Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Tuesday Talkback: Who's note wins?

Hypothetical scenario: You've sent your latest draft to two readers you trust and respect. These people are people who have proven their insight and intelligence to you time and again and have given you great ideas in the past.

A week or so later they come back with their notes. They're in sync on some points, but on one extremely critical point - could be a major turning point for the character's arc, it could be your turning point into Act Three - they are diametrically opposed. One loves everything about it, one totally hates it.

How do you decide which note to follow?


  1. New Oxford American Dictionary:

    USAGE A common written mistake is to confuse who's with whose. The form who's represents a contraction of ‘who is’ or ‘who has’: : who's going to feed the dog?;: I wonder who's left the light on again? The word whose is a possessive pronoun or adjective: : whose is this?;: whose turn is it?

  2. I focus on the negative reaction and find out why they hate it. If their reasoning is sound and sparks an "aha" moment about something that I had failed to see and weakens the story, I go back and revisit it.

    If it's a personal thing, like it's apparent that they'd just do it differently according to their own tastes - which I've experienced - I go where the love is.

  3. You wrote it. you liked it. Go with your gut and stick to your idea.

  4. There are few stories about screenwriters and filmmakers who, when confronted with stern opposition to an out-there-idea, made the change and that's what fixed the whole script.

    There are many, many stories about people who went with their gut when everyone told them they were crazy.

    If you get two very divergent, passionate opinions then you've actually done a good job because you've written something purposeful, something that takes a stance.

    Go with it, but try to address the critical opinion's complaint elsewhere in the script.

  5. Thank goodness the grammar Nazi already came by. That could have been disastrous.

    If I get two notes like that I just go with the one that takes my character to a place of most conflict.

  6. Discuss both conflicting notes with both the readers. Maybe one of them will concede that the other note is "better".

    If neither of them agree - or they both change their mind! - go with your gut.

  7. Why not have a conference call with the two people and bring it up? Get an open discussion about it.

  8. I usually get more notes in the hopes of finding a majority. But the new people always have new and different notes, and you're even more effed.

    Something I'm learning right now: don't always take notes literally. Think about why the person might have given you the note, and come up with your own solution.

  9. Very interesting responses here. I like that many of you have solutions that end up going beyond taking the notes at face value. Finding out why the person gave that note, or what could be provoking that response. There's always a fair amount of investigation in the reaction process. If a scene doesn't get a laugh, for instance, is that because of a problem in the scene, or a problem with the set-up earlier.

    Here's what I like - the attitude that one won't completely ignore a note just because they don't like it. Even if you think that person is wrong, it's always best to find out why they had that "wrong" reaction so you can fix a buried problem.

    And yeah, for the purposes of this discussion I limited the reviewers to two. Amanda's right in that it's always a good idea to have more in the hopes of finding a majority.

    P.S. I'm leaving the inaccurate grammar. I think the tone of the first reply says far more about the writer than it does me.

  10. Whichever person gets back to me first gets their way.

  11. My main two main readers are a writer and director respectively and we've all worked together before.

    They are completely opposite in every respect - one is a quiet, introspective man with a great grasp of character and theme, and the other is a high-octane risk-taker with a love of explosions and epics.

    So, as you can imagine, they disagree all the time. And it's brilliant. Usually, I go with whichever one of their styles fits my current project, because they know their genres.

    And sometimes we just all talk about it until it comes together into something none of us saw. Those are the best moments.

  12. The solution is simple.

    Use the Worthington Law.

    Take the advice of the reader that makes more money than you do.


    Barring that idea, take the advice of the reader that has the least number of shitty favorite movies in their Netflix queue.

  13. I think I posted mean because I'm having a mezza/mezza day. so I deleted and am re-posting...

    "Thanks for the lesson. I learn something every single day!

  14. Hi everyone.

    I discovered this blog only recently, and find it interesting and helpful.

    I was in a hurry this morning, so when I saw "who's" in the post title, I posted some information straight from my dictionary without wrapping it in a friendly tone. I now see this was a mistake, but I wasn't trying to be a "Nazi" or "say something" about the blogger.

    I thought that people who make their living with the English language would want to avoid a common error in its usage. I regret any appearance of insult.

  15. Hey man.

    I posted a polite reply twice, and it keeps disappearing.

    Are you really censoring polite replies to your reply? What's going on?

  16. Peter - I've gotten the emails of your comment, but I'm not censoring them. Don't know why they're not appearing. Appreciate the polite apology. As you indicated, it was definately a misunderstanding about tone. It also might have been better to email me rather than comment only to on that nitpick. Playing grammar police tends to be frowned on on forums and blogs.

  17. Comment issue resolved. Blogger flagged those two as "Spam." Not sure why, as the emails I got indicating the new comments didn't inform me that the comments were put into the spam holding area for approval. If the two had been posted right on top of each other I might understand, but they were put up hours apart. Not sure what happened there, Peter

  18. Sad that we're all so bruised by a culture of violence (physical and verbal) that a contribution of information is considered "playing police."

  19. I'm one of the biggest "grammar Nazis" around, but I can still let some errors slide when they don't interfere with the point, or reader's comprehension, of the blog.

    It's just a typo, and people should overlook it and talk about the content of the post instead.

    That being said, I agree with some of the others that already commented -- I would find out exactly what the reader disliked and why, then go from there.

  20. Here are the facts: If somebody is critical of your script, chances are they're jealous of your talent, and are trying to destroy you as a writer. This is a common mistake that new writers fall for.

    Before you even consider negative feedback, you have to question the motives of the person delivering it. Are they older and seem more knowledgeable and thus more experienced? Chances are they've been around Hollywood for a while, and are bitter at how young talent like yourself is going to breeze into town with new ideas and get discovered.

    I always ask these people, "Yeah, well what have you ever sold?" And most of the time it's nothing I've heard of or care about.

    In nearly all cases a script is ready to go after your second draft, and "obsessing" over every negative note won't get you through Hollywood's golden gates any faster. It's just how the game is played. Wise up.

  21. kgmadman - Brilliant. I haven't laughed so much at a comment in a while. You and Tripp Stryker should hang.

  22. A man after my own heart.