Wednesday, October 17, 2012

What screenwriting style or voice should you use?

 Adam writes in with a question:

With screenwriting as a hobby, I read screenplays online. One thing that stands out to me is the prose or voice that the writer uses. I know it's really down to writing style, but when I'm reading a script (like DOOM) which has this arrogant, douchebag prose, it's fairly annoying to read. For example, the Social Network screenplay has this simple, descriptive style shot through the description. Yeah, the latter was written by Aaron Sorkin himself, and it's a lot less action oriented than the former, but do you have a professional opinion on the writing style to use?

Another easy one - whichever voice comes to you naturally. If you're uncomfortable with a particular writing style, don't try to emulate it because your own voice will never come through.  It'll feel forced and hackneyed and it'll be harder to figure out what YOU bring to this script.

Every reader probably sees dozens of scripts a year where the writer has tried to ape Shane Black's style of talking to the reader and failed miserably at it.  It's sort of like when you read a story from someone trying to evoke '30s pulp novels with detectives and gangsters.  The prose all reads as purple because the best the writer can do is imitate rather than immerse.

And frankly, some of this will also depend on the tone and the style of the movie.  A balls-to-the-wall action movie like DOOM might benefit from an in-your-face style of writing that is in the spirit of the film.  I doubt you'd want to use that tone for a more intimate drama like SMASHED, though.


  1. Nice concise answer.

    I'm actually of the opinion that prose can be used to strengthen the script in numerous other ways. I'll be exploring this in a post on my blog next week.

    Really appreciative of the work you put in here, the recent video entries especially have been priceless.

  2. I'm currently an intern at TheFilmSchool in Seattle and a film student at SU, so this was very insightful. If you had to recommend a screenwriting program or reading material for students pursuing a career in screenwriting, what would you recommend?

    1. This post covers screenwriting books that might be of use. Sorry about the delayed response.