Friday, April 18, 2014

Getting Feedback on a Story

Getting feedback on a story. I usually write with a partner.  We argue with each other, get inspirations to solve problems that the other has created, and support each other when the story seems bogged down.

But when I’m writing alone, there is no built-in feedback.  Friends and family will only put up with so much.  They’re not going to read rewrites. And they can’t be counted on for truly critical  feedback.

A whole profession of feedback artists exists.  They read and comment for pay. I sometimes think they are the only ones in the writing business who regularly make money.  I have a screenplay I’ve been working on for several years. It has been to workshops, online classes, and four  private readers. One reader gave it a Recommend rating.  Another advanced it in a contest she judges. The first 10 pages will be read at a festival this June.  But it still didn’t feel RIGHT. 

I decided to try one more reader.  (This is starting to feel like a drug habit.)  And this time, I hit the jackpot.  The reader said, “You have the wrong protagonist.”

Yes. Now that he said it, Yes, I can see that.  The other readers missed that. My writing partner missed that. Friends and family missed that.  After years of crafting scenes, increasing tension, developing characters, I need to revamp the plot.

But I know these characters so well now that the redesign will only take about 2 months.  Then I’ll need to rewrite the whole story, but Ican keep many of the existing scenes, and much of the existing dialogue.  About 80% of the existing structure can be reshaped to fit the change in protagonists.  The new protag was the stakes character.  

This is as if Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia traded places, but instead of flying a fighter plane, Leia had to invade the death star from the inside and distract everybody while Luke attacked. Perhaps she would lower a force field, or use her skills to take over the internal machinery.  Same story – victory for the good guys – but now different roles become powerful and the same actions have different impacts.

It is both a relief and a burden to have found the problem with the story.  Now that I know, I hope I can do the story justice.

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