Hey Najela! You ask a couple big questions, so I’m going to address them one at a time. I’d actually already written 3/4 of this list of things to avoid when you wrote your post, so I’m posting this part first.
I’ve written out some general guidelines for things to avoid, both for Sparkler in general, and for audio in particular. I don’t like being really specific about genre because we’ve always wanted to have a variety of genres represented in Sparkler, but there are a few types of stories that just never seem to fit in with what we’re looking for, and a few more that take some outside-the-box thinking to work.
Genre and storytelling:
-Avoid writing episodic sitcoms. We want cliffhangers and characters who grow and change over the course of the story.
-Gag humor doesn’t work for us very often. We usually prefer more character-based humor.
-The audio department in particular isn’t looking for anything set in or based off the golden age of radio. Of the small number of English-language audio dramas out there, a large proportion of them are throwbacks to old-time radio shows, so that ground has already been covered by people who know the style better than I do. An extremely good story might convince me otherwise, but you’ll have to really impress me.
-Avoid stories that feel too young. We aren’t a YA publisher. We’re open to stories about teenagers, but plots and characters that feel like they’re stuck in high school, dealing with very teen-specific problems, don’t work for us. Check out our series Tokyo Demons and Off*Beat for examples of stories about teenagers that we really like–both stories star unusual teens whose problems go beyond the average high school hijinks.
-Horror isn’t our favorite genre. To be clear, having horror elements in your story is fine (gore, scary situations, supernaturally evil villains, etc). But stories where the reader/listener’s main emotional reaction is supposed to be fear or disgust don’t fit in well with our lineup.
-Be very careful if you include a lot of text-based communication in your audio story. The way people communicate via text message, internet forum, email, etc. is very different from the way people speak to each other. If you do want to make that kind of communication a major part of your story, think hard about the best way to present it in audio.
-Any kind of cinematic fighting falls flat in audio, since you can’t see what’s happening. A quick and dirty scuffle can work well, but verbal arguments will always be the most effective type of conflict. If you really want to do something high powered, try to think of an audible way to make it work–maybe a system of spoken magic spells with particular sound cues that tell you what kind of spell it is? Your ideas don’t need to be perfect off the bat, but you need to acknowledge any part of your story that needs special consideration from an audio perspective and try to come up with a way to deal with tricky story elements.
-On an ideological level, I want to create good acting jobs for women. Writing stories with male leads is fine (there’s clearly a lot of interest in male/male love stories with our audience, after all), but even if you’re writing a story that focuses on male characters, I’m going to insist on at least a few meaty roles for women in any story we produce.
-Think about scale! Limit your number of characters and settings, the same way you would in a play or movie. The same goes for any music-related plot points–hiring a few musicians is doable, but an entire orchestra isn’t. At the same time, though, don’t be afraid to write more than just people sitting and talking. Through creative editing and sound effects, we can make almost anything work–it’s just that stories that focus too heavily on audio-unfriendly plot points stop being worth it. I know this is a pretty confusing idea for people who’ve never worked in audio before, so feel free to ask specific questions about what will and won’t work in this thread.
Now that I’ve focused (too much?) on the negatives, I’m going to do another post about positives–things we want to see more of–later tonight.