Writing Out Loud by Joe Ochman

I joined ScriptWrights as an actor several years ago, reading the pages brought in by our writers – one of their “meat puppets”, as our co-founder so elegantly refers to us (take umbrage not, fellow actors who may be perusing this site – he’s one of the meat puppets too). 

I was eventually asked to join as a writer, and I treasure our Monday nights. Not just as a writer hearing my words come to life, but as an actor, too, having the privilege to do so for others while, in the process, experiencing an intensive rapid-fire-character-creating workshop every week.

We receive the scripts just before we get up and read, the theory being that if it all moves smoothly, read cold (including the stage directions), your script is in pretty good shape for starters. If not, the stumbles are crystal clear, very enlightening guideposts for your rewrite.

I’ve read an awful lot of scripts as an actor over thirty-some years. I’ve also been a theater director during that whole time, and for a short time served as a development exec. So I write with several minds in addition to the writing mind, aching to create a meaningful, entertaining script. The theater director mind sees big picture, concise arc, forward motion, emotional undercurrent, specific transformative moment. The development mind sees logic glitches, marketing possibilities and pitfalls, who the audience might be and who they might want to see playing what I’m writing.

But that actor mind… he reacts to what he reads… what he reads Out Loud.  No matter how a writer feels the music in his or her head is flowing through their script, ideas are leaping off the page, stage directions are rocketing the action forward, Out Loud is the great equalizer. And easy to do in the privacy of your own writing cave. It’s the thing that shows that what you think you’re communicating ain’t there yet. Or is way overstated. Or that your dialog sounds like the stilted stuff folks say in Cold War training films.

My writing improves dramatically based on the simple exercise of reading all my stuff out loud. If you do too – great. Keep listening closely to your script. If you don’t – give it a whack. Be your own meat puppet. Your new streamlined, crisply spoken pages will thank you for it.

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