Voice (Descriptive Narrative)



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  • Voice (Descriptive Narrative)

    Last edited by JoeNYC; 07-01-2018, 05:31 PM.

  • #2
    Re: Voice (Descriptive Narrative)

    My suggestion is in general to write with direct simplicity using strong nouns, vivid verbs, etc. that’ll evoke emotion on the page that’ll make the reader feel what the characters feel.

    Jordan Peele, writer/director GET OUT, says:

    “The whole trick that all of us are trying to do is bring the audience into the protagonist’s eyes. Behind the eyes. Not tell somebody you have to feel for somebody else but make somebody feel because they’re experiencing it through entertainment.”

    Here’s an example of what I’m talking about from Script Reader Pro’s (a script analysis service using pro writers; never used their service) breakdown using an excerpt from WHIPLASH written by Damien Chazelle:


    The players are taking their seats. Slowly, Andrew walks in.
    Eyes the DRUMS. Takes a deep breath. He can do this…

    Carl is seated in the alternate’s seat. The drum throne is
    empty. Just waiting for Andrew…

    Andrew sits down. WE MOVE IN CLOSER ON HIM –- as he adjusts
    his seat, lays his music out, gets his sticks ready…

    Alright, gang.

    Andrew looks up. Fletcher has just entered.


    Script Reader Pro says, “Andrew walks in, slowly. Eyes the DRUMS. This brings to our attention straight away just how nervous Andrew is, without stating it explicitly. It’s all there in the choice of words. We can see him eye the drums and know exactly what he’s thinking. Similarly, the choice of the word, ‘throne’ reinforces the idea that drumming is everything to Andrew – a precious commodity that he must conquer or die trying, just like kings of old. Some so-called screenwriting gurus will tell you never to use camera angles, and while it’s true you shouldn’t overuse them, a judicious line like ‘WE MOVE IN CLOSER ON HIM’ can really help give the impression that we’re watching a movie. It puts in our mind how the camera moves slowly toward him, accentuating the tension, which can only be a good thing.”

    I suggest for the writer to expand and elaborate on description, and this is generally speaking, ultimately, it’s whatever works, will be at choice/important points in the story that’ll have an impact on the characters, affecting not only them, but also the reader, such as, character introductions, opening settings, special situations, etc.

    For example, character introductions.



    It is grandiose and grim. The whole place is one of those abortions of silent-
    picture days, with bowling alleys in the cellar and a built-in pipe organ, and
    beams imported from Italy, with California termites at work on them. Portieres
    are drawn before all the windows, and only thin slits of sunlight find their way
    in to fight the few electric bulbs, which are always burning.

    Norma Desmond stands down the corridor next to a doorway from which emerges a
    flickering light. She is a little woman. There is a curious style, a great sense
    of high voltage about her. She is dressed in black house pajamas and black high-
    heeled pumps. Around her throat there is a leopard-patterned scarf, and wound
    around her head a turban of the same material. Her skin is very pale, and she is
    wearing dark glasses.



    is coming slowly INTO VIEW… Behind its barred front wall is a second barrier of
    stout nylon net… Sparse, bolted-down furniture, many soft cover books and papers.
    On the walls, extraordinarily detailed, skillful drawings, mostly European
    cityscape, in charcoal or crayon.

    DR. HANNIBLE LECTER is lounging on his bunk, in white pajamas, reading an Italian
    Vogue. He turns, considers her… A face so long out of the sun, it seems almost
    leached - except for the glittering eyes, and the wet red mouth. He rises smoothly,
    crossing to stand before her; the gracious host. His voice is cultured, soft.

    For example, opening settings.



    Epic beauty: cobalt mountains beneath a glowering purple sky
    fringed with pink, as if the clouds were lid too small for
    the earth; a cascading landscape of boulders shrouded in deep
    green grass; and the blue lochs, reflecting the sky. We hear
    a voice, husky, Scottish…

    I will tell you of William Wallace.



    A lone palm tree rises up into a yellow afternoon sky.
    Behind it, the sparkling blue of the Pacific Ocean and the
    city of San Diego. A dry, hot Southern California day.
    Even the wind is lazy, and a little bored.

    For an example on a special situation that’ll have an impact on the characters I’m going to use a scene from my script. In the “voice” thread in the basic forum, I gave an example of my opening page, post 56, where the descriptive narrative writing was simple, to-the-point writing.

