SUNLIGHT ON HER FACE

My short stories are usually written without too much planning, although I’ll have a rough idea in my head and maybe some notes scribbled on a paper beside me. However, writing a radio play is another skill set altogether and for this exercise I planned meticulously.

Below is my summary plan of my radio play ‘Sunlight On Her Face’. For those interested in reading the full 15 minute play please click here.

SUNLIGHT ON HER FACE / Summary Plan

The play is called “Sunlight On Her Face” and starts in a prison in 2010s in Buenos Aires as Pedro is shown in by a guard to an interview room. Waiting at a table is the prisoner, a belligerent Carlos who immediately demands cigarettes. The anger and the tension in the room is palpable as the men cannot even start discussions without arguing.

Soon however, Pedro states his reason for coming. He is on a quest to find his sister, Juanita, who vanished 30 years earlier as she was seized off the streets by junta military and is now is one of the 30,000 ‘disappeared’ from the era. Pedro believes Carlos was a soldier at the camp she was held and yes, he does indeed remember the beautiful Juanita from the faded photo Pedro has presented. This is too much for Pedro who threatens to leave. Carlos persuades him to stay.

The next scene cuts to the event shown in the photograph. It is the early 1980s when the family are celebrating Juanita’s 18th birthday. Admist the happy celebrations, conflicts within the family increase as Juanita repeatedly accuses Pedro of causing upset in the family with his illegal activities against the junta. She fears for his life. Tempers are calmed by their mother and the fireworks he brought for her birthday are lit. However, before he leaves for the night the two siblings have a final fraught run-in.

The play returns to the prison and the conflict and bitterness between the Carlos and Pedro develop. Their anger threatens to derail any further talks, however it is Carlos who silences them with his accusation that Pedro is as responsible as the army for Juanita’s fate since Pedro’s actions caused her capture.

Carlos has hit a nerve and the play cuts to the fateful day when on a street, Juanita, who was visiting a friend, runs into Pedro posting leaflets through the letterboxes. She confronts him, shouting and crying, so scared that he is still involved with the student protests. He fails to calm her and then suddenly, brusquely, desperately, he begs her to run. To run for her life. It is too late, two soldiers seize her and bundle her into a truck. Pedro is dragged onto another, all the time screaming her name.

The final scene returns to the prison where drinks are poured, a packet of biscuits opened, both brought in by the embittered guard. Both men know this is the time for the final denouncement.

Carlos starts by saying how lucky Pedro was to be released – an administrative error we learn. Pedro does not feel lucky. Juanita meanwhile was taken to a camp for the women deep in the jungle. There Carlos reveals his admiration for Juanita who courageously started to help the other women.

Then, in shock Pedro learns that Juanita became pregnant and only for that reason was she kept alive until the baby was born. Incandescent Pedro demands more details. All Carlos knows is that a boy was born and then taken over by a couple connected to the top military. There are no records and now Pedro is barely able to talk.

There is a final silence. Carlos declares in justification that he was only following orders. That he had to do what he was told. What did he do? Pedro asks. Uninterrupted Carlos recalls how a group of women were drugged, put on a plane which flew low beneath the radar. It was only one of many such flights. The plane flew east to the Atlantic and the rising sun. As he hauled Juanita to the open door and as she tumbled out the sunlight caught her face, lighting it like an angel.

Pedro leaves Carlos, who is now sobbing, with a chilling message damming him to hell.
The End

103 thoughts on “SUNLIGHT ON HER FACE

  1. You have a way with stories Annika. Will read the entire play in leisure soon. The summary though is a well scripted and it does arouse the readers interest. I could feel the layers of myriad emotions running through it !!

  2. The summary of the play is intense, Annika. My tension slowly built up as I read along. What a horrible situation for Juanita to be captured and only kept alive because she was pregnant, involuntarily, I imagine. Carlos put on her on the plane to the open door? Wow, what an ending! I glanced through the play but will take time to read. The format is wonderful. I imagine the recording engineer will have the soundtrack lined up. I had done some radio broadcasting in my younger years and was amused by how some soundtracks were made. We had several voices to play the different roles. I could see your play will be well recorded.

    This is well written and beautifully done, Annika!

    1. Miriam, thank you so much for your wonderful comment. It means a lot to me that you found the radio play outline intense and ‘enjoy’ the whole play when you have a chance to read it. I wondered if the ending was too much but alas based on reality and the basis for the play.

