A writer can only go so far with understanding the basics of the craft like formatting and structure. What sets you apart from the pack is your voice. Your voice is the sum of a variety of choices you make as a writer. The way you write your action lines, the types of stories you choose, the characters you create and their world views, and the way you write your dialogue adds up to your unique voice. We may not think twice about those pieces but that attention to detail is what will give your baby something to say. So if your baby is a bit mute at the moment (LOL) here are some exercises to get it to speak its first words.
1. Rewrite scenes from memory
The best way to find your own voice is to imitate before you innovate. Don't worry. It's not cheating. The same way art students redraw/paint pieces from accomplished artists like Picasso and Dali to find their very own styles, writers can choose our favorite scenes from Shonda Rhimes and Aaron Sorkin and rewrite them from memory to find ours. Choose 3 movies or TV episodes, find a scene you absolutely love, and rewatch until it's burned into your brain. Then, grab your pen or laptop and get to writing. When you're done, pull up the script and compare your scene to the original and see what stands out. How is the way you portrayed the scene unique and distinct from the original script? The more you try this exercise - and you can do this as many times as you'd like - you’ll start to see little gemstones that show your unique voice that you will continue to develop in your own projects.
2. Your characters are your BFF's
The only people who know your story better than you are your characters. You're telling their story in their world through their POV’s. Your choice in characters says a lot about you. Let's compare Tarantino’s characters to Bong Joon Ho’s characters. Tarantino usually writes bad ass, smart-mouthed characters who will always be willing to pick and put up a fight against anyone who stands in their way. While Bong Joon Ho’s characters tend to be methodical in their approach to their goals. This sets them apart from the thousands of other writers in the world propelling them to stardom. What kind of characters do you like to write? What do they have in common that you can pull from to help you find your voice?
3. Determine your point of view
How do you see the world? Why did you get into writing screenplays? What themes are burning inside of you that you just have to get out and show the world? Lean into these questions in order to pull out your voice. For Jordan Peele’s Get Out, he looked into his own fears and view of the world in order to create something unique and relatable especially to black people and our universal fears. That’s why we were in the theaters laughing and agreeing with everything Lil Rel (Rod Williams) said. We were saying the same damn things in our heads. Like, sir. GTFO! Being true to yourself will connect you to readers who are like you and give an inside look into a world that other readers are dying to get into.
So next time you write a script, take a deep look into yourself. Woooosssaaa. Then, ask personal questions - the deep ones. We expect our audiences to be vulnerable, so we have to share first to find who we are, so we can see it on the page. It’ll set you apart from the crowd and get you closer to contest wins, representation, and writing credits - which is the point, right? Oh, yeah. We're in it for the art. (Smile)
-Written by Collin Shaw
Shannan E. Johnson, CEO