There’s a creative side and an informational side to all voiceover scripts. Starting with the informational side, you have the hard facts about the product: zero calories, 100% organic, all natural, 4 out of 5 dentists recommend…..You can’t argue with the facts. They are what they are. They can be selling points for sure, but they’re still just facts. On the flip side, there’s nuance, suggestion, romance, story…..this is what the writer has done AROUND the facts, to create a commercial that transcends the information and gives us something human to connect to. The writer gives the information MEANING. He does so by using his creativity. We have discussed how these parts of the script are so important because they not only allow us to be a human storyteller and not an informational robot, but also because the writer usually picks the voice for the spot, and these are the parts he will most be hoping the voice will illuminate.
In this article on your “Voiceover Brain”, we talked in detail about the different ways that the left and right brains operate. There was even a link to a test. Regardless of whether you take the test or not, most people have a general sense of how they operate and which side of the brain they might prefer to lean on. This is great to know about yourself when approaching your voiceover training as it might influence which coaching style you can lean towards (the artistic/acting side or the technical/mechanical side.) I am constantly amazed at what unique creatures we are. One student of mine cannot grasp a natural delivery if I ask him to make a specific choice on one word’s inflection. On the flip side, it does wonders when I ask him to visualize greeting his favorite friend at the door (the one he can most be himself with), invite him into the living room and to “look into his eyes” when he then reads the script. There are others that are perhaps repressing certain emotions and can “fake it” really well with the proper instruction on pacing, inflection choices, pausing, and script analysis. There is more than one path to a destination, and voiceover delivery is no exception.
When you feel you know which side of the brain you operate best inside of, you can experiment with this in your voiceover strategy. Your first task is to approach the script from either left brain or right brain in terms of the “big picture.” This is where you left-brainers would need to focus. The big picture is usually something about the message, or the selling point, of this product. It does things faster. It is the purest of its kind. It is the most affordable one on the market. You get the “big” picture. The other side to the big picture could be what the tone is. Excited. Warm. Smart. Etc. Left-brainers like to focus on the details, something concrete. The big picture is more of a general idea. But, there are “technical” ways of implementing it, such as going back to inflection. An excited tone uses more high inflections, and a sincere tone uses more down inflections as they can come off as warmer. Pace as well can play a part. A faster pace conveys energy. A slower pace connects more in a one-on-one way, and can also sound more thoughtful or contemplative. Knowing your tools and which to use can be critical for the left-brainer to make their first approach to the script properly. On the other hand, the right-brainer will “get” the big picture pretty quickly based on a feeling they have after reading the script a few times and focusing on what the writer is suggesting. They will use their kinesthetic and visualizing traits to emote and to avoid “reading.”
The second task is to approach the details of the script, once the general style and/or message of the script has been established. This is where the left-brain student will relish in going line by line to assess the keywords. Here, the keywords will usually speak to the payoff of the product, to its positive properties. Take this sentence for the Kindle 2: “Amazon introduces the next Chapter in wireless reading.” We know that the point of this sentence is to allude to the product, which is the Kindle 2. Therefore, we want to focus on the word “next.” This word speaks to the message, that there’s a new Kindle on the market. The latest greatest best “next” thing. Sure the word Amazon is important, because they make the Kindle. Sure the “wireless reading” is important because that’s what the Kindle does. But – we already know Amazon makes Kindle, because of the first Kindle that was on the market. And so, we already know that the Kindle is a wireless reading device. NEXT homes in on the whole reason for this commercial – to introduce the newest product in the line. Take that and run with it left-brainers. As for you on the “right” side, keep focused on your big picture, and let each sentence support whatever that message is. Perhaps here you’ve established that this script is to be delivered a bit witty. Find the wit. Connect to it. Be it.
There’s a (voiceover) brain for everybody. Use yours wisely.
Oh, and before I leave, I would like to give credit where credit is due, as always. Every few months I come across a perspective on succeeding at voice over that refreshes my own knowledge. This time it is a perspective on how to write a great voiceover script. Now although you are reading this most likely because you are a voice actor looking to improve your performance, you might be scratching your head. This is actually great material, though, as it invites you into the head of the writer, or at least the effective ones. Knowing the thought process and motivation for the writer in constructing a voiceover script tells you a big part of where your focus and understanding needs to be when you look to bring that script to life out loud. Getting in the head of the writer is one of the most important things you can do in terms of truly respecting the authenticity and integrity of the spot. So get in their (head.)