In this day and age of iTunes and Google Play, you’ve probably heard of podcasts. Question is, have you actually listened to one? If not, you should fix that. Not only are they entertaining, but I believe that they can be a useful resource for writers. For the sake of limiting genres, I will be focusing on drama orientated podcasts.
The first reason you should consider listening to a podcast is the entertainment they provide. I’m probably not the only aspiring writer to be poor (wait, is that an infinite black hole in my pocket?), so paying for audio books isn’t really an option. That was until I listened to The Black Tapes, a modern audio horror drama. My. Mind. Was. Blown. At that moment, I was addicted. Basically, it’s a free audio book that uses radio as its mode of storytelling. Listening to podcasts make boring tasks, such as chores, a riveting experience.
Podcasts create their own sounds for their radio shows that place you amidst the action of the drama. If people are fighting, you hear it. If there’s a monster shrieking, you hear it. There’s no need to explain what something sounds like. The writer of a podcast has to carefully deliberate what sounds will give them the best effect that they are striving for. As a writer, I appreciate how podcasts teach you a new way of thinking that wasn’t available before; the ability to think using your ears. How do certain sounds add to atmosphere? How do character reactions to certain sounds characterize them? If I was to write this sound or describe it, how would I go about it? These sounds help you think about scene writing not just through your sense of seeing, but through hearing too.
As a writer, you will appreciate the creativity podcasts have to use for narrative structure. Podcasts are usually set in the present, which means that writers are limited in what they can do. Unlike reading a book, they can’t spend forever describing a scene or narrate in third person. Instead, they use a combination of first person and sound to convey what is happening at that very moment. Here are a few examples as to how podcasts narrate what's going on: In Archives 81, the main protagonist isn’t allowed to shut off his recorder as he archives, thus the audience hears everything that is going on, Small Town Horror begins with the narrator listening to two tapes he recorded when he was younger, Tanis’ protagonist always has a recorder on as he tracks down and dissects conspiracy theories. Narrative structure allows the listener to keep up with characters in present time and develop a fitting atmosphere for radio. These narrative structures could be useful to you if you’re thinking of writing a book that’s interview style or in first person.
Think of podcasts as the antithesis of a book; instead of reading and imagining what’s going on, you’re hearing and imagining what’s going on. Relying on a different sense forces you to think outside the box and normal conventions of writing. So give them a try! If it doesn’t work out, well, at least it was free.