      How exciting that you’ve worked in broadcasting and I bet you have some brilliant stories from your time there. I knew one person can often be used for many different voices – quite a task to keep in mind which is which! For the moment my radio play here has not been placed anywhere but I have a few ideas for my submissions. Fingers crossed!

    1. Mary Ann, it is heartening how wrapped up you became in ‘Sunlight on her Face’ … thank you so much. Yes, prayers and thoughts to those who have disappeared and all their families still suffering the loss of a loved one 40 years later. It is a tough topic indeed and wondered for quite a while whether to share here but feels right to have done so. We are all well here, thankfully and hope you and your family are too. xx

      1. Annika, thank you for the comment and well wishes. We are fine at our end of the pond. It has been said that by April, the pandemic will be over and is considered seasonal. With writing, sometimes the difficult topics are agonized over before putting the words down. Once done, a weight is lifted from one’s shoulders. Have a great Sunday. oxox

        1. How true that topics are agonised over before being put down and so often I read books which were written in maybe a year but had been with the writer for decades. Thank you, it is a heavenly Sunday here, warm enough for lunches outside and even a touch of gardening. One can sense the hope on the horizon. Take care xx

  3. Annika, I am totally silenced by this post. You have without a doubt shown us that you are a writer to count on. That you first heard this as a child is amazing.
    I read first the Summary which in itself makes me feel the depth of sadness
    and cruelty that exists.
    I then went in to read the play itself and was totally hooked and shook up.
    Every word counts, talks and holds me firmly until you heard the story of Juanita.
    The drama between Pedro and Carlos. Please do never stop writing, you have so much to share and know how to keep the audience.

    The title is amazing as the beautiful words of Sunlight on her face brings us to her
    fall to death when we finally hear these words again. Amazing.

    Miriam

    1. Wow! Miriam, I’m teary-eyed reading your amazing comment – thank you so much! What can I say in response? Your words about my writing give me such a boost and belief in myself and my abilities. I will not let this radio play rest and after one major non-writerly project is completed this will be the first of my tasks to tackle and submit. It means so much to me how the play hooked you and that you feel so deeply for Juanita. Also, the drama between Pedro and Carlos is key and it is great that this comes across in the play. Miriam, I do not intend to stop writing – with champions such as you by my side, how could I?! Ever?! hugs xx

    1. Ann, the multitude of horrors and tragedies around the world are impossible to fathom yet must never be forgotten, I agree. I feel by focussing on the individual one can see even deeper into the darkness of human nature … events I read and heard about as young and that never left me.

  4. I didn’t know that “radio plays” have come back to the public interest. Is this something you listen to in England? NPR, here in the states, has story tellers come on the show and tell stories that they have written (perhaps) but they must tell them on the radio extemporaneously, which I would find difficult. Your play here is astounding because you put so much emotion, intensity, history, and truth in so few words. I’ve read novels about this horror – you bring it all into sharp focus in your radio play. Well done!!

    1. Pam, bless you for your wonderful comment on the play and I’m touched you see so much within it. That you feel the truth within the work means particularly a lot to me.

      One main national radio channel features a daily radio play and also some that go across a whole week. Growing in popularity was shorter plays by newer writers which allowed the theatre students and writers to work together on a proper stage. See if this returns.

      We too have many writers on local and national radio and some are brilliant talking about their books, reading excerpts, others struggle. This was one form of promotion David Cronin advised me to follow but I’m just too shy … one day perhaps!

      Wishing you a lovely weekend, Pam and hope all is well with you. Hugs xx ❤️

      1. I think it’s neat that there are more radio plays going on. I guess they are a lot like podcasts but I have not gotten into listening to those yet. So many stories and not enough time! I like David’s idea for you but I also would be very shy about doing it.

  5. Wow, Annika, I just finished reading the play and what a dramatic story! So sad, but now you’ve shown another talent of yours! Excellent! And one would not think of that story line or ending by the title you chose. I hope you’ll write more of these. 💗

    1. Lauren, bless! Thank you so much for your wonderful comment – it’s enjoyable to ‘play’ around with different genres and I realise I haven’t read much about radio dramas on WP so thought to share mine here. I’m glad you like the dichotomy of the title to the ending – still true but in a most tragic way. I would love to write more but will explore the market closer – opportunities are far less than with other writing media. hugs xx ❤️

    1. Georgina, I do wonder if radio will enjoy increased popularity and like you I’m listening far more to it these days. It’s great my piece strikes a chord with you – not an easy subject matter but one that wouldn’t leave me.

    1. Thank you, Jennie. It is a difficult piece to read and I had initial reservations for exactly that reason – I very much appreciate the positive reception, such as yours, to Sunlight on her Face.

