Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Tuesday Talkback: Best note you ever got

If you've written a script, chances are you've passed it off to a friend or a professional for notes. The odds are equally good that you've gotten back a mix of positive and negative comments. Today I'm asking you to share the best note you've ever gotten.

To be clear, I'm not asking for the strongest praise you've ever received. I'm asking for the most intelligent feedback that someone gave you. How did it help your writing? What did it teach you about writing?


  1. "This is quite good." I know - not really what you were asking for. But the context is this:

    I'd been getting feedback from a reader who had almost managed to stop me writing completely. I'd come to the conclusion I must be without screenwriting clue (except I was sure, deep down, that I did know what I was doing).

    Then I sent the script to a person with 30 years experience as script editor, producer, manager of a major writer development scheme. And, along with other notes, he said that.

    It meant I could write.

  2. "Say twice as much in half as many words."

    From an award winning playwright.

  3. When I started writing, one of the first notes that my professor gave me was something like "Make your protagonist more active! He/She should drive the action and progress the story - Things should not just "happen" to him/her."

    In hindsight, it's such a simple and almost "duh" note now, but it really helped me at that point and to this day I always try to make sure that in every scene the protagonist is pushing things forward in some way.

  4. My favorite note I got was. "You did a slow reveal which says to me you atleast have some idea of what you are doing, unless that was by accident?" and second was. "I truly don't know where you are going page by page, turn that positive and you'll be a genius writer"

  5. In college I wrote a story in which a character went to her father's funeral but never talked to her grandmother. My professor said "This is about you, isn't it? And you don't want to talk to your grandmother? But this isn't you, this is your character. And you have to make your characters do the things they don't want to do. Make them confront their fears. Make them suffer to grow."

  6. I've been trained well not to direct the director in my scripts. I never put in camera shots or music cues or any of that nonsense. Last year I had the luck to meet an A-list actor who has become a friend. The first time he gave me notes on a script, he wrote, "Stop directing the actor. Tell me I smoke a cigarette, but don't tell me how to smoke it. Let me figure that out." Less is more. I went through the script and took out all extraneous actor description. Five pages shorter. Now it really bugs me when I'm reading a script and the writer is over directing the actor.

  7. The best note I ever got was to always keep descriptions in the active voice. People have told us before to cut down our descriptions a little bit, but no one ever mentioned cutting out words like sits, is, and are.

    That one note completely changed the way we write descriptions. Now we hunt down those inactive verbs and kill them. :)

  8. "You're not letting your protagonist screw up enough. He had like six chances to screw up in this scene alone, and you made the supporting cast bail him out every time. LET HIM SCREW UP. Conflict is drama, drama is conflict."

    The review was right on target. As soon as I re-read the section noted, it stood out so clearly to me I could hardly imagine how I missed it before.

  9. It's hard for me to remember specific notes, but a friend of mine who recently completed the wb fellowship and got staffed on a show always gives me great advice. We were discussing hot scripts/blacklist scripts/etc. and he said, "the thing about those scripts, is that it seems like all those writers really have something to say."

    call it theme or whatever you want...but what do you want to SAY?