Meet the TV and Radio screenwriter who believes character creation is everything – a member of the Beach Hut Writing Academy
Sue Teddern: the basics
Sue started work as a window dresser, but came to writing via secretarial work and magazine journalism.
Her first scriptwriting credit was for The Archers and since then she has written many radio dramas include five series of Soloparentpals, In Mates, Sad Girl and The Charm Factory. Her television writing credits include Birds of a Feather, Bosom Pals and Happy Together. Sue is also an experienced lecturer in creative writing, teaching at The Central School of Speech and Drama, the University of East Anglia, City University and Norwich University College of the Arts. She was screenwriter-in-residence at the University of Exeter from 2002 to 2007 and taught the MA module ‘Developing the Feature Screenplay’.
Sue is a founder member of The Beach Hut Writing Academy, a Brighton based co-op of professional writers who support new and emerging writers through small group tuition and big ideas. She is running an intensive one day workshop on January 23rd.
Describe your writing career in two sentences.
I’ve written for TV and radio for many years. My big break was joining the team of Birds of a Feather and my latest commission is a four-part comedy-drama for Radio 4.
Can writing be taught?
Yes, I honestly think the fundamentals of writing can be taught. That said, talent and motivation are the most important ingredients, both of which are un-teachable.
How important do you think it is for people who teach creative writing to be writers themselves?
It’s vital. It makes such a difference to know what it feels like to deal with a ‘block’ or how to get started when you don’t have it in you or you think you’ve run out of ideas. Writers experience all these feelings, at every stage in their careers. New writers don’t always realise that.
What will you cover in your workshop?
I reckon finding your characters and fleshing them out is one of the most useful aspects. If your characters are ‘real’, they will energise the creative process and be real to your audience. Structure, dialogue, understanding the market, rewriting … these aspects will also be covered. But character creation is everything.
What experience does a student need to get the most out of your course?
There isn’t an ideal student. As long as people come along who want to learn and share their thoughts, experience isn’t essential. But … if you want to write for radio, it helps to have listened to some plays and comedies. You’d be surprised how many people come on radio courses who’ve never heard an afternoon drama.
What’s the most important thing you want students to take away from your workshop?
Finding their ‘voice’. We all have heroes/heroines and influences but we also all have a writer’s voice that’s unique to us. I like to tell students that I write the best Sue Teddern scripts in the world and Alan Bennett writes the best Alan Bennett scripts. He can’t write mine and I can’t write his. Likewise ‘Jane Student’ writes the best ‘Jane Student’ scripts, which no one else can emulate. And that’s as it should be!
Do you offer individual feedback? How is that given?
I do. If people want a professional script report, they can contact me via firstname.lastname@example.org
Thinking back to your own experience, what do you think is the hardest thing for emerging writers to learn?
To trust their instincts and believe. After a long day’s writing, it often feels like you’ve just spewed out a disconnected stream of random sentences. You have to believe that your duckling will turn into a swan. Doubt is part of the process. If you think everything you’ve written is utterly brilliant, you’re probably wrong!
What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve been given?
From the late Anne Valery, who co-created Tenko. In the early days of my career, I asked her why each script seemed to get harder to write. Shouldn’t it become easier as I learnt my craft? She told me that it gets harder because the more you learn, the more discriminate you are about what goes on the page and what stays on the page. Obvious when you think about it.
Naming no names, what’s the worst writing advice you been given or seen written down?
I was told on my very first Arvon course that I could only write for TV or radio but not both. To which I now say: ha! I’ve even co-written a book called Writing for TV & Radio: A Writers’ & Artists’ Companion, published by Bloomsbury.
Do you ever go back into the classroom yourself to learn something new about writing?
I’ve just completed an eight-week novel writing course with Araminta Hall and everything was new, exciting and challenging.
Sue with members of the cast from soloparentpals.com
What are you working on right now?
I’ve been developing a comedy-drama for TV called Love and Baggage, based on five series of soloparentpals.com, which was broadcast over the last few years on Radio 4.
What’s the last thing you wrote?
The treatment for the newly commissioned four-part radio comedy. It’s inspired by a wonderful book from the Sixties and I can’t wait to get started on the scripts.
Why have you taken time out of your busy life to set up the Beach Hut Writing Academy?
I love teaching. And I love being part of the Beach Hut Writers. It’s a win-win.
The Beach Hut Writing Academy is offering an intensive, one-day workshop with Sue and Hannah Vincent, an award-winning radio playwright and former TV drama script editor. The day will concentrate on drama and comedy-drama and will cover character development; structure and dialogue; telling stories aurally and visually … and getting your scripts ‘out there’.
Where: Hotel Pelirocco, Brighton’s ‘rock n roll boutique hotel’ in historic Regency Square.
When: Saturday, January 23, 10.00am to 5.00pm
You can book HERE Cost £95. But hurry! Last I heard there was only two places left.
A few clips from Birds of a Feather – a reminder of what a great comedy it was