Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Ruby Red Headed Warbler

Now boys and girls, brush your teeth, pull up a chair and listen up. Mama's got something to say on a subject very near and dear to her.

I'm talking about voice.

No, not the way I sound on the phone, which is Starbucks on crack.

I'm referring to the writing voice. The voice that makes you unique. The voice that separates Stephen King from, let's say, a Stephenie Meyer.

Here's an observation that may shock some people: writing is easy. Yes, it is. Any chimp worth his banana can sit down at a computer and type. And with the proliferation of screenwriting software, it's really just a question of filling in the blanks.

Except for one thing: you can string the words together, but it's the way you put them together that adds up to your voice.











I've read scripts, many scripts, too many to scripts to count, scripts that sold for big moolah, that were perfectly formatted, grammatically correct, hit all the beats according to Blake Snyder, yet were duller than baby food.

A script doesn't have to be perfect to sell. It doesn't have to be perfectly structured. A script can have a plethora of flaws and foibles and still get produced.

But even for all the flaws, a script has to that intangible something that sets it apart from the pack.


If your script has a voice, it can hide a multitude of sins.

If your script doesn't have it, it's like the Emperor With No Clothes.

I'd rather have a script that says something (yet have problems), than a "perfectly formatted" script with all the life of a corpse.

And that's what Mama says.

1 comment:

E.C. Henry said...

VERY good explaination of voice, PJ McIlvaine.

"... you can string the words together, but it's the way you put them together that adds up to your voice."

And you describing your own voice as "Starbucks on crack" is scary. Don't be so hard on yourself. You're a very likeable girl.

As an (undiscovered) pre-pro writer I commit so much energy to just tying to explain the story in the clearest way, that paints a picture in the reader's mind. I don't give my overall "voice" that much of thought. I have looked for "voice" in the blog world, especially by those who respond. Never really thought about an author's "voice" shinning through in scripts where the constraints of the medium are much more limiting than say you wrote a novel.

- E.C. Henry from Bonney Lake, WA