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  • Writer's pictureChristopher McHale

Why Theater of the Mind

Close your eyes and hear my words.

I like to add a dimensionally to my writing.

Film. Graphic novels. And I like my writing to have a pulse. A rhythm. A beat.

So I write poetry and lyrics and scripts too.

Every format has a different feel to it. Locking into that feeling is the key to success.

But more than any other type of writing, I like to write for radio. Remember radio?

Theater of the mind. All you have to do is close your eyes, and the story has a limitless landscape. Pure magic.

The listener paints the characters. The listener dresses them. The listener builds the towers and castles.

Write by ear. That’s the way I’ve always thought of it.

Voice. Music. Effects.

That’s all we have in our theater of the mind. Master those tools and that dimensionally I mentioned? It’s infinite.

Imagination unbound.

Do you know that old bromide we use so much these days? Engagement? Engage your audience? Connection? Connect with your audience?

If you spark a connection in a listener’s ear, you spark a soul mate. Someone who is with you for the full ride.

We know this, of course. The Beatles? The Grateful Dead?

I went to a Pearl Jam concert recently and everyone there knew every song. It was something to hear.

20,000 ear worms implanted in the mind. A collective theater of the mind. Powerful stuff.

Then there’s Darth Vader. Think about it. The breathing (effect.) The voice. Everything is in those two elements.

And the music. Gosh, the incredible John Williams theme.

Da da da da da da da da da da.

Voice. Music. Effect. Everything you need to know about one of the greatest villains of all time. ‘Luke, I’m your father.’

You can hear it. We all can hear it.

Writing radio for me used to involve a studio. An engineer. A producer. A casting director. A writer. A director. It was a lot of moving parts. A composer. A sound designer.

What I wanted to do was get my hands on all those parts and create an integrated creative process.

I wanted to write the script. Find the voices. The music, the effects, and then mix it all.

Ah, the mix. The mix is where you take all the parts and create the dimensionality we mentioned.

I worked for years on that piece.

Honestly, all this is birthed by our incredible technology. The technology allows me to master the parts and create my sonic art.

And that’s what I do.

Recently I’ve been thinking about collaboration. It’s an important piece of theater of the mind. But I don’t want to speak of collaboration right now. Let’s get into it another time.

Let’s instead close our eyes.

And so our story begins.


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