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Old 05-07-2018, 08:55 AM   #11
catcon
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Default Re: How important is voice in screenwriting?

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Originally Posted by JeffLowell View Post
I think the greatest threat to voice is listening to all the bullshit rules about not using certain types of verbs or words or describing action in a certain way or what you can and can't include... If you're worried about putting in a song or ending a word with "ing" or saying "we see," you're already drowning out your voice.
But I believe you've just identified 95 percent of the minutiae that front-line readers use to eliminate submitted spec scripts, not to mention 95 percent of the lists of "not-to-do's" in most on-line consultants' pages.

However, I agree with you. In time, most writers who persist come around to this conclusion and it is utterly liberating because it allows us more to think about what story we're putting on the page as opposed to how to get it there.
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Old 05-08-2018, 08:16 AM   #12
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Default Re: How important is voice in screenwriting?

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But I believe you've just identified 95 percent of the minutiae that front-line readers use to eliminate submitted spec scripts
This is the myth that gurus spout to get people to pay them.
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Old 05-08-2018, 10:53 AM   #13
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Default Re: How important is voice in screenwriting?

I don't think it is entirely unreasonable for you to successfully utilize different voices in different screenplays.
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Old 05-08-2018, 02:00 PM   #14
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Default Re: How important is voice in screenwriting?

I thought of a possibly good illustration of voice, which seems like such a slippery thing to nail down.

There's a documentary called "The Aristocrats," named after an old joke. The joke is the same, yet every comic who tells it tells a completely different version, with the details demonstrating the comedian's voice.

If you're wondering what voice is, and aren't easily offended, it's worth checking out.
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Old 05-08-2018, 08:25 PM   #15
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Default Re: How important is voice in screenwriting?

Jeff's "The Aristocrats" example of demonstrating voice is a good one. Also, a good example would be Charlie Kaufman with his weird and off beat writing.

Jeff and other DD members have a strong opinion on Gurus, but I believe Gurus’ advice on the minutia i. e., “ing” (when used with the “to be” verbs “is” and “are”) “we see,” “camera directions,” etc. is sound advice.

What I don’t like is when some, not all, Gurus say, “NEVER use this all that, or you’ll look like an amateur.” “Your script will be thrown in the trash.” This isn’t sound advice when given to a creative person. This will stifle their voice, growth and imagination.

Jeff Lowell says this advice would hurt a writer’s voice. This is true if a writer took this advice as an absolute truth and not just a guideline.

A writer could use a “we see” in front of every visual in his script and though this may make for a tedious read, and in my opinion adds nothing to demonstrate a unique voice, it won’t, contrary to what –- some -- Gurus say, be the cause for your script to be sold or rejected.

The phrase “we see” is a simple tool for a writer to use when he wants to direct the reader’s eye to something. I suggest to use “we see” effectively and purposely.

Example from a non-pro writer’s script:

“Lucy runs through the door and bumps into a MAN. She looks up. To his face. And this is when we see him properly for the first time… THE ZODIAC KILLER!”

In a past thread called “Are Screenwriting Gurus Muddying the Waters,” I gave an example of using a Gurus' DO NOTs list in the narrative, and then without:

Example “A” with the DO NOTs:

We see Mary is sitting on the bed. Bob is pacing back and forth in front of her. He goes to the window and opens the curtain.

BOB’S POV:

The strong wind and rain is pelting the window.

We hear a faint sound of a woman screaming. Bob quickly walks toward the door and listens. A chilling silence has replaced the screams.

Bob quickly opens the door and starts to walk out of the room.

Example “B” without the DON’T DO’s:

Mary sits on the bed. Bob paces back and forth in front of her. He goes to the window and opens the curtain. Bob watches the strong wind and rain pelt the window.

A faint sound of a woman screaming.

Bob hurries toward the door and listens. A chilling silence replaces the screams.

Bob whips open the door and rushes out of the room.

Example “A” was a tedious read, lacking energy. Example “B” has a good pace and energy.

Did example “B” take away some of the voice in example “A,” sure, but just cause a writer’s voice remains in tack doesn’t mean it was a great, unique voice, though this opinion is subjective. Someone might find example “A” to be great writing.

