By Lee Hamilton.
Fiction podcasts have been around for a while now, but ask most screenwriters whether they’ve considered writing one, and you’ll probably get a resounding ‘no.’ This is surprising because fiction podcasting is a relatively untapped market with amazing potential to launch your screenwriting career.
Despite the perceived audio/visual divide, fiction podcasting and screenwriting have a common ancestor in playwriting, Whatever the medium, demonstrating that basic mastery of storytelling can open doors.
Today’s fiction podcasting is somewhat akin to the self-publishing industry about a decade ago, except that the audiences are so much bigger. When writers first discovered that the internet offered a place where they could bypass the gate-keepers of the established industry and go it alone – Amazon Kindle, Apple Books, and Kobo swiftly opened the doors allowing anyone and everyone to upload and sell their books online. And more than a few of them found lucrative careers doing so.
Alongside this revolution in the printed word, there has been rising popularity in audiobooks, podcasts, and mobile media tailored specifically for audiences on the go. Fiction podcasts have now become one of the most popular serial storytelling media out there. Fact! So, screenwriters, after some fairly exhaustive research, here’s the inside take on why you should be considering writing one.
- Hollywood is currently eyeing up successful fiction podcasts intending to buy their IP and harness their creative potential. Not only do adaptations come with their pre-packaged fan-base attached; well-written podcasts are proof that a writer has what it takes to grab an audience and keep them hooked. Moreover, listening to a writer’s podcast is an easy way to confirm if they have mastered one of screenwriting’s most difficult elements, dialogue.
- Whilst fiction podcasts aren’t known for making lots of money, much like the short film market, there have been many successful podcasts that have gone on to be adapted to the screen. So much so, that writers are now creating podcasts with the goal of future screen adaptations already in mind during the initial development stage. And with podcasting still an emerging craft, there’s so much more room for experimentation and creativity for writers to be found here.
- As of yet, there’s no official format for a podcast script so beginners are welcome. While yes, you can use screenwriting software (which is what we recommend) such as Final Draft, Celtx, or Fade In, you can also use any other word processing software you have available, like Word, Scrivener, or Pages. You can even handwrite your script, but it’s probably best to only do this if you’re producing your podcast single-handed by yourself!
- As with page layout, there’s also no standard podcast length. Unlike a movie or television episode, which needs to fit into a specific time slot, fiction podcast episodes can be any length you want. A season or series can contain whatever number of episodes it wants, and even episode lengths don’t have to be consistent. You can get away with having a 20-minute episode in your show one week, then a 40-minute one the next. And having 5-minute teasers and surprise fan-drops (spontaneous short content releases) throughout the series is getting to be quite the thing. What this means is there’s a whole new level of flexibility, creativity, and exploration to be found in this medium. The important thing to remember is, an episode length needs to suit the story’s needs. There’s no such thing as a podcast episode that’s too long, but there is such a thing as a podcast that’s too boring.
WANT TO FIND OUT MORE?
I did, so I took a look at what’s out there now and found the best place to start is by listening to other podcasts. Chartable are now monitoring the “most listened-to” fiction podcasts on Apple, Spotify, and Google Podcast platforms, so that’s your first go-to place to get the latest information on who’s breaking the hot stories in this medium.
And another great place to keep up to date with absolutely everything podcast-related is podnews. You can find everything from new launch releases, festival info, contests, job listings, tips & tricks, and anything in between, with an extensive archive of “how-to” articles, resources, and in-depth news reports all of which are freely available too. Plus, it’s truly a global website, so it doesn’t just tell you what’s happening in America. Subscribe for free to get daily or weekly updates sent straight into your inbox, freeing up that all-important precious writing time!
Excited to get writing? Don’t blame you. All of the links above should serve you well in getting to that important first draft. And if you are looking to adapt one of your existing screenplays, we’ve put got a helpful guide on How to Adapt your Screenplay into a Podcast.
Don’t miss out on the chance to jump on this exciting new way to sell your storytelling skills AND to jump-start your screenwriting career at the same time.
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.