Screenwriting : V.o by Brian Stoneking

Brian Stoneking


How many of you have written a script with V.O. narration and is it a bad thing to have in a screenplay?

Brad Helmink

I was recently writing a coming-of-age story and felt that we needed VO since it's kind of a staple in coming-of-age films, but we tried to force it in and it just wasn't working for our story. We just pulled it out and the story worked just fine.

I think the key is "does the V.O. tell us something that the character or story can't on its own?" If it does, then can be great and even needed, but if it doesn't, I wouldn't bother. Everything is to make the story better and move forward.

Beth Fox Heisinger

Yes, I have used V.O. to great effect. Consideration of any writing tool, its effective use depends on the specific context and creative intent. How a tool is used is what is relevant. The tool itself is not bad or good. It's just a tool. ;)

Christopher Phillips

I've used it for phone calls where we see one person, but only hear the other person with V.O. I don't use V.O. narration.

Craig D Griffiths

Narration, no. I use V.O. a lot.

Just like everything it has to be done well (narration). There are plenty of recent films and great films that have narration.

However, mostly it is done poorly and displays that a writer has no idea of how to get an image or subtext across. So they just have to read out.

Michael L. Burris

I love the narration in Spider-Man.

Dan Guardino

I use it when I think it works.

Pierre Langenegger

If your story needs it and it works well, use it.

Rosalind Winton

I have V.O in my screenplay when a character is remembering something, or thinking something that is important to the story.

Phil Clarke

It's a valid and often valuable addition to your storytelling arsenal, but make sure it's carrying its weight. Many writers I see add superfluous (V.O.) narration. Avoid using it when it's describing what we're seeing. Good (V.O.) narration needs to do more than this. It needs to bring a new dimension to the story, needs to tell us something appropriately different to what we're seeing on screen.

Rutger Oosterhoff

When done well it is not.

Catarina Sousa César

It is bad if you need the V.O. to justify the narrative, to explain or keep it to move forward in the action. The art of cinema is because is visual, not self-explanatory. People add V.O. to increase the "voice" and the style of the film. So, for example, in American beauty, he starts saying "Hi, My name is Lester Burham, this is my street, my house (...) I'm 42 years old and in less than a year I'll be dead." This is the first scene punch line, without it the film would work just fine but it wouldn't capture our attention immediately. Therefore, we don't need it, but it makes it special.

Other examples of V.O. are the recent tv series Alias Grace and Outlander, the V.O. works beautifully because it adds more depth in the main character. While in Mr. Nobody they use the V.O. in the second person "you" as the MC was talking to us directly, it was a director/writer artistic choice to break that wall and pull us to it.

Stephen Floyd

I’ve used V.O. numerous times. Like any element of screen-craft, there’s a sweet spot between pulling your punches and beating it to death. Depends entirely on the story.

Michael Hultquist

I like to use it sparingly. I recently reread "The Grey", a script that uses it very effectively.

Vital Butinar

I've written a screenplay with V.O. and in the third act you realize it's the main protagonist writing his personal journal as part of his therapy and everything you've been watching is his recollection of events and wasn't real creating a twist in the plot.

Bill Albert

Best example is "The Princess Bride."

Tasha Lewis

I think is a great feature. Countless TV shows and movies use narration to tell a back story.

Dillon Horner

I've recently started using it. It's not so horrible if used sparingly and if it informs a character or the plot

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