Bob Tinsley: HOW TO BREAK IN TO AUDIO DRAMA (Or, At Least, How I Did It)

by Bob Tinsley

If you’ve been paying attention on this site, you know how big Audio Drama is getting. I’ve had five scripts produced and have produced two myself with another ten in the stack promised to producers. Right now audio drama is pretty much the Wild West of the entertainment industry. Even more so than web series, for reasons that will become apparent.

The easiest way to break in (at least, it was pretty easy for me) is to be a Writer-Producer. Writing scripts and sending them out to producers is one way to do it, but most producers are already buried under production schedules of what they currently have.

It could take them six months or more to get around to your script. If you can give them a finished product so all they have to do is the intros and outros, you will be a HUGE step above non-hyphenated writers. And it’s not that difficult. After all, I did it.

Side benefit: YOU have creative control. If someone else produces your script, no matter how well, you WILL wish you had done it yourself.

First, you need to write a script. Start small, five to ten pages. An audio (radio) script is different in many ways from a screenplay. First, remember that your listeners can’t see anything. Having the actor make faces is a non-starter unless it affects his voice. The best place for a rank noob to learn about writing for audio is www.ruyasonic.com.

Everything a beginner needs to know is there including a Word template for radio (also called BBC) format. Both Celtx and Final Draft also have radio templates. Even so, many producers, especially the ones that do epic-scale series, use screenplay format. Most aren’t too picky as long as the script falls into one of those two formats.

Read as many scripts as you can. Just Google “radio scripts.” You’ll find a wealth of scripts in just about any genre you can think of. And don’t turn your nose up at Old Time Radio scripts. Those people knew how to write for audio. Some better than others, of course, but shows like “Suspense,” “Lights Out,” “Gunsmoke,” and “Have Gun Will Travel” (Roddenberry wrote for that one, among others) are good examples of what to do. “Gunsmoke” had an especially rich soundscape, immersive, even. Listen to one of the episodes while you read the script. You won’t be sorry.

If you want to write and produce your own Audio Drama and have a computer, you’ve already spent all the money you need to. You don’t need to buy a mic. Unless, of course, you plan on acting, in which case, you should already have a decent mic. You don’t need lights or cameras. You don’t even need sound equipment. The actors are going to record their own lines and send them to you. You don’t need anything except your computer. Equipment wise, that is.

You will need DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) software. That’s easy. And cheap. Go to www.audacity.com and download the latest version of their software. It’s free! Installation is a piece of cake. Be sure to get the plug-in package (subroutines that give you a lot of editing power) and the LAME add-on which allows you to export MP3 files. Again, installation is painless.

Audacity is dirt simple to learn to use. It also has more than enough power and flexibility to do what you will need it to do. You will hear a lot of kvetching from some people in the community about how awful Audacity is. It ain’t so. Julie Hoverson of 19 Nocturne Boulevard (www.19nocturneboulevard.net) has been using it for many years and has the multiple audio awards to show that using Audacity doesn’t hurt the quality of the work you put out. She has a YouTube channel with a playlist of Audacity tutorials (http://bit.ly/2ob0JkW). Be warned, though. The information is gold, but she does tend to ramble a bit.

Get some friends to record your script. Or look online in some of the FaceBook groups for voice actors and put out a casting call. Unless otherwise stated it is understood that these are no-money gigs. 

While you’re doing all of the above, fire up iTunes or whatever podcatcher you like and start listening to audio drama. This is called “market research.” Look for anthology shows in the genre you like. You will have a much better chance of placing your episode in an anthology than trying to break into a continuing series, most of which these days have an entire season in the can before they release the first episode.

You’re not going to make any money to start, but movie and TV producers are paying attention to the podcasting market searching for the Next Big Thing. So, get started! It will cost you nothing but time, and all you have to lose is your unproduced status.


Bob Tinsley is an artist, writer, boataholic and, in case you haven’t run across him here on TVWriter™, a big fan of Audio Drama currently in the process of being a pro in that arena as well. In other words, Bob knows what he’s talking about, so listen up!