Finding your writer’s voice.

December 18th, 2010 by Ron

The Script Blogger

When you watch an actor on screen it is easy to say, he or she has a style.

With certain top novelists it is possible to recognize their style, but can you do that with scriptwriters.

Do Paul Haggis, Ted Elliott, Terry Rossio, Robert Towne and the Coen Brothers have a style that you can recognize on the screen?

It is often easier to see the mark of a director, such as their mannerism, lighting, camera angles, types of shots even maybe a choice of music, but what about the writer?

Would you know that Paul Haggis wrote Crash, Million Dollar Baby, Flags of our Fathers and worked on the last two James Bond movies?

That Elliot and Rossio wrote Godzilla, Small Soldiers, Pirates of the Caribbean and Shrek?

Or Robert Towne was responsible for Chinatown, The Firm and Mission Impossible?

The Coen Brothers are famous for Fargo and No Country for Old Men but also for O’Brother where Art Thou and recent version of The Lady Killers.

All of these writers have many more successful scripts to their names and it is clear that they can produce work that has similarities with other scripts they have written, but also it is clear they can produce projects of differing styles, genres and themes.

They have flair and most definitely panache, they are eminently talented and undoubtedly they have a style; a manner which reveals their writing personality, their ‘voice’.

This is particularly evident in the choices a writer makes in syntactical structures, diction, and chain of thought.

Do you have or are you developing a style, a ‘voice’.

Could a producer read one of your scripts and know who wrote it? Or at least make a reasonable guess that it was written by you?

Most of us use mannerisms in speech and often use repeated phases when writing. “Know what I mean”? (Michael Caine).

If you have read a number of my posts, or some of my Blogs, hopefully you should have noticed I use similarly ways of saying something, I have favorite words and expressions.

This is my voice, my style.

Initially it was not something I was aware of until other people mentioned it.

Your voice should reflect you because when you write, no matter what the story is, it is you who is telling or writing the story and if you can you should do that in a natural way; it is your story told your way, with your voice.

Sure the theme of your stories, the characters contained in them, the locations and even the time periods when they are set can all be different for each story, but it is you telling the story and it is important you tell it your way.

Dialogue is obviously the exception to this rule as dialogue in a script must match the character in a script, not the writer. But action, descriptive text, movement and pace should reflect the writer and be in their voice.

That doesn’t mean you can ignore format, presentation, structure or any of the other nuances that make up a good script.

Can you identify what it is about your screenplays that make them unique to you?

As a writer finding your voice is as important as being able to express it.

What ever it is you have say, say it your way, but do so within the parameters of structure, theme and formatting relative to a script.

Mastering this is a big step to being able to write a good screenplay.

4 responses to “Finding your writer’s voice.”

  1. Jo anne fitz says:

    Interesting and timely post. I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately. Figure the only way to find my voice is to use it and write, write, write.

  2. Charles Harris says:

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Charles Harris.

  3. […] interesting blog post on the writer’s voice by the always interesting Ron Aberdeen This entry was posted in Novel writing, Psychology of Creativity, Screenwriting. Bookmark the […]

  4. Nice one, Ron – I’ve been thinking about voice too.

    I do agree that as a writer (and a director) you have to find your voice, and I also feel that your voice must find you – you must look but you can push too hard.

    You’ve inspired me to write something about voice in my blog in the very near future.