The Ambridge Delusion

The long-running serial ‘The Archers’ works best when it creates illusion of being there. The writers make the audience almost believe they are overhearing something as it occurs.How do they achieve this sense of immediacy?

First off, there is no prefiguring: no-one announces what will occur in the future. They cannot possibly know, so they don’t foretell. This applies well to a novel too.

Secondly, there is little back story. OK , sometimes a newly-arrived character will be brought up to speed – but that kind of exposition can be clumsy even in experienced hands. Best not to have ‘As you know…’ dialogue, then.

Thirdly, there are rarely more than two characters interacting in any one scene. There’s no confusion that way. This seems a reasonable idea to pursue, in dialogue especially – no problems with attribution then.

Furthermore, characters are created by layering. Habitual Archers listeners will have heard many different aspects of the regulars over the years – but only one at a time. We compose our view of the characters out of the evidence we’ve been given.

It cracks on because there is only dialogue and implied action. Nobody wastes time reflecting and informing you what they are thinking – you have to work it out.

Finally, there’s no voice-over. No busy-body author telling you what to think or describing the scene in boring detail – that’s left to a few choice sound effects and your imagination.

All-in-all, not a bad way to think about keeping it apparently real.

2 thoughts on “The Ambridge Delusion

  1. What I find amazing about the Archers is that they do all this but if you haven’t listened for a few weeks it doesn’t take you long to get the hang of what’s going on.

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