There’s more to voice than style and word choices. There’s the writer’s attitudes and personality being put down on the page, his world view, etc.

Last edited by JoeNYC : 05-08-2018 at 08:39 PM.
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Old 05-08-2018, 09:10 PM   #16
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Default Re: How important is voice in screenwriting?

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Originally Posted by JeffLowell View Post
I think the greatest threat to voice is listening to all the bullshit rules about not using certain types of verbs or words or describing action in a certain way or what you can and can't include... If you're worried about putting in a song or ending a word with "ing" or saying "we see," you're already drowning out your voice.
I think any read is cleaner without “we see” and better, too. Just as in sports, there are also certain boundaries for screenwriting. If a ball goes out of bounds in sports, there's a form of penalty for it. If you stray too far outside the imaginary bounds of screenwriting, there's probably going to be some form of penalty for that, too.

As ever, Story trumps quirky writing every time.
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Last edited by TigerFang : 02-03-2019 at 05:44 PM.
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Old 05-08-2018, 09:48 PM   #17
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Default Re: How important is voice in screenwriting?

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Originally Posted by JeffLowell View Post
I think the greatest threat to voice is listening to all the bullshit rules about not using certain types of verbs or words or describing action in a certain way or what you can and can't include... If you're worried about putting in a song or ending a word with "ing" or saying "we see," you're already drowning out your voice.
Absolutely. I remember when I tried to follow these idiot "rules." My writing became stilted and cramped. It was frustrating. (Not that my writing is much better without being stilted and cramped.) There are reasons for "ing" verbs and "we see." Why should a writer handicap him/herself by not using them?

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I think any read is cleaner without “we see” and better, too. Just as in sports, there are also certain boundaries for screenwriting. If a ball goes out of bounds in sports, there's a form of penalty for it. If you stray too far outside the imaginary bounds of screenwriting, there's probably going to be some form of penalty for that, too.
How can you stray too far outside imaginary bounds? I remember once when — fresh from reading some "don't ever do these" rule book on screenwriting — I was lecturing a professional screenwriter (someone who makes his money writing screenplays) about how "we see" should never be used. I gave several examples of how you could change the "wee see" sample he gave. Guess what? Every single rewrite I gave was much longer and more convoluted than the simple "we see" he used. Nothing works better to signify what "we" — the readers — "see" that the character in the script doesn't see. It was shortly after this that I realized these "rules" I was learning were just a load of crap.
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Old 05-08-2018, 09:57 PM   #18
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Default Re: How important is voice in screenwriting?

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How can you stray too far outside imaginary bounds?
Imagine your own boundaries; stay within them. Know No Bounds. No rules rules!
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Old 05-08-2018, 10:18 PM   #19
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Default Re: How important is voice in screenwriting?

The shuttlecock about screenwriting “rules” and “gurus” gets bandied about here too often.

Q: How many angels can dance on the head of a pin? (A: All of them.)

There's no debate. Find your “voice” and write what you will. Take a look at these two scripts.

Here's the shooting script for Alien: Alien, by Walter Hill and David Giler

Here's the screenplay for The Revenant: The Revenant, by Mark Smith and Alejandro Inarritu

Each story is written differently. The story dictates the style/voice.
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Old 05-08-2018, 10:28 PM   #20
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Default Re: How important is voice in screenwriting?

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I remember once when — fresh from reading some "don't ever do these" rule book on screenwriting — I was lecturing a professional screenwriter (someone who makes his money writing screenplays) about how "we see" should never be used. I gave several examples of how you could change the "wee see" sample he gave. Guess what? Every single rewrite I gave was much longer and more convoluted than the simple "we see" he used.
We see the stable door open to reveal the Headless Horseman. (We are told we must see that in our mind's eye.)

The stable door opens to reveal the Headless Horseman. (We see that in our mind's eye.)

Use of “We see” in a story by the writer, their subconscious, and their ego interjects a momentary thought of the writer for the reader. The conscientious writer only wants the reader to be thoroughly caught up in the story.

Less is more. Less (reminders of the writer) is more (effective).
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Last edited by TigerFang : 05-08-2018 at 10:45 PM.
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