When was the last time you read a script that was really hitting on all cylinders?
Great story, cinematic writing and vivid imagery, compelling characters, the whole kit and kaboodle.
What’s the one thing that ties all of them together?
That writer’s voice.
We hear about it all the time, and I’ve always described it as how the writing in a script is a reflection of the writer’s style.
If you read a script by Shane Black, Judd Apatow, Nora Ephron, or Quentin Tarantino, you’d know it by the way it reads. Each one is written in the distinctive voice of each writer.
And that’s what you want to achieve with your writing. When somebody reads your scripts, they’ll know it was you.
The need to establish your own voice when it comes to your scripts can’t be stressed enough.
I’ve read a lot of scripts that try to mimic an established writer’s voice, and it usually falls flat. Part of the reason is that the writer is trying too hard to sound like the established writer, which seems counterproductive. If I want a script that reads like Judd Apatow wrote it, I’ll read a Judd Apatow script.
It also doesn’t help that some of these established writers created a niche for themselves with their writing style, so anybody who comes after them with the same approach will immediately be labeled a pale imitation. You might have a phenomenal script, but if the only thing somebody remembers about it is that it’s just ripping off Tarantino, you’ve just wasted everybody’s time.
Now this isn’t to say that you can’t write in a similar style, but you need to put your own spin on it to help it stand out.
What are some of your strengths, writing-wise? In what areas do you really shine? Is there a way you can apply that to other aspects of your script? You want your script to have a real impact on the reader; one with a strong voice can help accomplish that.
Another benefit of a script with a strong voice is that it helps make it that much more memorable. Not only does it leave an impression, but chances are it’ll stick with the reader long afterward. Many’s the time I’ve finished reading a script and within five minutes don’t remember a thing about it. Sure, the writing may have been adequate or possibly just slightly above average, but a lack of a distinctive voice from the writer is a key missing ingredient.
Then there are those I’ll remember a long time after. Maybe it was the story or even just the concept, or the protagonist, or a great scene/sequence. No matter what it was, you could come to me a few months from now, or maybe even next year, and ask “Hey, do you remember that script about ____?”
Chances are I will BECAUSE of the writer’s voice.
Which is exactly what you’re aiming for.