How important is voice in screenwriting?

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  • #31
    Re: How important is voice in screenwriting?

    Originally posted by TigerFang View Post
    I think any read is cleaner without “we see” and better, too.... As ever, Story trumps quirky writing every time.
    Originally posted by TigerFang View Post
    The shuttlecock about screenwriting “rules” and “gurus” gets bandied about here too often. (meaning that I don't agree with “guru rules.”)

    There's no debate. Find your “voice” and write what you will.
    Originally posted by Centos View Post
    And yet we still have people parroting these nonsensical claptrap "rules" on a regular basis.
    Not I. Read me again in a different light. I only don't like or use “We see.” Others, Like Jeff Lowell, have no issue with it. I would not condemn a screenplay for using it. I only say that I don't use it. In my estimation, a screenplay is written to be seen, so I see no value in using “We see” in my screenplays. It's not an adherence to a “rule,” it's a choice, my choice.

    Once again, previous quotes from me: “There's no debate. Find your “voice” and write what you will.” “Story trumps quirky writing every time.”

    Originally posted by JeffLowell View Post
    I trot this out every once in awhile. It's time again.

    I was a final round reader for Austin a few times. During one of these debates, I pulled up the twelve scripts I was sent. They were all by amateur writers. These scripts had all made it through multiple rounds of readers to the finals of one of the most prestigious competitions.

    So not only did the scripts advance to me - disproving the "readers use violations of 'rules' to toss scripts" argument, but it disproves the "only pros can do it" argument.

    And before someone says it: if you want to adhere to a bunch of made up rules, have fun. But don't believe it if someone says you shouldn't.
    Thank you (but does the last sentence need an edit?). All of them must have been great STORIES to advance that far. Those writers found their voice for those stories and executed them well, well enough to make the grade even with flashbacks (Citizen Kane, Casablanca, The Godfather Part II anyone?), voiceover (Cannery Row, Goodfellas, Adaptation, Apocalypse Now, A Clockwork Orange, The Big Lebowski, The Shawshank Redemption, All About Eve, Sunset Boulevard, anyone?) and other so-called “mistakes” as touted by rule-mongers.

    Originally posted by Centos View Post
    I wasn't responding to your post. I was responding to a single line in TigerFang's post. I didn't see anything objectionable in what you wrote.
    Shuttlecock poppycock. Read me again in a different light. Oftentimes, I get the distinct impression that many of the boys here are just spoiling for a fight instead of merely airing their writing preferences. I notice that the ladies here always seem to take the high road.

    Once again: “There's no debate. Find your “voice” and write what you will.” “Story trumps quirky writing every time.”
    Last edited by TigerFang; 05-10-2018, 03:37 AM.
    "Go to the edge of the cliff and jump off. Build your wings on the way down.- - Ray Bradbury

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    • #32
      Re: How important is voice in screenwriting?

      Originally posted by sc111 View Post
      True. But merely ignoring the guru rules doesn't guarantee a script will have voice.
      No. But trying to follow their "never do this" advice will damage your natural writing skills.
      STANDARD DISCLAIMER: I'm a wannabe, take whatever I write with a huge grain of salt.

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      • #33
        Re: How important is voice in screenwriting?

        The only rule I can think of regarding voice is "write what you know.-

        The rest of the rules mentioned here deal with writing style.

        Voice and writing style are not interchangeable.
        "I am the story itself; its source, its voice, its music."
        - Clive Barker, Galilee

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        • #34
          Re: How important is voice in screenwriting?

          Voice and writing style are not interchangeable.
          You are correct.

          Unfortunately, most conversations about writing, if continued long enough, will eventually end up by sinking to the bottom of the heap, where the notorious "we see" monster lurks, dripping with venomous slime.

          "The fact that you have seen professionals write poorly is no reason for you to imitate them." - ComicBent.

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          • #35
            Re: How important is voice in screenwriting?

            Originally posted by ComicBent View Post
            Unfortunately, most conversations about writing, if continued long enough, will eventually end up by sinking to the bottom of the heap, where the notorious "we see" monster lurks, dripping with venomous slime.
            I’m not one to tattletale –- but Jeff started it.