    On page 8 of my script there’s a romantic scene where I break out the adverbs and adjectives. Now, my story is not a romance story. The main genres are adventure/drama/action.

    This romance scene is a special situation that requires elaboration because on page 9 the Inciting Incident (II) happens where the two protagonist are forcibly separated.

    The romance scene expresses a beautiful world and a deep love where when the II happens it enhances the stakes and motivations of the characters and hopefully the emotional involvement of the viewer/reader. She’s taken to this cold, cruel world. He struggles to find her and she struggles to survive until he does.


    Cabins are barely visible through a beautiful, morning mist.


    Emily lies in bed asleep. She rolls over and sees Liam,
    Maisy and Reid at the end of the bed, grinning at her.

    Why y’all standing there with that
    goofy smile on your faces?

    Pa has a surprise for ya.

    Excited, she pops up.

    (to Liam)
    You do?

    Liam holds up a black blindfold.

    A blindfold? You gonna shoot me?

    Sometimes that’s crossed my mind,
    but not today. Get dressed. We’ll
    wait for you outside.

    They leave. Emily springs out of bed and grabs her clothes.


    Emily steps out to her waiting family.

    What’s going on?

    Come, you’ll see.

    He holds his hand out. Emily takes his hand and
    Maisy’s. They walk off with Reid following along.


    Emily, blindfolded, is guided through by Liam with Maisy
    and Reid tagging along beside them. Liam stops Emily,
    pivots her to a perfect angle and removes the blindfold.

    Emily’s face beams with wonderment. In front of her
    stands a magnificent Carolina Silverbell tree rising
    thirty feet. Broad rounded crown of hundreds of
    silverly-white, bell-shaped flowers dangling from every
    branch. It pops gloriously with the evergreen backdrop.

    Carolina Silverbells.

    Emily ambles under the silverbells and looks
    up. She eyes a slender shaft with a yellow tip
    hanging down the center of the flower like a
    clapper in a bell.

    Liam unfolds an item inside a cloth. He shows
    Emily a charming, white carved Carolina Silverbell
    flower pendant, hanging from a thin leather necklace.

    I carved it from a cow bone.

    It’s beautiful.

    Liam lays it around her neck and attaches it in the back.

    Happy wedding anniversary.

    I thought you forgot.

    Liam and Emily gaze into each other’s eyes. It’s
    magnetic. They cannot look away.

    On our wedding day we stood in
    front of God, family and friends
    and declared our love for each
    other. I’ll always remember and
    honor that day, because on that
    day my life changed forever. I
    got to share it with a special,
    earthshaking lady named... Emily.

    Liam and Emily kiss. They hold each other like they
    want to stay there together... forever.

    Lastly, what is the poor industry person going to do when a script crosses his desk with little or no dialogue? Just descriptive narrative.

    For example, A QUIET PLACE has like a total of 4 pages of dialogue in a 67 page script (90 minute film).

    The writers of A QUIET PLACE handled the mostly descriptive narrative very well. Keeping the reader in mind by not having daunting, dense blocks of black, which would give a reader an uncontrollable urge to skim.

    The writers used a simple, to-the-point style. Using a lot of white space to make the descriptive narrative airy and inviting to the reader. In this instance, the writers also bolded the master scene headings to help break up the description narrative. Not having it look like one dense block of black.

    An example from A QUIET PLACE’s opening page:


    The hilltop is lined with corn. Golden and brown. Shimmering
    in the morning heat.

    There’s a structure in the distance…


    A FARMHOUSE built from old lumber. There’s no cattle or
    livestock in sight. Unusual for this fertile land.


    APRIL (8) gazes out the window pane. Nervous, eager, sweet.
    She has a HEARING AID in one ear.

    She’s focused on a TOLL SHED one hundred feet away, isolated
    under a crooked apple tree.

    Her eyes drift from the shed to her older brother WILL (10)
    who stands outside. He sticks his tongue out. She ignores
    him. This is their dynamic.

    Well, it was a long post, 14 pages, but I felt the thoroughness was necessary for the new writers to get an understanding on the topic.

    If you’re a new writer and you’re reading this, or you’ve made it this far without skimming, then that’s a good sign that you have a thirst for gaining knowledge on the craft in order to achieve your goal to write at a professional level.

    It shows you’re not lazy, looking for short cuts, which is a good attitude to have in order to succeed in anything you strive for in life.
    Last edited by JoeNYC; 10-18-2018, 10:31 AM.


