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Writer’s Voice: Look Deeper

Examining your emotions, attitudes and opinions are all part of self-discovery, which is a great way to find your voice.  Set aside some time now and then to complete a thorough inventory of how you feel about events in your life.

Think about what’s important to you. Art? Money? Relationships? Are you devoted to your family, to your job, to healing others, to running for office, to art, or even some academic field like anthropology.

Everyone’s different. For example, if  I‘m really honest, some of the most important things in my life involve creating things, (cartoons, films, documentaries, TV shows, nonfiction).  I guess I’m obsessed with creativity and creating a legacy.

When I look at what that involves, day-to-day, I see myself making sacrifices to make that happen.  To create things of value.  And I know i can be pretty obsesseive-compulsive about it.

When I write about a protagonist, and an antagonist, I channel my own obsessive traits into them. After all, the protagonist doesn’t give up, or you have no story; same for the antagonist. They have to be both fully committed.

And remember the relationship between the two. The antagonist is “the agent of change,” and he must be driven. Otherwise there is no change in the hero. Without change, there is no screenplay.

As a one writer to another, I think it would valuable to think about your feelings about many different aspects of life. Some writers write about political themes, some prefer darker themes, like seduction, and enslavement. Some writers want to satirize the flaws, greed, dishonesty (the bullshit) that seems to surround us all.

What pisses you off? Is it pointless, unwinnable wars? Is it self-absorbed people? Is it guys who go around breaking women’s hearts? Find your anger. You can infuse that kind of outrage into your script. Most of us will root against people who take and abuse absolute power, corrupt politicians, heartless corporations and serial killers, right?

Let’s look at the major emotions; Fear, Anger, Disgust, Contempt, Joy, Sadness and Surprise. Notice that the majority of emotions are negative. What do you fear? What makes you sad, or feel contempt?

Just start writing stream of consciousness, what comes to mind when you ask yourself these questions. You might be surprised by some of your answers. When you go through your list, look at the most extreme or unique answers, they are what make you different.

For example, maybe you worst fears involve careless politicians causing nuclear annihilation. Dr, Strangelove and Fail Safe, and lots of other films tap into those fears. The fear of a communicable deadly virus has spawned many film ideas. Same with the fear of going into a boxing ring against a fearsome heavyweight champion.

Then again, some people’s fears are more subtle, for example, a fear of being alone, or of being separated from a partner, being surrounded by insects, or even going outside (agoraphobia). Whatever your fears are, take a look at your list and see if there are some original ideas for story or character.

You might feel contempt for man’s inhumanity to man. You might feel strongly about billionaires buying off politicians, or corrupt policemen.  About issues like slavery, human trafficking, genocide, or something less obvious, like road rage, getting pregnant, or being ignored by your partner.

Think about the experiences you’ve had, preferences and characteristics that set you apart from others. Think about the most extreme examples. It doesn’t help much to describe yourself in bland generalities. You have to skip over the “honest, loyal, like to read, like to play soccer, like to ride rollercoasters” stuff.

While learning and understanding about the dynamics of your inner emotional states, you’ll find that you’ll be able to discover some unique points of view, attitudes and opinions about life experiences. Opinions, attitudes and points of view stem from giving voice to your unique emotional reactions.

I think it’s important to have a strong opinion, attitude and point of view when writing your screenplay. For example, you’ll want to find a distinctive opinion (that comes directly from your self-awareness) to give your protagonist, your antagonist, and other characters in your writing.

Once you’ve reviewed what makes you emotionally different, and unique in your opinions and attitudes, start writing with more purpose.  Think of stories and characters that are informed with your sensibilities. Write dialogue that feels like only you could write.

Pay attention to everything you write down, but especially your most distinctive reactions, the ones that set you apart from everyone else. Remember you don’t want a generic voice. You want to develop your own inimitable style.

Hopefully, you’ll find that as your more creative, “right brain” talents will take over, your strongest attitudes, feelings and ideas will co-mingle, and a fresh new point of view will emerge. Look for the ideas that set you apart.

Sometimes when I’m writing, I’ll think to myself, how can I write this sex scene, or this dinner scene, or this chase scene in a way that I’ve never seen before? Then I make a list of the most unique ideas that come to mind. I ask myself, which speaks to me, personally, the most.

The more you play around with the emotional reactions, or opinions that make you unique, then extrapolate, maximize or even minimize, until you’ve found something perfect for the film you’re writing, the better you get at accessing original ideas.

Make a habit of connecting with your inner self on a daily basis. Write about the results in your journal. I guarantee you’ll start writing more and more from your own personal voice.

Image credit: Creative Commons, Spiral Stair, 2012, by GDU Photography, is licensed under CC By 2.0





Writer’s Voice: Look Deeper

David Silverman, MA, LMFT

A lot of careers can really knock you around. The competition is fierce, in graphic design, journalism, you name it -- especially in creative careers in Hollywood. Writers and performers get slammed with rejection constantly. If you're going through something -- anxiety, addiction or depression -- I help people like you get through it. And thrive. Let me help you get your dream back on track.

Please check out my website: My story: my brother grew up with a severe case of OCD, and while I just a kid --- in family therapy with him, I witnessed a miracle as he was transformed, and now is enjoying the life he deserves. I went to Stanford University to study Psychology, and USC Film. I've worked in FIlm/TV and experienced high levels of anxiety, and got slammed with rejection myself. I learned how to get through it. Today, I love to help people to regain the lifestyle they deserve.

David Silverman Psychotherapy

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APA Reference
Silverman, D. (2018). Writer’s Voice: Look Deeper. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 13, 2020, from


Last updated: 24 Jul 2018
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