Voices in writing: Constructing a killer voiceover script
Humans are storytellers. We all have a narrative inside of us, and there’s a great connection when we’re able to share that tale with another. And there is true magic in the power of writing. In e-Learning or writing a voiceover script, that basic, magical connection takes place in how we present our content. Providing authentic subject matter via well-written scripts for commercials and narrations carries that story forward. It allows the brand to reach the consumer in a heartfelt way, comedic way, or direct eye-to-eye way. It brings a shared experience between businesses and their customers. And the root of that connection is the words: the script.
So how do we take the art of storytelling, a fundamental human need, and transcribe it into a killer voiceover script? To understand that, let’s start at the beginning by looking at the fundamentals of scriptwriting.
Do your homework
To begin, gather all your pertinent resources. Your brand’s message, e-Learning materials, or product content. Look for any market research on your proposed demographic. Review popular materials for that demographic to get the right tone and speech pattern for your script. The way you appeal to millennials is far different than the way you appeal to senior citizens. You’re going to need to craft your script to that group based on how they talk and their interests.
The tone is not just important for age groups: the type of script you’re writing has a clear feel as well. Is it a formal corporate video? Then the voice actor is going to need to have direct messaging that expresses that corporation’s views. Radio or TV commercials may be more informal, with the dialogue quick and snappy due to both limited timeslots and the attention-grabbing nature of the work. Training and eLearning videos may be more involved. They’re going to need thoughtful prose that both expresses their topics thoroughly, but also holds their audience’s interest.
A Word on The Correct Formats
Your script, which is primarily all dialogue, will be broken down in one of two formats: table format or dialogue format. Each has their pluses and minuses, but the thing they have in common is that the script describes in a visible way exactly what the voice actor is going to say and when. Each character is shown with bolded names or in specific grids for each individual scene and then the line of dialogue is presented. Between lines, there may be instructions for sound effects, visual effects, or scene changes. But these formats are the most well-defined ways to make a script easily readable.
Make the entire process easy for everyone involved.
Providing pronunciation guides for unfamiliar words is helpful to the voiceover talent. Keeping the structure to short, conversational sentences will make it easier for the audience member to follow along. Voiceovers actors are not robots; they’re living, breathing humans, and to sound human, they need to read scripts that sound like they do. Their dialogue should be written like they speak.
The actual construct of the lines is based on the tone you’re hoping to achieve. Is it conversational? Then feel free to use more contractions. Are you writing to a specific demographic? Write with the colloquialisms and dialect of their area. And keep in mind these three questions:
- Who is the audience and what do they need to understand?
- What two or three key points can I communicate that will serve that need?
- What do I want my audience to do once they understand?
With that in mind, let’s write!
Getting the words down
Write your script with a distinct voice. The eLearning sessions aren’t coming from a machine; they’re coming from a character. Write it like you speak. And above all, be clear and concise on your brand and content. The actual writing down of a script can come in many forms. Some scriptwriters enjoy writing a linear chain of dialogue for their texts. Others prefer a storyboard. The art of storytelling is visual at its heart: you’re creating and giving voice to images and ideas, sparking the listener’s imagination. A storyboard can implement those visual images.
Once the words are on paper, in a clear, readable format, the next instructions are the most important. They’re good advice for any writer, but most vital for authors of scripts: read it aloud.
So important, it deserves repeating:
Read it aloud
It seems like a simple task, but nothing brings missteps in a script to light like reading it aloud. You are building your words for an actor to interpret; it needs to be able to flow from the voice not just in word choice, but also in tone. Reading it aloud will give you the ability to organically feel what’s not working and what needs to be tweaked.
You’ve got your draft, you’ve read it aloud, it sounds great. What’s next?
Break your voiceover script down
Writers often get lost in their own work. They become so easily attached to their ideas and wordsmithing that they can’t see what an outsider would. In this case: your client. They’re going to be hearing your script fresh and with a different perspective. Make use of any editing and proofreading resources you have to critique your script. By allowing another set of eyes to give you feedback, they’ll see areas where a weakness is exposed or provide you with a cool new idea to incorporate. There are tons of groups online where writers can connect and review their work together. That kind of support and evaluation is priceless. It can only make your writing better by having a qualified source check over your work. As long as you stay true to your core message, you’ll discover invaluable aspects on your writing from your peers.
Once all these pieces are in place, you’re bound to have a terrific script. And it may just be the starting point! Once you add in actors and get their influence on the words, the script will develop even more. It’s a fluid process to write a voiceover script that creates the perfect scenario for an eLearning session or TV commercial. It’s important to begin and see where the story takes you. And no matter what you’re writing, write from the depths of you. We all have a story to tell, and that inspiration can be found in the most unlikely of places. So embrace your personal experiences as they influence your future scripts. Your next voiceover script will undoubtedly come from your own voice.