Learn How to Develop Your Voice as a Screenwriter

screenwriting voice
'Pitch Perfect'Credit: Universal Pictures
Everyone wants a screenwriter with a voice. So how do you find yours? 

If you're into screenwriting, then you've heard the phrase many times before—all great screenwriters have a "voice." There's a certain style in which they write that not only defines their stories but showcases to the world that they have something to say.

Well, you have a voice. And if you want to be a working screenwriter, you need to find ways to bring it out of you. 

Today, I want to go over how you can develop this style on your own, translate it to the page, and hopefully begin to have a bit of a signature in your work that other people appreciate and want to hire you because it exists. 

Let's get started. 

Learn How to Develop Your Voice as a Screenwriter

I remember being in Lyn Elliot's screenwriting class at Penn State and learning the basics of storytelling. She told us it was not just the story that was important, but the way you told it. Every time I think about the idea of voice, I go back to that lesson.  

Your voice is the most precious thing about your writing. It's a way to communicate your thoughts, beliefs, and vision to the readers. It's how you develop a signature. People should be able to pick up your scripts and expect a consistency that you deliver time in and out. 

What is a screenwriter's voice? 

Your voice is not just the story, it's how you tell it. Voice is the compilation of the prose in your action lines, dialogue, and pacing. Basically, your voice is how you write. 

How can you develop your voice? 

This is why you clicked on this article, so let's get into it. Voice is something sacred. I don't believe much in ethereal power, but when you write, the passion and conviction of your words can actually transport a reader somewhere. Developing it is a much less sacred process. And one I think may annoy you.

The way to develop your voice as a writer is to just write. And write a lot. 

There are dumb articles all over the internet that will tell you to practice writing action lines or to take your favorite scenes from movies and try to put them into your own words. That's all just exercises. I don't believe in that stuff. I think it all is bullshit. 

To become a writer, you have to write. 

Do not waste your time out there doing these exercises to try to manufacture a voice on the page. Go write feature-length screenplays or pilots or short films. Write complete stories. Get out and explore the genres that interest you and the stories that compel you. 

How long will it take to have a voice? 

This is a trick question. You have one right now. You were born with one. You just have to bring it out over time.

Some of this is patience, and some of it is hard work. Lots of articles like these will tell you there are other things to do. There's not. You have a voice. You have things to say. You're learning how to express yourself every time you hit the keys. The more you type out your stories, the more we're going to learn your voice. The more second nature it will become. Pretty soon, you're just writing. 

Summary of Screenwriting Voice 

If you want to develop your screenwriting voice, you have to tell stories in your own way. Learn how to structure them, and also learn your point of view. Give us an attitude on the page. Think about how you say things. Your words elicit emotions and reactions. Use them wisely. 

Let me know your thoughts in the comments.      

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2 Comments

This article lacks insight, humor, and depth. Oh... and, ironically, it also lacks an interesting voice.

What it does have are a couple of Straw Man arguments and a dash of profanity. It reads like it was written in about 5 minutes.

May 16, 2022 at 8:10AM

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l-o-l

May 16, 2022 at 11:53AM

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Jason Hellerman
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