  6. That makes for a compelling and powerful piece that should work well on radio. I wonder where your inspiration came from. Argentina seems to have no place on your cv, nor prison and its consequences. Is it due for an airing soon? On BBC?

    1. Margaret, oh I wish it would be played on BBC Radio 4. I will submit there through WritersRoom on their next submission date and fingers crossed. It is difficult to be noticed as a new writer for them though.It’s fantastic that you found the play compelling and powerful. As for the storyline and country this was in the news when I was a child and as a newsnerd I soaked up anything happening around the world. The particular story of The Disappeared never left me and later I saw an interview with a guard who described the exact final moments of one of the women. Horrific.

    1. Robbie, thank you and there is definitely something to writing fiction based around historical events … my fear, if I wrote a longer piece, is that I would become too embroiled in the research and want to include too much of what I’d learnt along the way. 😃

      1. I get involved in the research, Annika, and a whole day of research can result in a single paragraph. You can’t get the paragraph correct though, if you don’t do the research. I love research so it suits me well. All of my published books are historical and a lot of my short stories too.

  7. I just read your radio play and was very impressed with how professional it was: structure, dialog, and stage direction. I could very easily see it being performed. And kudos on tackling such a difficult and important message!

    1. Bless! Liz, heartfelt thanks for your incredible comment – wow! I am in awe of how you find all the elements professional – that’s fantastic. It would be amazing to see it performed. The subject matter is tragic but one that wouldn’t leave me … I did have my concerns of sharing here at first but heartened by great support as your own and others.

    1. Donna, economy of words is right! There was a huge amount of re-writing involved and throughout I read the play aloud for timing and also to ensure the dialogue sounded realistic. The importance of reading aloud one’s work, whatever its format, cannot be underestimated! It means a lot that you found the story powerful and yes, the topic is horrifically heartbreaking but one that just wouldn’t leave me.

    1. Jacqui, they were horrific actions and I’ve never forgotten reading how some were still conscious at the last moments … too much horror in the world.

      The national radio station BBC Radio 4 feature a Play of the Day and that is why I use the term radio play although I see now that radio drama is also common.

    1. Thank you so much for the lovely comment here and a huge THANK YOU for the wonderful review of my book! My first on Barnes & Noble!! I can’t stop smiling and it means so much to me that you enjoyed the stories so much. Wow! 😀😃

  8. Wow, Annika. That was intense. What an undertaking and so well done! I read the post first and then dove into the radio play. What a heartbreaking story. It reminded me of the stories of Isabel Allende and the disappearances that happened in Chile. So unfathomably tragic. I’m impressed.

    1. Diana, those times were ‘unfathomably tragic’ for so many tens of thousands of people. I’ve read many of Isabelle Allende’s incredible books and Chile had very similar horrific events though I was only a child when I learnt about the disappearances in Argentina and they stayed with me ever since.

      Your thoughts about my post and play mean so much to me. Plays are never the easiest to read I feel; thank you for taking the time. As with Covid, one can almost be desensitised by the sheer scale of numbers, it is often when reading about one person that the true tragedy is felt.

      1. Our news here shares “Lives well lived” every day, sharing the lives of those extraordinary ordinary people who have lost their battle with covid. It’s a way for us to remember that these people aren’t statistics. 😦 I can’t wait until this is over.

    1. Jacquie, I’m sorry, I thought I’d replied at the time!

      This is a story that has been ‘brewing’ in me since I read about the events as young. I was concerned that it might be too horrific for here but as you say, felt that it should be told and never forgotten. Too sad for words and impossible to imagine.

  9. What a powerful radio play, Annika! I read the transcript and could visualize everything. As a child, back in the 1950’s there were still a few radio dramas left which my aunts still listened to. Perhaps today, with the popularity of audible books, radio plays will encourage more listeners. There are a few radio dramas out there on different platforms which I need to investigate. Your play presents an ever relevant theme. Wow, just wow.

    1. Mary Jo, thank you so much for your wonderful and thought-provoking comment. It is fantastic that you read the whole transcript – not always the easiest sort of reading I appreciate. I must admit I didn’t have any experience of radio plays before this one, never listening to the few on the radio. I thoroughly enjoyed planning and writing this one and would write more if I wasn’t aware of how few options there are for this type of work. BBC Radio 4 has submissions windows through its Writers Room but not much else out there alas. It is an interesting thought that audiobooks (and perhaps even podcasts) might increase the interest in radio drama – fingers crossed! Your comment has given me such a boost this evening – warmest thanks again.

