3 Things You Can Learn From the 2019 Emmy-Nominated Scripts
A writer’s voice helps carry the story from page to screen. What can you learn from this year’s Emmy nominated screenplays and their voices?
When you’re starting out as a writer, you need to take the time to develop your voice. Voice is that little something extra you bring to the page. It’s your point of view. The way you imbue your story with a piece of you. It might be in the dialogue, or action lines, but if you’ve read enough screenplays you know when the writer’s voice stands out.
Recently, we saw all the nominated Emmy scripts posts for download. Today, I wanted to pull three very different television scripts to show you how different voices pop off the page and accentuate the different genres of the shows.
There is no right or wrong way to write a screenplay. We know the “rules” are bullshit. Except for plant and payoff. Definitely, do that.
But let’s go over some of the best voices in the game and the lessons you can learn from each.
The Different Writing Styles of the 2019 Nominated Scripts
Game of Thrones
It’s hard to mention the Emmy-nominated screenplays without getting into Game of Thrones. While Season 8 has taken a lot of heat in the days since it aired, it also delivered some of the series most memorable episodes. HBO submitted the finale, “The Iron Throne” for Emmy consideration.
Let’s take a look at the iconic throne-burning scene for Weiss and Benioff’s writing and voice.
While the internet explodes over learning the Iron Throne was burnt by accident, I like how internal the writing is here. As you know, screenplays are just the blueprint for what hits the screen, but I think it’s cool to look at them as literary artifacts. The writing here allows us to get a sense of the internal thoughts of Jon and even of the dragon.
It does a great job keeping us on a journey. We’re feeling as well as seeing.
There’s a clear template for the actor’s emotions and for the way the episode should be shot and edited.
I like the sense of control on the page.
It’s a dark and brooding drama, of course, the writing reflects that!
If you’re not watching Fleabag, leave this post and start. Like, right now. Seriously, why are you still here?!
It’s the best show on anything. Phoebe Waller-Bridge is a genius and I am so happy to be living in a time when she’s killing this show and lending her hand to Bond. Fleabag originated from a one-woman stage show.
You can see how the writing on the page is sparse.
There’s lots of white space. That indicated fast edits and incredible readability.
This is a comedy (with dramatic elements) so the writer does an excellent job keeping the pages turning the moments sizzling.
We revel in Fleabag’s awkward exchange with Martin and this broken family dinner. I love how much we get with how little is on the page. There’s just enough to build the tension and raise the stakes. We want to keep reading because we know something is about to explode.
When They See Us
Lastly, I want to focus on part four of When They See Us written by Ava DuVernay and Michael Starrbury. When you have multiple writers on the same show, voice can be diluted. It stops being about the individual’s voice and starts being about the voice of the tv show.
The voice here is clear and rings true.
I love how it focuses on setting up the room, emotions, and stakes right away.
We touch on every person involved and then retouch after new information is revealed.
There are lots of keys here for the editor later, too. The sound of the heart, who to cut to close, even the non-diegetic elements of a dream sequence. There’s a power in the words here. Two writers making you stand in Korey’s shoes. Then breaking the meta-narrative by confronting him with his older self.
Much like Game of Thrones, our attention is directed certain places and we’re told to feel certain things.
The action is delivered in chunkier paragraphs, but it doesn’t take anything away. It adds weight to the moment. Evocative of seeing life flash, but in slow motion.
Again, this reflects the voice of the show and stays consistent in the other four parts.