Invisible, genderless, the author..



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  • Invisible, genderless, the author..

    In writing my script I made a point of being invisible. I placed on the page what you would see on the screen, having done so, it appears I have a "voice" missing.

    So how do I find my voice without standing on a soapbox, without gender, without drawing attention to myself?

    Please give me scripts as an example to read with excellent voice in them. - Thanks, Charli

  • #2
    I'd say that an invisible/genderless voice is desirable, and all voices should come from the characters themselves...

    The character's actions/dialogue will state their gender/agenda/prioroities for you.

    As for a script with a "voice", I like the Wack Bro's adaption of Plasticman.


    • #3
      Take a look at any of Shane Black's stuff... but keep in mind that he is anything but invisible in his scripts. In fact, when reading The Long Kiss Goodnight, I got the feeling that he was verbally telling me the story; talking directly to me. Even swears quite a bit in the action lines. That may not be what you're looking for.

      M. Night Shyamalan has a definite voice in his screenplays. He writes in an almost lyrical, poetic style that sneaks up on you, but doesn't announce his presence too loudly (with the exception of his overuse of "a beat").

      Read Chinatown if you can get your hands on it. The film noirish tone of the story is brilliantly realized in the script through the dialogue, pacing and the language of the action lines.

      Also take a look at Fight Club. The script has the energetic momentum of the film, with a definite "hip", jarring, one-two punch style to it. You get lost in it.

      Also read The Matrix, which has a hypnotic feel to it, and the language flows beautifully (kind of like Shyamalan's)...

      For a more "literary" style, read any of Anthony Minghella's scripts... (The English Patient, The Talented Mr. Ripley, etc.)

      Pay close attention to the physical "look" of the pages in these scripts.

      Note when and how the writer makes the transition from one visual to the next.

      For example, note the contrast between the short, hip, punchy sentences of Black and the flowing, complex sentences of Minghella, and the amount of white space on Black's pages (a lot of one line action with a BOOM BOOM BOOM feel) vs the black on Minghella's (breaks the four line rule quite frequently).

      Hope this helps.



      • #4
        Hey Charli

        It's a difficult one and it's why on numerous occassions I've argued on these boards that people like Shane Black and William Goldman break the "rules" not because they're famous and well-paid, but because that's they way they've always written.

        Just like the 3 act structure, I think it's dangerous to say "every script must be minimal" in description. I reckon with all those scripts out there, it's important to stand out through your 'voice', but you've got to find the balance between purple prose and 'voice'. It's a tough one, and I expect it depends a great deal on the writer and the tone/genre of the story. Shane Black's use of smart-ass comments throughout his script is perhaps appropriate to action films, but wouldn't work in say high drama or a period piece.

        I'm not too sure how to tell you how to go about finding your voice. Maybe, think of it like being forced to listen to a sermon. A bland, bare minimum preacher might leave you feeling, "okay, well that was thrilling (yawn), but at least it was short" afterwards. A bible-bashing, overly verbose preacher might have you praying for some prozac in the communal wine. But the preacher who says his thing, but does it with well-placed witicisms or personal examples or whatever he feels works in his sermon - he's probably the one you're going to listen to and get the most from.

        IMHO, the reader might react the same way to the script. He's being forced to read something, not so much because he wants to, but because he's got so many damned scripts to get through. Some of the scripts he reads are ridiculously overwritten and he ends up just skimming them, if at all. Some are so bare that he concentrates on the dialogue, and isn't emotinally involved. Some, on the other hand, have occasional chirps that make him chuckle, that keep him involved and draw him in...that's what you hope for, anyway. Those are the scripts I prefer to read.

        I'm sure there'll be many that'll disagree with me on this topic, but I'm a firm believer in striving to attain your own voice.

        Just a final note, - just because one person feels you don't have 'voice' doesn't mean you don't. Maybe that person didn't like your style of writing, and maybe that's personal. Some people love Conrad's 3 page waffle to describe a tree, some prefer Hemingway's bullet sentences. In the end, you've got to take all the (contradictory) advice from all the various sources and you've got to be satisfied with your style of writing.

        Gah, it probably doesn't, but I hope this helps...?

        (Please note that my use of the masculine in the above examples is done purely for practical reasons and without any insult or discrimnation intended to the feminine gender. I'm sure there are plenty of great female preachers and readers out there. )

        Oh, and maybe check out max Adam's "Excess Baggage" for an example of voice.


