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Core IV: Style, Part 1 (Free SMC lecture!)

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This topic contains 13 replies, has 9 voices, and was last updated by  Mark Walker 1 year, 7 months ago.

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    Scott Myers

    Core IV: Style, my next 1-week online screenwriting class, begins Monday, September 16.

    As an exclusive bonus for The Black Board community, I will be posting Lecture 1 from that class this week.

    Today, Lecture 1, Part 1!

    Style = Voice

    Compare these three screenplay excerpts.

    First from Wall-E (screenplay by Andrew Stanton & James Reardon, story by Andrew Stanton & Pete Docter):

    Wally's dot suddenly stops.
    Slowly he reaches for it.
    Can't grab it. Just light.
    All THE DOTS converge in front of him.
    The ground shakes.
    Wally becomes confused.
    Doesn't see above him.
    The SUN growing brighter behind the cloud cover.
    A noise. Building.
    Rocket engines.
    Wally sense he should look to the sky.
    Now THREE SUNS are descending on him.

    The Hangover (written by Jon Lucas & Scott Moore):

    Furniture is broken, the minibar is ransacked, and the floor is
    covered with remnants of the night before: empty beer cans,
    platefuls of room service food, a cowboy hat, the Gideon
    Bible, half-eaten skinless mangos, a bra, a battle axe, etc.
    SNORING on the couch, wearing only his jeans and one shoe,
    the word ASSHOLE written in Sharpie across his chest, is Stu.
    The chicken struts across the top of the couch, until it
    reaches a plastic coin cup from Bellagio blocking its path.
    Beat. Then the chicken pecks it off... onto Stu.
    The cup hits Stu in the face, and stale beer splashes all
    over him. Stu spastically jerks awake and flips off the
    couch, onto a pile of newspapers.
                          PILE OF NEWSPAPERS
                 OWW! Get off! Get off! Jesus!

    The Dark Knight (screenplay Christopher Nolan & Jonathan Nolan):

    Gordon looks back- the Joker is bloody, but grinning.
    Several cops see Batman climb onto the bat-pod and TEAR off.
    Batman SWERVES into oncoming traffic, CHAOS in his wake.
    Gordon and his men SCRAMBLE into their cars...
                 Can anyone hear me?

    They use the same format, same screenplay elements, but each conveys a different style. The choice of their respective styles is not an arbitrary one. Rather they are an expression of another of the eight essential screenwriting principles I teach in the Core courses:

    Style = Voice

    How you approach screenwriting style is a reflection of your writing voice. This is the case whether you are intentional about it or not. A professional script reader, who plows through hundreds of scripts per year, will pick up on a script’s sense of style – or lack thereof – from the very first line of scene description. Therefore it stands to reason you need to think about your writing voice as conveyed in your script’s style. And that is what this part of the Core IV is all about.

    If you have never taken an online class with me, this is a great opportunity. To learn more, go here:

    Core IV: Style at Screenwriting Master Class.


    Did you ever think about screenplay style as evidence of your writing voice?

    Come back tomorrow for Part 2: Scenes and Scene Description.

    Related Posts

    Enjoy this full exclusive Black Board series

    Exploring Style

    Don’t miss out on new exclusive guest posts! Sign up now for automatic notifications of new free screenwriting lectures.

    • This topic was modified 1 year, 7 months ago by  Scott Myers.

    Martin Coles

    My goodness, three of my all time favourite films in one post, nice one Scott!

    I am hoping to find my voice over the coming weeks on my GOYOQ.

    I currently don’t know what it is, or what my style is. I know when writing in the abstract online world my voice is quite jovial but my story requires more darkness.

    My current thinking is that my voice is better suited to comedy, but I don’t/can’t write comedy. Well ok maybe the odd punch line here and there.

    So my question is if my voice is better suited to singing Tom Jones, then should I even bother to attempt Pavarotti?

    Thanks for these posts Scott, I am playing mad catch up though after being away…


    Lydia Mulvey

    Reading professional scripts by professional writers versus unproduced  scripts by writers in the earlier stages of their careers, it’s apparent just how confident professional (ie paid and produced) writers actually are in terms of voice.

    Their voices are distinctive. They (usually) require fewer words to get their point across and there is a polish to the scripts that can be lacking in the scripts of beginner screenwriters.

    I’ve found that the more scripts I write, the fewer rewrites I have to do as I find my own voice. I also see the same patterns emerging and similar themes and tone, which I suppose is the essence of style.

    Thanks for these lectures, Scott. They’re a brilliant resource for the writers here at the Black Board.



    I think Genre informs style too…. The Hangover example is more to my liking and own style… solid writing setting the scene through description, atmosphere and tone of dialogue. The Dark Knight example is different in that it consists of many shorter scenes just describing actions with little description, but no less effective. It’s horses for courses I suppose.