            Sc111 says, “I think voice rises from the story’s theme (central dramatic question) and the writer’s POV and skill in executing that theme.” This is certainly true. A writer being passionate about a certain thematic topic will bring out his unique voice, but this is not the only way a writer’s voice weaves through a story.

            Writers create i.e., worlds, characters, plot, theme, etc. What root sources do they rely on to create? From experiences in the writer’s own life, happy, sad, hurtful, loving, etc.; his/her environment, family and friends relationships, attitude, personality, POV, world view, etc.

            A writer’s voice is the essence of who the man is.

            Take the following comedy writers for example: Woody Allen, Billy Wider, Mel Brooks, Nora Ephron, John Hughes, Ethan and Joel Coen. All successful. Why? They told stories in their own, unique voice.
            Last edited by JoeNYC; 05-11-2018, 02:49 AM.

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            • #36
              Re: How important is voice in screenwriting?

              Originally posted by JoeNYC View Post
              I’m not one to tattletale –- but Jeff started it.
              Not to put words into Jeff's mouth, but I think his point was that if we worry about the "never dos" we won't develop our own voice.

              I, personally, don't consider "we see" or "ing" verbs as a "writing style." I just see the "never dos" as an artificial limitation, regardless of writing style. These "never dos" are kind of like telling a sculptor he can only use one hand when sculpting.
              STANDARD DISCLAIMER: I'm a wannabe, take whatever I write with a huge grain of salt.

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              • #37
                Re: How important is voice in screenwriting?

                Originally posted by Centos View Post
                These "never dos" are kind of like telling a sculptor he can only use one hand when sculpting.
                Back in the old wild west days of Done Deal, the NEVER DO’s were running rampant. Members were ranting to the beginner writers about so and so said NEVER DO this or that or you’ll look like an amateur, your script will be rejected, thrown in the trash, etc.

                I’m ashamed to say I kept quiet because I didn’t like their use, especially overuse.

                Jeff road into town and single handily killed the NEVER DO’s down.

                Now, I strive to explain the function of something like a camera angle, etc., but I also suggest to use these elements for an important reason that’ll enhance the read, the story.

                But, of course, every once in a while, I’ll see an upcoming writer/director who wants readers/crew to really SEE his vision and have all these technical elements all over his script, which I say to myself, “self, it’s okay. It’s his personal taste and style. Just judge his script on the story.”
                Last edited by JoeNYC; 05-10-2018, 06:12 PM.

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                • #38
                  Re: How important is voice in screenwriting?

                  Originally posted by JoeNYC View Post
                  Now, I strive to explain the function of something like a camera angle, etc., but I also suggest to use these elements for an important reason that’ll enhance the read, the story.
                  The thing is, a lot of these "never dos" were dealing with real issues in beginning script writing. The problem is, somewhere along the line, these became etched in stone and any posted script snippet or short script was judged almost exclusively on how closely the writer adhered to the "never dos." That's what happened to me for a while. I was one of the "never do" zealots. And my writing turned into crap (or at least it got crappier). It completely lacked "personality" (something akin to voice). And then I realized that professional script writers didn't slavishly follow these rules. At first I thought, "will that's because they are someone or know someone in Hollywood, so they can get away with it." Then I started reading the scripts that unknowns used to break in – and these didn't follow the "never dos" either. And then – slowly but surely – my eyes opened (it took awhile, I was pretty deep in the "cult").
                  STANDARD DISCLAIMER: I'm a wannabe, take whatever I write with a huge grain of salt.

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                  • #39
                    Re: How important is voice in screenwriting?

                    I think a problem for all writers is anticipating what will please or turn off "the reader." A lot of people on discussion boards, and gurus, professed to know what professional script readers want (and don't want) and the rules sprouted from there.

                    It can paralyze you. Cause you to second-guess every word you write. I fell for it, too, for a period of time.

                    Last year, my kid, a freshman in high school, was stressing out over her very picky English teacher who was handing back her essays loaded with red pen critiques because she wasn't strictly following various rules the teacher laid down.

                    As a result, my kid's writing went downhill with each successive essay and she was convinced, "I'm just a bad writer."

                    Toward the end of the year she was struggling with an essay assignment that required she read three or four articles (the teacher provided) then write an argumentative essay. So I told her to just talk to me about her thoughts and opinions -- her point of view on the topic.

