How to Find Your Voice as a Writer

We live in a world that is hungry for original content. Video content is booming on social media. TV is going through a Golden Age. The movie theatre industry is battling with its online streaming competitors and the rising popularity of video games. Still, we can all agree that on-demand entertainment has given us access to thousands of great films and that the big screen’s unique appeal will never fade. 

In this complex and ever-changing global scenario, standing out and expressing your unique artistic vision isn’t a cakewalk. Still, if you try, it means you have already taken a giant step toward crafting something original. Your voice is what distinguishes you from the many thousands of writers out there, your currency. Here you find a few suggestions on how to find your voice.

Find a Connection

Each of us has some crucial period, person, or event that has shaped our view of life. These turning experiences occur throughout a person’s life – a kid losing a parent, an athlete failing a long-desired race, a corrupt politician facing an unprecedented scandal. Constantly looking at those moments, we tend to connect more easily to stories that explore similar events or themes. I have a friend who lost her younger sister in a car accident and, for many years, they used to watch heart-breaking stories about people losing dear ones.

When you write, personal experiences always emerge through your stories (it’s no coincidence that 2020’s screenwriting competitions saw a huge number of escapism narratives). One writer might favour underdog characters over others because they are unsatisfied with their professional life. I love adventure stories because I live abroad, and I like my characters to find meaning and opportunities far from home. When looking for your voice, ask yourself which experience influenced your writing process and how you can use it to find inspiration for your characters, style, plot, and so on.

Concept is (not always) King

If you want to be a full-time writer, which means you make a living out of your work, you might have already asked yourself: “How do I write a story that sells?”. Commercially speaking, everybody knows that “Concept is King”. Most times, a story’s commercial appeal and fate depend on its underlying idea’s strengths: it has to be clear, concise, and hooking. My point is, does this matter to you? Not that much.

Many aspiring screenwriters focus more on the destination rather than the journey. They always try to second-guess what the audience wants to watch and clumsily attempt to reproduce other successful shows/films with tiny variations (when Stranger Things came out, you used to read similar stories everywhere). Thriller and sci-fi are doing great right now, but you can’t predict when they will go out of fashion, and other niche genres, like period, will make a comeback. 

If you’re an aspiring screenwriter looking for your voice, do some market research, but then focus on your story and your story only. Forget all the background noise and focus on the things you like and what you would love to see on the screen. Sending a well-crafted screenplay that shows who you are to a producer will more likely get you a job in the future than any hooking idea (which they might not have the resources to produce anyway).

Be Truthful with Yourself

Cinema is a collaborative medium, which means people coming from every possible background (should) get a shot at it. In an ideal world, the many different stories out there (should) reflect our world’s diversity. Of course, we’re still pretty far from there, but my point is another. When writing a screenplay, you should be conscious of the people you want to work with to turn that story into a film. Every person is different. Some wish to work in the industry. Others don’t want to have anything to do with it. Some want to use their stories to address political issues explicitly, others only to entertain the audience.

I once had a screenwriter friend who would pitch a different idea to every producer because they wanted their story to match the producers’ tastes for a genre. How could the producer get my friend’s voice? When you’re trying to find your voice, be honest with yourself and those who read it. Words have meaning and show who you are. They aren’t a nice dress you buy for a party and then forget in the wardrobe the morning after.

People change, and so do the things they write. Some already know where their heart lies the minute they phrase a sentence. For others, searching for their voice is an ongoing process. Just keep in mind what you care about and inspires you, and hold it tight.