By Lee Hamilton.
When the word ‘podcast’ is mentioned, there’s still a large proportion of people who automatically think of a talk-show host or presenter discussing a specific topic with invited guests, an introduction summing up what’s going to be covered, and intercut sponsor ads, etc. Basically, an on-demand radio show. But that limited format is really only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the potential that podcasts have. If you haven’t heard of them already, get ready to delve into the world of fiction podcasting!
Whatever you call them, podcasts, audio dramas, or scripted story-telling, fiction podcasts are an exciting new way for aspiring screenwriters to cheaply produce work, hone their writing skills, and gain an audience, and Hollywood is fast catching on, scouring for potentially valuable IP (intellectual property), derivative rights, and popular content that they can adapt for the screen.
FictionPodcasts.com is a great place to discover what’s possible when it comes to scripted audio dramas. All of the genres you know and love from writing screenplays are just as popular for listeners on the go too, plus some that you won’t find when browsing your local cinema listings or streamable service guide. Genres that wouldn’t necessarily make a great fit for a movie or a novel are now finding a home with fiction podcasts. Anthology, Alternate History, Fan Fiction, Improvisational, Interactive, Story-Telling, and Young Adult, are but a few that’s been added to your more traditional genres, showing just how innovative and diverse the medium can be.
Just to give you a taste of the various different ways you can use fiction podcasts to stretch the story-telling muscles you’ve already developed by screenwriting, here’s a shortlist of some of the most innovative new fiction podcasts out there –
The No Sleep Podcast is a multi-award-winning anthology series of original horror stories that uses an audio-book narration style along with rich atmospheric music to enhance frightening tales of terror.
Treat recently reached number one in Chartable’s top ranking podcasts as a feature-length podcast movie, showing that there’s definitely an audience for longer content. This blockbuster production wanted to deliver premium quality and was designed for mainstream appeal, bringing on-screen talent, Kiernan Shipka, on board as the lead voice actress.
5 Week Countdown is an augmented reality and interactive limited series audio drama where the audience could determine the outcome in real time. Based around a kidnap scenario, the main character, Whitney, needed the audiences help to solve a series of puzzles by asking questions, leaving suggestions, or solving puzzles on Facebook, Twitter, or iTunes.
The Burned Photo is a suspense-filled thriller with a compelling but complex story line adapted from a popular Reddit thread. Using sound to create an immersive surround sound audio experience to heighten the atmosphere and give the audience chills.
Right now, Horror, Sci-fi, and Crime Dramas are the hottest genres in fiction podcasting, but anything can change as the appetite for new and innovative stories blossoms. And it isn’t just the big studios, such as QCODE, Cadence13, or iHeartRadio that’s able to produce hit podcasts. Independent writers and creators are discovering creative ways to capture audiences as well. That means you can too. There are no gate-keepers standing in the way of you writing, producing, uploading, and promoting your own content, so it’s a really exciting time for story-tellers right now.
Although there’s much to be said about writing what inspires and interested you, understanding what an audience is looking for in a fiction podcast is an important element worth considering too, as is discovering where exactly they’re accessing material. As the amount of content grows, it can be hard to navigate and find exactly what you’re looking for. Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, Audible, Spotify, and TuneIn Radio are currently the big players, but if you’re looking for recommendations, reviews, and to interact with avid listeners, r/podcasts is a great place to start, as is Goodpods, Podchaser, and Audio-Drama.com.
To keep up with podcast news in general, such as new developments in the industry, production how-to’s, upcoming podcasting events and jobs, then signing up to the free Podnews newsletter to get all the need-to-know info delivered straight to your inbox.
Fiction podcasting isn’t just a great way to kick-start your screenwriting career, it’s also a relatively untapped market for you to tell your stories and find an audience. Start writing today!
Lee Hamilton is a script reader, developer, and author. Lee was one of the original readers to join Shore Scripts and has since moved into education and development, penning numerous articles, workbooks, and writing courses.