  10. A powerful story and perfect to be staged to packed houses! This needs a stage Annika. Love the ending though sad. I marvel at your creative talent… so many emotions have been packed into it. Wishing you the best.

    1. Wow! Balroop, I’m humbled by your amazing comment …it truly means so much to me and I’m bubbly with the excitement of the thought of the play on stage! If only that was possible and I will definitely look at expanding this to just such a possibility. My mind is brimming with ideas – thank you so much! ❤️

    1. Lynette, you are correct that radio play has its own unique challenges … the presentation itself has to be just exact! Plus the stage directions and overall creating settings and switching between times. I’m glad you found the story compelling.

    1. Thank you so much, Darlene! We often become so focused on novels and shortstories we forget there are many other form of fictional writing. A writer friend joined the local theatre and learned a lot about play-writing a while ago and it was fascinating to hear some of the tips about this craft.

  11. A radio play is quite the creative challenge, Annika. The concept is new to me. This summary is intriguing, engaging and leaves me wanting to learn more. A lot going on – Carlos can remember Juanita (30 years ago is a long time) Pedro feels guilty and responsible – I see how the title comes into play. I agree with some of the comments, how there is room for continuation. My one prevailing thought, Annika….I admire your courage and creativity to branch out in another form of story telling. You mentioned to me once, how the stories come to you and progress as you are writing. Happy Valentine’s Day! You are one of the reasons I LOVE this community. Hugs.xx❤️

    1. Erica, thank you so much for your wonderful comment and bless you for your final comment. Likewise, my dear friend! ❤️

      I surprised myself by how much I enjoyed writing the radio play, it required far more planning than my usual short story approach but it was still a creative whole, I felt. I would love to try more of these however it is a very difficult media to enter.

      It’s great how you talk about the characters with such familiarity and knowledge. I imagined Carlos as having known Juanita at the camp and hence his good recall of her … thirty years is a long time ago but certain events and people are just a minute or so away, I feel.

      Wishing you a special Valentine’s Day – have a wonderful day! Here my husband is cooking a special dinner and a bottle of fizz is waiting in the fridge – perfect! love & hugs xx

      1. As you guessed by now, Annika, I am a fan of your writing.❤️ It is almost as if I can tell when someone is enjoying their craft. Your words have an energy behind them. By now you will have had your special dinner. We are planning a fondue tonight. Always a treat. Hugs xx❤️

  12. My 2 cents?
    Please keep this as a radio play. Not everything needs to be converted into a standard ‘novel’! I’m not sure it would have the same impact and/or feel upon conversion/expansion into that format.
    It could be a part of a trilogy of one-act plays (I really like the idea of it being a radio play, but it could work as an on-stage one-act also IMHO). I say that as it seems there is room for continuation – in theme at least. “3 One Acts: In The Days of the Disappearing”.
    hugs

    1. Laura, your feedback is precious! Thank you so much! It is humbling how you have given my radio play and this outline here so much thought and consideration. Your ideas are giving me much food for thought and the more I consider it the more I’m loving the 3 One Acts or even trilogy of one-act plays. A friend studied playwriting at the local theatre and they take on shorter plays from new writers on a regular basis (usual covid caveat etc). It’s interesting you should mention a novel might have less impact … I’ve written a short story version later of this and I’m still not happy with it so far. It is so exciting to have so many options open and my mind buzzing with creative ideas – it is a huge help to ‘brainstorm’ like this via the comments. Many thanks again. hugs xx

    1. Jill, it means a lot that you see this as a possibility for a novel and I totally agree. It would be interesting to see how it would pan out and I would take it beyond this point. Hmm … at the moment I seem to be collecting novel ideas with many jotted down! 😀 Best get writing! 😀 Wishing you a wonderful All Heart’s Day too, my friend! xx

    1. Thank you so much, Marina! When I first read about The Disappeared I was in total shock and I’ve always played with the idea of incoporating into some kind of work. Although there is a lot about different forms of writing across the blogs there is not a lot of mention of radio plays so I thought I would share my play here. Enjoy when you have a chance to read it.

  13. That is such a dramatic story, Annika. I didn’t read the play this evening but I might come back to read another time. What a terrible situation so many find themselves trapped in. I am very grateful for my life.

    1. Norah, these horrific world events really does make one appreciate our lives more than ever. Ever since I learnt about The Disappeared when young, I’ve never forgotten it. Thank you so much for reading and your interesting comment. I appreicate a radio play can read as rather ‘dry’ and therefore didn’t share on my blog in the first instance.

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