In response then to SK’s questions in yesterday’s post regarding one’s voice and the notion of RE-PRESENTING one’s concerns, issues, etc. A quick reminder:
I would be interested to see what you have to say about really developing a ‘voice’, that is, how to re/present your concerns in a work. For just knowing your concerns and your story can’t be enough to have a voice, can it? You have to not just know what your story is about, and it be something individual to you, but also to somehow get that individuality across to the reader. So how do you look at something you’re written and tell whether it has a ‘voice’; how do you identify areas where the voice is strong or weak, and how do you rewrite to bolster the weak ones? If you do know what you’re writing about, and you do have something to say, but you don’t have a voice, how can you learn to put a voice in? Can you?
I believe knowing your concerns can absolutely help in developing your voice. Knowing what you want to talk about, what message you want to send, can help you choose not only genre but subject matter and the way in which you structure it and why. As an example here, if we were to take the philosophical notions of existence and epistemology – that is, the theory of knowledge; how we know what we know in essence – these concerns lend themselves particularly well to the sci-fi and supernatural thriller genres. As we’ve seen, multiple times, writers have taken these notions and produced such stories as I, Robot, the Matrix, The Final Cut, Stigmata, Dust Devil and Stir of Echoes. Behind all of these films, whether you like them or not, the writer/s have a something to say: they have woven their thoughts, opinions and experiences of real life into these very (paradoxically) unreal films (hyper-real), involving dystopian views of the future and/or the ways in which we all perceive the world around us.
So, having “something to say” (that all-important message in effect), can be the spark or catalyst that starts off the chain reaction of ideas that leads towards your story in my view. Having “something to say” that’s personal to you – and not a copy of someone else’s POV – is what shows your individuality to The Reader. I’m very interested in those notions of epistemology and existence too; it’s no accident then that these form the basis of both my horror and supernatural thriller. The ethereal can re/present the unreal well in my opinion and from the desire to show my concerns, two very different, hyper-real stories grew from the same message, which is You have to face up to who you really are. I believe this in my own life; I believe it even when sometimes the “truth” is unpleasant and I’ve had to face things about myself and my own personality that are not always palatable. However, I also believe that good will come in the end and as a result, it’s therefore no accident that all of my scripts have a “happy” ending, even when on the surface they may appear negative.
The Reader can tell from the page who has something to say and who has not. It’s somehow tangible. Think of it in this way: you read a confession to a murder on a piece of paper. You don’t know who wrote it, but SOMEONE asks you to tell them whether you think it is true or not. In this case, you believe it is true. You’re not really sure why; it’s a gut feeling thing. Perhaps there’s lots of detail or the Writer of the confession appears to know things they shouldn’t. The Person who asks you whether it’s true or false congratulates you: you’re right. It is true. Gut feeling has a lot to do with “voice” – either on your behalf or the Reader’s. If you feel like you’ve put your heart and soul into a project, chances are, a good Reader will see it too. I’ve read lots of scripts that have been interesting, yet I’ve recongised too much of other films, books, whatever to make the story part of the Writer who wrote it – it’s second-hand, if you like. However, I have read just as many scripts that have read like that confession to murder: I’ve got the gut feeling that this is THEIR story, or THEIR feelings on a particular issue or concern. It’s that sense of THEM that communicates their voice.
How you identify areas where your voice is strong or weak and how you re-write bolster weak areas is a real toughie, since I’m not too sure it’s so black and white. I’m also unsure a script can be weak on voice at the same time as strong. Even a deeply flawed script can be “good” if its voice is strong. It is possible to see the maddest of stories, the biggest mess of structure, the hugest soup of visuals and say: “This has something to say. I just don’t know what” like that agent I told you about yesterday. As for not having a voice but can you learn to put one in, as Matt says in the comments in yesterday’s post: if you write about something that really “fires you”, how can your voice NOT come out? I’d venture that only those writers who let themselves be influenced too much (whatever “too much” means) bu other people/writers/films etc will be voiceless. However, as this is such a contentious issue, I’d be interested to hear what other Scribes have to say on this as well though. Over to you…