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In TV writing, what is your "voice"?

In TV writing your voice is what makes you unique

"Voice" is a term thrown around a lot in screenwriting circles. A lot of executives and showrunners and agents "just want to hear your voice." It's a nice thing to say, 'cuz it sounds super deep. But what the hell does that actually mean? Today, I want to get into the elements that make up your "voice" as a writer and how to develop them. Because, like this shitty stock image of a red umbrella in a sea of gray, your writing standing out from the pack could make a huge difference to your writing getting seen by those who can help you out.

The elements I'm going to describe below are independent of one another. Meaning, you don't need each of these to have a fully developed voice. You can have one or another. Altogether, the point is that whoever is reading this script gets a sense of who you are by reading this script. What makes this script distinct enough so that it could only have come from you? Here are the various elements that go into that.

Personal Story

This is one of the most obvious ones. But if you're writing about a personal story, something that happened to you, this is a clear way for somebody reading your script to learn about you and get a sense of who you are as a writer. Like I said before, this is not a prerequisite by any means. None of your personal life needs to enter your script. But if they do, it is certainly your voice coming through.

TV Writing Style

This is something that will develop along the way as you write more and more. Just like you can distinguish different novels from one another just by the style of writing, that is true amongst screenwriters as well. So, your TV writing style -- how you write scene description, how your dialgoue is written, the way your characters interact with one another -- these are all clear signs of your voice. Some people add a ton of scene description, some people use choppy sentences. Tony Gilroy uses a lot of dashes. Even these little things add into your writing looking and feeling unique to you.

When you're first starting out, it will be perfectly natural for your writing to feel like others' that you have read. Even stand-up comedians tend to copy who they've seen before until they establish their own style. But as you move along, this part will develop naturally.


Okay, this one's a bit more vague, but still very much a part of your "voice." This means the types of stories you like to tell. You may find that you like to tell stories about people struggling to make it our from under, or folks at their height suffering from a huge fall. Or maybe you tend to focus on relationships, comedic situations, period pieces, etc. This is not to say that all your writing has to be placed in one lump thematically. But there may be commonalities between your scripts that can amount to a thematic voice to your scripts.

TV Writing Voice is Who You Are

Basically, any writing you do is your voice because it came from you and it's your thoughts becoming words on a page. So, no matter what, your voice is coming through. The next step is developing that voice to make it something original. This simply comes from practice. In other words, when people say they want to hear your voice, they really just mean they want to read something that's unique to you that you've honed with your practiced skills.


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I'm Anton, a TV writer and author of Breaking Into TV Writing, a book about the business of TV writing and how to get your foot in the door.


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