                    She had several excellent insights and expressed herself in a fresh, creative way. I said, "Write that. Word for word." The kid said, "My teacher won't like it." I encouraged her to give it a shot, anyway. A test of sorts. And she did. She got an A-minus even though she had broken a couple of the teacher's rules.

                    After, I told her my theory -- that she had been paralyzed by the rules and trying to write what she believed the teacher would want instead of expressing her thoughts. So then the kid says: "I get it -- write like no one will read it." I thought that was the whole thing in a nutshell.

                    Now she's finishing up her sophomore year with an A in English and this year's teacher often uses her essays as an example of good writing.

                    I had to wonder how many kids were, and will be, stunted as writers because that freshman year teacher puts her "rules" above all else.
                    Last edited by sc111; 05-11-2018, 12:58 PM.
                    Advice from writer, Kelly Sue DeConnick. "Try this: if you can replace your female character with a sexy lamp and the story still basically works, maybe you need another draft.-

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                    • #40
                      Re: How important is voice in screenwriting?

                      Very nice, sciii

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                      • #41
                        Re: How important is voice in screenwriting?

                        Originally posted by Joaneasley View Post
                        Very nice, sciii
                        Thanks. After I posted, I thought about the "rules" sheets that freshman year teacher handed out.

                        Venn diagrams that turned simple common sense relationships between ideas into a confusing mess -- at least to me.

                        How to write a thesis statement -- a ruling that only allowed students to come down on one side of the pro-con arguments presented in the source material she had to use. No alternate point of view. No use of other sources -- this was forbidden and made no sense to me. Why squash a kid taking the initiative to find other sources?

                        A list of a dozen-plus stilted transition words and phrases that she "must" use: on the other hand, conversely, moreover, furthermore. In a five-paragraph essay these stuck out like a sore thumb. I had to show her examples of perfectly acceptable transitions that used nothing on the list.

                        Worst of all, the list of rubrics used for standardized testing. She had to use the rubrics as a guide when writing. If someone had handed me that sheet when I was her age my eyes would have glazed over.

                        Combined, the above left little room for creativity or any true critical thinking. And when I think about it-- it was all eerily similar to the screenwriting gurus always/never rules.
                        Advice from writer, Kelly Sue DeConnick. "Try this: if you can replace your female character with a sexy lamp and the story still basically works, maybe you need another draft.-

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                        • #42
                          Re: How important is voice in screenwriting?

                          How do you develop your voice?
                          "I am the story itself; its source, its voice, its music."
                          - Clive Barker, Galilee

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                          • #43
                            Re: How important is voice in screenwriting?

                            Funny you should ask that question, Brad. I was just going to post the following.

                            BrickFlare, this thread has talked a lot about things that inhibit your writer’s voice, but little about how you can develop your writer’s voice. And I do think you can find and develop your voice. One thing you can do is experiment with different writing styles, different ways of giving your Characters voices, different story structures, different ways of handling all the elements of your writer's voice. You will discover which come to you most naturally.

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                            • #44
                              Re: How important is voice in screenwriting?

                              Originally posted by TwoBrad Bradley View Post
                              How do you develop your voice?
                              Methinks this may be a rhetorical question?
                              Advice from writer, Kelly Sue DeConnick. "Try this: if you can replace your female character with a sexy lamp and the story still basically works, maybe you need another draft.-

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                              • #45
                                Re: How important is voice in screenwriting?

                                Voice is how you tell a story. The details you choose, the humor you use, your word choice, asides, whatever.

                                Think about people who are great storytellers - they tell you about an incident, and you're engaged. They make a mundane incident interesting and an interesting incident fascinating.

                                If you saw someone almost get hit by a car and were telling someone about it, you wouldn't say "A mother pushing a stroller entered an intersection. A car approached. The mother pulled back the stroller so neither she nor the baby was hit." And yet that's the "style" that so many people push for screenwriting.

                                Tell a story! Draw people in! Yes, your plot and characters have to be great as well, but when a reader is in the hands of a confident storyteller, they're more receptive. We've done experiments like this before, but I promise you that I can almost always tell in one page whether or not a person is a good writer, long before I've made a judgement on the merits of the script.

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