us feel like one headphone just broke.  And don’t have anything significant rotated too far to either left or right.  Many people listen under “not the best circumstances” – from having only one headphone, to having sound interference – and the harder it is to make out those significant events, the less likely the listener can follow the story.

OK, I feel spent now, like I just chased everyone away with the hose.

ANNOUNCEMENTS

On a completely other topic, I will be very slow getting shows out for a while, since I will be working 6 day weeks at real job for the next couple of months.  Real bills demand it.

I am also putting a lot of time into the @A_D_Infinitum twitter announcement feed – please make sure to follow it and find a lot of these amazing shows I’ve been uncovering.  This is part of a huge plan of mine to take over the world of audio and make it a better place.  And you will all be along for the ride!!!

🙂

–Julie

Published in: Uncategorized on September 13, 2019 at 1:37 am  Leave a Comment  

Agency… not like the FBI

This blog will include some semi-specific spoilers about a movie I just saw, so first let me say I enjoyed “Ready or Not” until I thought twice.

Take a moment, and if you don’t want to have your viewing spoiled by my complaint, come back after you see the movie.

Back?  Ok.

The premise, in case you haven’t seen the ads, is this chick is marrying (modern day) into a super rich family that made their money in publishing games.  Turns out that they made a deal with the devil, and every once in a while, the devil wants something back.

Any time someone marries into the family, they pick a card from the devil box and have to play that game – which might be simple like chess or old maid, or might be (DUN DUN DUN!!!)  Hide & Seek.

If the game comes up Hide & Seek, then the family has to capture and sacrifice the newcomer before dawn, or risk losing everything the devil has given them.

I like the premise.

I like the house.

I like some of the accidental deaths.

I even liked the annoying family members.

So I get to the end and wondered why I felt so lacking – but not for long.

My problem was the “heroine”.

Now, if this was set in the past, I might forgive her for basically not being very active in saving herself, once she found out the game was really deadly.  But not in any time since, say … 1984 when Nancy took steps to kick Freddy’s ass, thus changing the slasher movie genre forever.

The one time this chick – Grace (I had to look up her name) took any action, she failed miserably, and the rest of the time, she just ran, and not well.

I know we all say “it’s more realistic – how many real people would fight back or think of ways to hide”, but it’s a movie – it’s wish fulfillment, and we want the character to have AGENCY.

We want the character to have a hand in what happens to them, to move the story, rather than be moved by it (or the other characters).  A main character may not be the smartest, the fastest, or the most ruthless, but there comes a time when you want to either cheer for them or scream at them for being stupid.

And this was a screaming movie.

Example – she steals a gun from the games room and manages to load it (in one of the more tense scenes in the film) right under the nose of the butler.  She then tries to shoot him, but the bullets aren’t real (they were just for display), and she ends up hitting him with the teapot full of hot tea (good move!) instead.

And then she runs.  Doesn’t grab any of the knives he was just about to pull on her, nothing.   She just drops the gun and runs.

le sigh.

I really wanted to like this.

Published in: Uncategorized on August 29, 2019 at 9:38 pm  Leave a Comment  

Music isn’t always sweet….

[Right off, I want to disclaim that I love all the composers working in and around audio dramas, and am not pointing any fingers in any way, shape or form.  Anyone writing prose has the same problems with avoiding being influenced, even subconsciously, and the people doing outright plagiarism are few and far between – I hope.]

Today I want to talk to show producers about protecting yourself when it comes to music and sound effects.

This commentary came about because I was watching a gameplay video on youtube – a bare bones free game, so I was pretty sure they had no licensing budget.

In the game there was a music box.

Which played Music Box Dancer (1974, Frank Mills).

Which is NOT copyright-free.

So my assumption is someone – whether it be the game’s sound effect person, or some person out on the internet “making sound effects” bought a music box and figured that recording the song on the music box would be fair use, and the sound file made its way into the game…

You see where I’m going with this?

That game designer may have used the track in all innocence, assuming that the sound person had secured any needed licensing, but they will probably still be liable for copyright infringement when BMI or whatever licensing company finds out and gets involved.

This is why we all have to pay attention.

Even Josh Woodward – who has a ton of great creative commons music that can be used in podcasts, etc., has at least one piece on his site (www.joshwoodward.com) that is a parody of a famous song, and thus not technically usable in a show.

When in doubt, always check.

If nothing else, it’s also possible that composers can be influenced – completely unconsciously – by existing music, and the outcome might be too much like this or that.

There was this episode of (of all things) The Partridge Family where Keith (the older brother who wrote songs for the band) had composed a song, and the next morning middle brother Danny claimed it was his, and that Keith stole it.  Keith figured out that Danny, half-asleep, had heard it through the vents and believed it was his own song, so that night he played the soundtrack to Gigi or something and Danny came down the next day humming songs from a musical he’d never heard while awake….

All ancient pop culture aside, since we’re all working on a shoestring and don’t have the time or money for lawyers, best to be vigilant.

Published in: Uncategorized on August 1, 2019 at 6:55 pm  Leave a Comment