    • #3
      Re: Voice (Descriptive Narrative)

      Thanks for posting this - there's lots of interesting stuff.

      I'm not sure that the overall subject is really 'voice', but more the 'technique' of efficient and effective screenwriting.
      Know this: I'm a lazy amateur, so trust not a word what I write.
      "The ugly can be beautiful. The pretty, never." ~ Oscar Wilde


      • #4
        Re: Voice (Descriptive Narrative)

        Originally posted by Crayon View Post
        I'm not sure that the overall subject is really 'voice', but more the 'technique' of efficient and effective screenwriting.
        It's understandable you may think this way, because besides going into the actual thoughts and expressions of the writer that dealt with word choices that evoked imagery, i. e., "a SWASTIKA on his right tit,- "The drum throne is empty,- I did go into the mechanics and technical choices of the writing, which may be perceived as not part of a writer's voice. Just how to write efficiently and effectively.

        A writer's thoughts and expressions dealing with the basic elements in the descriptive narrative that I mentioned at the top of my first post, i. e., word choices, style, tone, rhythm, texture, etc., in my opinion, work together, in culminative action, to create a "brand- voice for the writer.

        The details that you express in your storytelling, from shaping characters down to a punctuation mark, is all part of your voice as a writer.


        • #5
          Re: Voice (Descriptive Narrative)

          Thanks Joe, a good read, lots of food for thought.

          I like to use the term "economical" when I think of my word choices. If I get it right (which I'm not sure I do yet) then I should have a slick script that reads well and doesn't bury the vital information.


          • #6
            Re: Voice (Descriptive Narrative)

            Originally posted by Harper8484 View Post
            I like to use the term "economical" when I think of my word choices.
            "Economical- is a good way to think of it if you're applying it in the context of the craft of screenwriting like the writers of WHIPLASH and AMERICAN HISTORY X did and not with the thinking that it means a writer needs to be cheap/penny-pinching with the words.

            What worries me is when there's talk about being lean, concise, to-the-point, brief, succinct, etc. a writer will literally apply this to the point where he'll lose his voice.

            For example, in the past I've demonstrated what I'm talking about from a past discussion on concise writing with the following line of description in a member's script:

            "Her heart jams into her tonsils as she spins toward the noise.-

            A member pointed out that the action/description could be expressed with less words and gave the following example:

            "Frighten, she spins toward the noise.-

            Yes, expressing she was "frighten- was written more concise by using less words but he didn't realize he butchered the writer's voice.

            Every word in that member's line of "Her heart jams...- does necessary work that expressed necessary information to the reader, so it wasn't overwritten. It was good voice where the writer used strong, vivid verbs that expressed not only a sense of color, but also tension and suspense, making for a compelling and interesting read.

            And don't get me wrong about the use of something like "frightened.- I'm not implying that telling a reader someone is frightened, puzzled, happy, etc. is wrong. If you, the writer, feels that the -- situation -- is right for you to tell and not show with a written out image, such as expressing a character is "frightened,- a reader can visualize that and an actor can portray that.


            • #7
              Re: Voice (Descriptive Narrative)

              Agreed, but
              Her heart jams into her tonsils as she spins to the noise.
              fits on one line.


              • #8
                Re: Voice (Descriptive Narrative)

                Hi Joe, I agree, I don't mean boiling lines down to baby speak. I think it's using words as a weapon, creating the right dynamics from them.


                • #9
                  Re: Voice (Descriptive Narrative)

                  Originally posted by catcon View Post
                  fits on one line.
                  "Her heart jams..." line wasn't overwritten but just because an action/description fits on one line, don't automatically assume it's not overwritten. There are many reasons a line could be perceived as overwritten, no matter how long: redundant, unnecessary words, unnecessary information, etc.


                  • #10
                    Re: Voice (Descriptive Narrative)

                    Originally posted by catcon View Post
                    Her heart jams into her tonsils as she spins to the noise.
                    But "to" doesn't mean the same as "toward", and therefore "she spins to the noise" reads rather like "she dances to the music", or "she pirouettes to the industrial techno". I guess the context excludes that behaviour, but it risks the reader being given pause for amusement at the thought of it.

                    You spin me right round baby right round like a record baby...
                    Know this: I'm a lazy amateur, so trust not a word what I write.
                    "The ugly can be beautiful. The pretty, never." ~ Oscar Wilde