The Sonic Society

Showcasing the very best in new Audio Drama

The Four Sources of Audio Drama Story

The world Modern Audio Drama movement seems to be in full swing with Audibles announcement in driving paid audio productions for the future, so it’s worth considering what are the story sources that drive audio drama tales.

1. Stage Plays: Many great audio drama from the classics of Theater Five, Radio City Playhouse, Campbell Playhouse, and First Nighter to the modern shows of Crazy Dog AudioBunbury Banter Theatre, and Chatterbox Audio.

Elements You May Find in Stage Play Sourced Audio Drama:
– Classic re-tellings of literary or dramatic stories (like Oedipus, Shakespeare, Mark Twain and others)
– Experimental theatre using the conventions of audio drama to specific advantage (like “Danger” with the entire story in the black out of a coal mine, or taking the perspective of an elbow talking to an eyeball on the same body)
– Staged settings that feel like you are watching a live performance
– Stage presentations with actors who project as if from a stage to a live audience
– Sound Effects and Music that are produced live during recordings
– Recordings where actors are miked in the same session
– Stories focused on deep themes and imagery
– Stories that can be character driven

2. Radio Plays: Old Time Radio Drama produced it’s own style of storytelling from Dimension X, Gunsmoke, and The Adventures of Sam Spade to Decoder Ring Theatre, Campfire Radio Theater, and The Thrilling Adventure Hour.

Elements You May Find in Radio Play Sourced Audio Drama:
– Serialized stories in fixed lengths
– Series narrators that establishing setting, initial conflicts and mood
– A wide-variety of genres but especially emphasizing science fiction, fantasy and horror
– Minimal sound effects
– A focus on plot driven stories
– Cross-over characters and plots from similar themed series
– Six or less characters a show
– Continuing characters in a series

3. Movies (Cinematic Film): While television owes much of its format to Radio Plays, cinematic storytelling has a long history from Lux Radio TheaterAcademy Award Theater, and Star Wars NPR to The Witch Hunter Chronicles, Second Shift, Broken Sea Audio, and the works of Dirk Maggs.

Elements You May Find in Film Sourced Audio Drama:
– Rich Soundscape with textured sound effects
– Modern storytelling with complex social issues
– Long-form serials based on popular cinematic themes/stories
– Profanity and adult situations
– Large casts of characters
– Modern and rich musical themes

4. Podficts (Podcast Fiction- Youtube Confessionals/Public Radio): For a while, it looked like many audio dramas were coming strictly from a public radio style of documentary format like This American Life and WireTap but certainly some of the same story impulses have arisen from the “confessional” style of video seen in youtube such as LonelyGirl15. You might consider this audio drama style postmodern examples are plentiful from Lost in Williamsburg, The Black Tapes, Tanis to Subject: Found, The Box,  and Point Mystic.

Elements You May Find in Podcast Fiction:
– First person storytelling with host/narrator
– Personality-based (often person) stories with emphasis on social issues and diversity
– Long form “chapter” episodes often with recaps for previous weeks and previews for next episodes
– An emphasis on informal, often slang dialogue filled with regional colloquialisms
– A variety of production techniques from simple to complex adding to the tone of the storytelling
– Documentary or “Found Footage” style storytelling

Each of the Four Sources have their own benefits and drawbacks and often cater to different listening audiences. If you’re a writer, which style do you prefer? If you’re a fan, which do you seek out to listen?

About The Author

Born to Teachers and Amateur Audio Enthusiasts in the small rural community of Belwood, Jack's first love was stories- writing, reading, telling, and singing. He developed his acting skills through High School, University, and through film and community theatre. Jack writes the lion's share of Electric Vicuna's Audio Drama scripts and has his own writing site at He's thrilled to co-host the Sonic Society with his wonderful, talented, friend David Ault!


4 Responses to “The Four Sources of Audio Drama Story”

  1. Thanks for the mention!

  2. Jack says:

    Thanks for your work!

  3. Lothar Tuppan says:

    A very cool summary of categorization Jack. This should spark some nice discussion as well as praxis for people as they might step out of a comfortable ‘box’ and try out other styles and perhaps do some mixing and matching.

  4. Jack says:

    Thanks Brother!

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