As we all know, in order to write a screenplay, you must follow a specific screenplay format. Knowing this, some writers get discouraged and worry that their own creative voice will be restricted. How do we prevent this?
Think about it this way: if you don’t consider yourself a writer, whether it was for school or for a cover letter for a job application, we all have written in our lives and we all believe that our writing is reflective of our own voice.
But doesn’t the English language have a format too? We have to end our questions with question marks, insert commas between items in lists, put quotation marks around dialogue, and underline titles of books – isn’t this the same sort of idea as following a screenplay format?
Why don’t feel restricted by the English language? If our voice can come through in English prose, why do we feel it can’t in a screenplay?
Just like how we look to grammar rules in prose, the screenplay format is what is looked to in the film world. It’s easy to think that we’re restricted, but we truly are not.
Therefore, it must mean that it’s the content of our writing that maters, not the format that we have to adhere to.
So, let’s go over some strategies to help you maintain your own voice in your screenplays.
Utilize Dialogue as a Springboard for your Voice to Come Through
Even though there is a particular way you want your dialogue to appear on the page and even though you want to make your dialogue as concise as possible so it doesn’t take up too much room on the page, dialogue is an explicit way to let your voice come through.
Every word that you write on your page is important and every word is a portal for your voice to be heard.
Each of your characters has a unique voice, which allows for every part of you to be heard. We all can admit to the fact that when we’re around different people, we let them see different parts of us.
The same can be said for your characters.
One of your characters can be funny, one can be shy, one can be passionate about that non-profit you support, an how they convey these things on the page can be however you want.
Every person we meet has a different voice. Let your inner voices be exposed on the page.
Utilize Your Scene Descriptions
Your scene descriptions also allow you to speak your mind on the page. If you want your film to be filled with opulence and riches, write that into your story. Or if you want your story to be filled with kindness and the meaning of kindness, build your characters and your scenes around that.
Yes, everything on the page has to serve a purpose in your story, but you get to choose what goes into your story and what is important.
Make those things matter to you, not just to your story.
Let your story mean something to you.
We all want to be successful and we all want our screenplays to sell, but make sure you’re selling something that matters to you.
Write About What You’re Passionate About
Similar to the previous point, this one may seem obvious, but don’t write a story that you aren’t passionate about.
It’s okay to admit that an idea that you once thought was great isn’t actually so great. If you get 40 pages into your screenplay and realize you aren’t passionate about your story, it’s going to be hard to find someone else who is passionate about it.
When you’re writing about something you’re passionate about, your voice is going to shine through. Even if you’re writing about something you passionately dislike, your voice is going to come through.
Let us hear your voice. We all deserve to be heard.
Read Other People’s Scripts
Writing is all about learning; the more you read and the more you learn, the better writer you can become.
Reading scripts will allow you learn the technical strategies you need to write a screenplay, and it will also help you learn more of what you personally like and dislike to see in a screenplay.
The more you learn about yourself, the more your own voice will be able to shine through in your writing.
Study Characters and Tropes, then Push Bounds
Film and literature are filled with familiar characters and character tropes. While we tend to find comfort in stock characters like these, clichés get old.
Learn these tropes and break them.
Show us what you can do that we can’t or something we haven’t seen before.
Build a character that we think we’ve seen before, then bring your own twist to him or her.
Use Your Real Life as Inspiration
Has something so outrageous every happened to you think that you think to yourself: wow, my life really feels like it could be a movie?
Use that; bring that energy to the screen.
Base your characters off of real people you know and use your life as inspiration. If you’re feeling like your story is a little bit hollow or lacking inspiration, turn to your real life and bring that substance to the story.
There’s no voice as unique as one that draws from their own personal life.
Write About Something that Scares you
Writing about something that gives you comfort is easy. Writing about something that makes you uncomfortable will bring dimension to your piece.
Let go of your worries about what other people are going to think of your piece – be open, be honest, and write for yourself.
Try Writing in Prose First
If all else fails and you’re still struggling to find your own voice within your screenplay, try writing in prose in first.
Write all of your feelings, everything you want to the reader to know, write everything in as much detail as possible.
When you’re finished, convert it to screenplay format. Even though there are some extra steps there, you’ll inevitably be left with a piece of a screenplay that is far more reminiscent of your own voice.
Remember, you can always go back and edit. Get your thoughts down on the page, then you can go back and fix it.
If you want funding to find your own voice in your screenplays, be sure to check our funding contests!