        • #5

          If any of the scripts noted prior aren't available on the usualt websites go here:

          To buy them.

          I'm forgetting his name but the guy who Wrote Alien and co-wrote Total Recall has a very nice staccato style all his own. Both of those scripts are on the web too.


          • #6
            Den - thanks, it did help.

            I'll go check out Total Recall. I've read Adams script on her website. I need to find a more action based script with voice. Someone once mentioned Romancing the Stone, but I'm unable to find that script online.

            Shane Black is in a unique world and though it reads well, it's not a script any new screenwriter should follow.

            Kosk - cool

            Captain - I'll look into some of the scripts you mentioned.

            Thanks for the advice. - Charli


            • #7

              Give "Die Hard" and "Hudson Hawk" a try. They kick ass in many ways and are very pleasant to read.




              • #8
                I'm afraid there's a bit of a misconception being spread here. Several posters are using the term "voice" to indicate the style in which the writer chooses to describe action - whereas industry people use it in the same way it's used in the phrase, "she is the voice of her generation". It does not have to do with style, it has to do with the originality of the content.

                Voice has very little to do with the particular way you choose to describe action. Voice is a broader idea that has more to do with the content of your screenplay. Is it particularly truthful? Does it speak from a subculture or geographic location or perspective that we haven't heard from before in quite this way? Does it combine genres (a sci-fi western, a romantic black comedy) in a way that seems surprising and new?

                Voice is just a substitute for "fresh content". Sometimes that fresh content can involve a particular personality coming through in the descriptive action, but mostly it has to do with the other stuff - what it's about.

                Poe said "if any man could tell the complete truth about his life he would create something absolutely original". He said that because each life, each person's experience is like a snowflake - unrepeatable. In your life and experiences, both personal and aesthetic, lie the seeds of an utterly original screenplay. It is talent and devotion to the truth that will bring it out.

                That's "voice".


                • #9
                  I agree with what you said, Tao. But I think that there are many writers who want to write a certain type of story who don't have the voice for it. Someone who isn't comfortable dealing directly with creepiness or dread is never gonna have a voice for a good horror yarn. Running with your "voice speaks the content" line, someone who's voice is that of "Dawson's Creek" is unlikely to pull off a workable "13 Ghosts", even if that's the script they want to write "right now". At some point, the narrative and the concept marry and have a kid, that kid being the hopefully "fresh content".

                  However, a sweet little puppy who ate too much can leave some "fresh content" in my yard, too.

                  As for the "telling of a life so honestly that it's unique/snowflake" stuff, that's easy for Poe to say, considering what happened to him in so short a number of years. His life was "interesting", in that Chinese "May you live in interesting times" way.

                  You could call it "The Tao of Poe". A story like Jobe's but with some nice narcotic action thrown in for spice. Or "The Opium Pipe Diaries", starring Leonardo with some black hair dye.

                  However, there are many people with lives that simply are not interesting enough to get on film. No amount of "voice" is gonna turn Beaver Cleaver into Andrew Vachss.


                  • #10
                    Tao - examples please

                    Tao - would you mind giving me examples of screenplays that have that voice you speak? Something produced maybe in the last five years? - Charli


                    • #11
                      Re: Tao - examples please

                      Charlie Kaufman - Being John Malkovich
                      Alan Ball - American Beauty, Six feet under
                      M. Night - Sixth Sense
                      Wes Anderson - Rushmore
                      Coen Bros. - anything
                      PT Anderson - boogie nights, magnolia
                      Steve Gaghan - traffic, havoc
                      Alexander Payne - election
                      David O Russell - flirting with disaster

                      ksk: respectfully disagree - the interesting qualities of an individual life do not have anything to do with the sex appeal or excitement of the events that happen to them. There have been many great stories about simple people trying to break loose of old patterns, living lives of quiet desperation.


                      • #12
                        Re: Tao - examples please

                        I respectfully *agree*, with the caveat that simple lives can be interesting, but maintain that there is a difference between simple lives and boring lives. The life of a gravedigger (even today) can be simple yet interesting; I wholeheartedly agree. But there are simple boring lives too, that can only become interesting if someone augments them in the telling of the story. There's a reason why people who pump gas are most often bit characters and inner city teachers are often "focus" characters.