Perhaps I can help…
A well-written script is a rare and beautiful beast. It’s easy to get caught up in the words and forget that they have to be spoken. Or to run away with the wonderful ideas behind the words and create cumbersome, impenetrable sentences that seem to go on for ever and ever and…Well, you get my drift. So, how do you avoid such pitfalls?
What’s the medium? TV, radio, web? Perhaps all three? Is it a commercial, explainer video, e-learning script? Each will demand a different style of writing.
From the perspective of a voice over, I would suggest you keep reminding yourself of the key message you want to convey. What do you want your audience to remember and take away with them? Keep it clear and simple. The message and or call to action is key. If that isn’t clear in your head, put your pen down until it is.
When you’ve written your script, read it aloud. Does it flow? Are there any words or sentences that cause you to stumble? Perhaps hearing your script read by someone who hasn’t seen it before will give you enough distance to judge it more objectively.
Consider the feeling or mood you’re trying to create. Excitement? Power? Reassurance? Would you like the vibe to be conversational, instructional, conspiratorial? Factor that into your choice of words and sentence construction. Punchy? Lyrical? Hard, soft, fast or slow? As a general rule, scripts with an energetic, punchy, excited feel tend to be read more quickly. However, the duration of the final piece may be finite. You can only cram so many words into 30 seconds, one minute, or however long your duration may be!
Avoid lengthy sentences wherever possible, they can be harder to penetrate for both reader and audience. Keep coming back to that key message.
If you’re writing to picture, does the style of writing work in harmony with the images? Perhaps you deliberately want to create a disconnect in order to leave your audience with a particular feeling or question swilling around their brain? It’s worth giving it some thought.
If you’d like your script to sound conversational, pay careful attention to the words you use an the sentence construction. Give it light and shade. Perhaps imagining the face of the person speaking those words will help.
Use punctuation carefully. “Let’s eat, Grandma!” and “Let’s eat Grandma!” is the difference between life and death! If you’re going to this / decide how you’d like it read – literally as the word slash? Or did you mean and, or perhaps or? Use words to avoid misinterpretation and misunderstandings.
A well-written script is a joy to read. It’s like music. The phrasing, the tempo, the mood is all there on the page. I just have to read the score and use my instrument, my voice, to do it justice. When it works? Shivers down the spine.
I’ve had a few wonderful scripts recently. It doesn’t matter what the subject matter is, a great script can make or break a project. I will always do my best to make it sing and as I often say, it’s all about team work. Because that’s when the magic happens. When every element of the process is the best it can possibly be.