Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Is it that good to have a 'voice' as a writer?

One of the most common things that you can hear from people in show business is the saying that you need to have a voice as a writer. Having a distinct voice is something that differentiates you from the rest of the pack and makes you special.

In my opinion, even though there might be certain benefits to having a so called 'voice', I don't think we should get carried away with the idea too much. Sounding or trying to sound too different from others isn't necessarily that good of an idea.

In order to illustrate this, let's think about the different ways that you could have a 'voice'. These are: 1) having a special 'voice' just for the sake of having one,  2) having a 'voice' that isn't really that good or 3) having a voice that means that you have something real to say.

So first things first. When you think about a voice that tries to be too different on purpose, is there a better example than the movie 'Juno', that was written by Diablo Cody? This was a pretty good film - except when it came to its hipster dialogue.

The reason Cody won an Oscar for best original screenplay - contrary to what you may have heard - is not because of the so called 'voice' (wildly implausible dialogue). It won because the story was relatively well crafted and despite its apparent flaws.

I mean, when I watched the movie, I did not like it, until it became obvious that there was more to the film too. It's still hard to get over the fact that the dialogue in the movie was really that awkward. It tried too much and it tried to be different on purpose.

This 'distinct, but not good voice' brings me to the second point. That is that I started to think about this 'recognizable but flawed' thing especially after I checked Netflix's 'The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt'. This was a new show by the 30 Rock creator Tina Fey.

As you might remember, Tina Fey used to be a big thing when 30 Rock was at its peak. That is when the show had a clear idea - a voice. There was a pretty believable premise, the characters were relatively well defined and the scripts were pretty strong.

There were however some obvious flaws with the show too. It tended to be too cartoonish in many cases. It had quick cuts, constant musical cues and a massive amount of those so called jokes. It was very much 'Tina Fey', enjoyable but flawed.

When it came to Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, all those 'Tina Fey' flaws were still there. Yet, all the good things were gone. The show was and is a total disaster, an absolute abomination. Nothing works - but it's obvious that it is a Tina Fey show. It's her 'voice' there.

This is why one should pay attention to the third point.  In my opinion, when it comes to having a real voice, it's not just about having a distinct style. You always need to have substance too. You need to have something real to say about the rest of us.

It's also about being able to bring something new and fresh to the table every once in a while. It has something to do with being able to be flexible and not getting stuck with your thingy. It's about not doing the same thing over and over again.

If you're too obsessed with having a so called voice and a style - or too blind about it -  the chances are that you don't have that much to say about things. If you're too married to your uniqueness, it will eventually, sooner or later, turn against you.

In the end, if you really want to have a voice, be the voice of truth. Pay attention to that and be kind too. Others might not be saying how quirky and unique you are, but at least you are trying to stand up for something that actually matters.

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