    The Wall E style unfortunately just doesn’t work for me. I find the use of single words disorientating. Staccato. Disjointed. Cold. See what I just did there?! ;)

    Thanks for another great post Scott.


    Lydia Mulvey



    I actually love the staccato style of Wall-E. It reminds me of the Alien script. I really like the sparseness of it, the efficiency of the words. It’s telling the story with specific images.



    John Connor

    Gotta admit, I’m with Sutinder on that hyper-abbreviated, staccato style: it irks me (and I see it a LOT in amateur scripts, often over-used to the point where it’s difficult to understand what’s going on, or who’s doing what to whom). There’s a rhythm and a flow to language which is just as important as the information the words are conveying. ‘Billy stops and turns’ is technically more words, but it reads so much smoother to me than ‘Stops. Turns.’ does.

    And I know the argument about saving space, to get your page count down … but if you’re doing stuff like that to save every line you can, maybe you should think about whether your story is too big to be <120 pages. Or to put it another way, cutting scenes gets your page count down a lot quicker than cutting words.


    Shaula Evans

    In response to what Martin Coles said:

    So my question is if my voice is better suited to singing Tom Jones, then should I even bother to attempt Pavarotti?

    Martin, I’m on the other side of the tragicomedy divide: I gravitate to comedy no matter what I try to write. I’ve been thinking about innate tone and the genres we are drawn to lately, too, and I’d love to discuss this with you at great length. Would you put up a post about it sometime?

    In response to what Lydia Mulvey said:

    Reading professional scripts by professional writers versus unproduced  scripts by writers in the earlier stages of their careers, it’s apparent just how confident professional (ie paid and produced) writers actually are in terms of voice.

    Yes! “Confidence” is what jumps out at me, too: professional-level writing trusts the writing, the reader, and the form. It doesn’t spoonfeed or over-write. (How do we become confident writers? By putting in the work of watching films, reading scripts, writing, getting good notes, and rewriting–in other words, by earning the right to be justifiably confident.)

    Scott, thank you for the three script excerpts in this post. They illustrate your point so clearly and they are a great reference.


    Lydia Mulvey

    …I’m on the other side of the tragicomedy divide: I gravitate to comedy no matter what I try to write. I’ve been thinking about innate tone and the genres we are drawn to lately, too…

    I’ve found that no matter what I try to write, it always ends up having a dark or  melancholy tone. Even the rom com I’m currently plowing through has a real sadness to it. There’s comedy, yes, but also an over-arching melancholy.

    I’ve stopped fighting it, preferring instead to accept that this is my style. I can’t change how I write or the way the words come out. All I can do is keep working within my own style until my scripts gain the same polish that the professional scripts have.





    The Hangover style is great for a comedy, even the character names depicting a funny audio visual. This scene in the movie is great, and if my memory serves me correctly is elevated even more in the film, but the foundation for the film is cemented in the scene description and style of the script.

    I’m okay with the staccato haiku style of Wally, but then I like a good haiku poem as well, so as you say horses for courses.

    They’re certainly all individual and interesting voices and I guess that’s what we’re aiming for, a unique entertaining version of our own voice.



    Crossposted with you Lydia. Adopts melancholy face.

    A rom-com deserves a splash of melancholy, sure when you fall in love you know someday, one way or another, this person will break your heart. Unless you die first…in which case it’s an absolute tragedy.

    See, I did start out trying to be serious. There’s just no hope!



    Looking at some of Andrew Stanton’s other work outside of WALL-E (Toy Story 1-4, Finding Nemo) I suspect the style of WALL-E is related to the fact WALL-E is a robot. The description feels like computer code.

    I suspect, like anything, the “voice” probably changes with the material.

    Here’s a piece from Toy Story:

    Woody proceeds in the other direction. He passes a toy ROBOT and SNAKE partially hidden under the bedspread.


    (to the room)

    Staff meeting, everybody.


    Snake, Robot -- podium duty.

    Robot and Snake come out from under the bed and reluctantly follow Woody.

    Woody walks past an Etch-A-Sketch, ETCH, going the other direction.


    Hey Etch! Draw!

    Both Etch and Woody whip around like gunfighters.

    Before Woody can fully extend his arm out, the Etch-A-Sketch etches a gun on its screen.


    Scott Myers

    If you’re interested in Stanton’s thinking re the writing of Wall-e, I was all over that on the blog when the movie was about to be released.

    2008 interview

    A connection between Wall-e and Alien [this gets into the whole haiku-style of writing thing].

    Transcript: Understanding Story: Or My Journey of Pain

    Amazing to look back on content


    Shaula Evans

    Thank you for the links, Scott!


    Mark Walker

    Thanks for the links….nothing to add I am afraid, but the haiku-style really intrigues me….and it may not fit my “voice” and/or  the stories I am writing, but it is a good standard to have in the back of your mind when thinking about efficient writing.

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