A chance has dawned for secondary and tertiary students to sharpen their drama scriptwriting skills. And into the bargain, their scripts may also be produced on the radio. Songbirds Radio Drama Writing Competition is organised by RTHK Radio 4. Topics for scripts can be anything involved with students' lives, such as friendship, dating, lessons, families, crime, hobbies, plagiarism and cheating. Participants are free to use Songbirds characters, or invent totally new ones. The playwright of the radio drama, Dino Mahoney, associate professor of English at City University of Hong Kong, offered some tips on writing drama. A good radio drama should have interesting dialogues, a lively story, and a big contrast in characters. 'Radio drama is very much about dialogue. It is not about moving your body, having light, set or costumes. Rather, it is about what the people speak,' he said. It would be easier for the beginners to start with writing their own experiences. 'Stories can be serious or funny. But listeners can identify with the stories and be moved by similar scenario. 'And conflict and contrast between characters do work in drama. Examples are conflict between nationalities, or contrast between clever and stupid, serious and funny, or grandma and grandson.' The 10 winning teams to be selected, will have their scripts broadcast on the Songbirds programme. A maximum of 10 students and a coach would form a team. Participants can write up to eight pages of drama script (dou ble spacing) with a maximum of five characters. Scripts can be submitted by e-mail to radio4@ rthk.org.hk before November 15. Professor Mahoney said writing drama script could train students to use more natural spoken English. 'Obviously, written English is different from spoken English. Hong Kong students are shy to speak English because they lack confidence. 'Since radio drama is all about verbal communication, it is a good opportunity for them to focus on both writing and speaking.' He suggested that a script should consist of up to five separate scenes, and the dialogues should be short. 'Because it is difficult to sustain a longer dialogue. It requires more experienced writers, otherwise the dialogue will go flat. A seminar featuring some of the Songbirds actors, led by Professor Mahoney, will be held at RTHK, 30 Broadcast Drive, Kowloon Tong on October 24 from 4.30 pm to 5.30 pm. It is open to all secondary schools. As places for each school are limited, you can tell your teachers to make a booking as soon as possible by phoning 2339-6426 or fax to 2339-6427.