The Golden Age of American Radio. From roughly 1930 and throughout the ’40’s, commercial broadcast radio was part of the very fabric of American life much like television and the internet are today.
Like modern radio there was News, Sports, Weather, and Talk Shows but even more prevalent was the audio drama. Comedies, mysteries, masked avengers, science-fiction, strange tales of weirdness, whodunnits, and even superheroes.
From Little Orphan Annie, Gunsmoke, and The Shadow to Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar, Rocky Jordan, and Box 13, these shows and others were the day to day entertainment for countless Americans. With the rise of podcasting in the modern era, audio drama has returned with a bang.
The Premise: Hooking Your Listeners
Like most stories, the audio drama typically follows the classic 3-Act Structure with an optional 4th:
- The Set-Up: This is where an inciting incident, a change in the protagonist’s life, begins a new tale.
- The Confrontation: By the midpoint of your story, circumstances have lead the main characters to a critical point as tensions reach a critical point and opposing forces must finally meet.
- The Resolution: Everything has lead up to this moment, the result of all that has come before. Did the Protagonist overcome their challenges or succumb to them?
- The Tease: Often, with serial fiction, there is a 4th element which teases the next chapter in an ongoing saga.
The most critical element when creating your audio drama podcast is to determine the Genre (mystery, sci-fi, strange tales, masked adventurers, cowboy western, etc.) and The Premise. Often, the Premise is also The Hook, the thing that makes the story stand out.
Here are the Premise/Hooks for several modern podcasts:
Hello From The Magic Tavern (Fantasy Comedy) – A podcaster falls through a portal behind a BK in Chicago to another realm of fantasy, the Mystical Land of Foon. He then does absolutely nothing (for 4 entire seasons) to get back to his wife and child, choosing instead to cause mischief and podcast interviews with random creatures in a pub.
The Leviathan Chronicles (Sci-Fi Thriller) – A young woman is caught in the crossfire between multiple factions seeking an ancient alien artifact that bestows immortality.
7th Son (Sci-Fi Thriller) – Bad: Seven men from across the company are kidnapped and soon discover they are part of a cloning experiment. Worse: The original template they were based on intends to kill them all.
Earthcore (Sci-Fi Thriller) – When an old prospector discovers evidence of the world’s largest source of platinum in a mountain-top, a mining company will stop at nothing to get their hands on his claim. They weren’t expecting the knife-wielding tentacle things, however.
Life.After (Sci-Fi Thriller) – A man obsessed with a social media platform storing his dead wife’s voice messages becomes an unwitting dupe when she starts talking to him through his phone, telling him to commit treasonous acts.
The Merchant Adventurer (Fantasy Comedy) – An ordinary, money-grubbing Merchant struggling to make a coin off penniless, incompetent adventurers is forced to become what he hates most and take on the impossible quest of saving his town and rescuing the woman he loves from a treacherous and powerful Wizard.
Students must choose a genre and come up with a premise/hook for a 3-episode audio drama. Each group will then begin working together on an outline for each episode. Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How must be answered for each story element.