Thursday, June 2, 2011

Reader question - What to ask a reader

Chris asks:

Hey there, I'm wondering if you have any advice or samples of questions that you would ask people that you were sending your script out to for feedback. Not like a coverage service, but to your friends/ contacts within the industry. As opposed to, 'did you like it?' , more like ' if you were on your death bed, tell me something that you normally wouldn't about this script? ' (Ripped that off from Neil Brennan in a book). I want more questions like that. My friends and agents are all top notch, any ideas?

Very good question... I've got a few ideas.

This might be apocryphal, but a friend of mine once told me they heard that Stephen King would always watch his wife read early drafts of his work. Any time she stopped, he'd ask, "Why did you put the book down there? What made you stop for a break there?" So that's always a question I try to ask - "If you didn't read the script all in one shot, where did you take a break and why?"

Other good questions:

- How did you think it was going to end?
- How far into the film did you realize [insert plot point here?]
- At what point did you decide you knew what kind of script this was?
- I'm worried a particular scene is too long. Tell me which scene you think that is.
- What notes were issues as you read it, and what notes didn't occur to you until you really started thinking about the script?
- Be honest - did you have a hard time telling the characters apart/keeping them straight?
- Where do you think the best place is for a sex scene? (trick question.)
- What was the most derivative scene in the script, in your opinion?

Do you guys have any other good questions for readers?

Update: It seems Chris also posed the same question to Amanda the Aspiring Writer, who gives her answer in this post.


  1. I try not to send too many specific questions before they read the script. Usually the only question I ask before I send the script is, "Does it make sense?" Because if it doesn't make sense to them I need to find out why and fix that first. The rest can wait.

    After they read the script I'll often ask specific questions about scenes or parts I don't think are working. I'll always ask what jokes fell flat and what jokes they liked, just so they don't think I only want the negative.

    I might steal a few of these questions for future drafts. I like 'em.


  2. Once I was short a printed copy and gave someone a copy that had notes from another person already on it. That started a dialog where the new person commented if they agreed or disagreed with the previous person. I think it was a good way of making the new person feel they weren't alone and on the spot!

  3. How about "Do you think this would be a re-watchable movie?" Because there's movies I've seen I'd only ever want to watch once and never again - they were good, but not good enough for a 2nd time. Then there are the ones where you can watch it so much you have the lines memorized and still enjoy it every single time.