Yesterday I spent eight hours with a classmate deconstructing each other’s script. It ended up being a detailed scene-by-scene breakdown of our screenplays, and it was enormously helpful. While it is always useful to get feedback that deals with the broad strokes of the story, it is wonderful to receive more detailed, and thus more time-consuming, analysis of how the story and its characters play out.
When it was my turn to turn the spotlight on my colleague’s script I heard myself give him advice that I need to take. That’s why reading, and analysing, other people’s work is so useful. If there is an issue you need to address in your own story, invariably it will be mirrored in other people’s work. It’s easier to offer solutions to other people’s plot holes, and character inconsistencies, because you are objective about the material. And in a strange way, by dealing with the same problem in someone else’s piece, you are given a level of objectivity on your own work.
It’s easier to be more creative, and to tackle problems in fresh ways, when you didn’t originate the material. In your own work the legacy of the project can mire you down and stymie innovative thinking. By brainstorming with someone else on his/her work you are training your mind to examine how stories work, how characters develop, how scenes turn, and what makes good human drama. This, I believe, is essential to the development of a writer, and it’s why writers’ groups, and workshops, are so damned important.
It’s hard to be on the hot seat, and listen with a open-mind to your work being dissected, but, if you want to improve it is essential that your work obtains peer review, and you in turn offer that review.
Anything that forces you to consider the fundamentals of the craft will be rewarding. Both on a human level of aiding a fellow writer, and in personal terms because of the insights it will offer on your own work.
The session also reinvigorated my interest in the script, and now I’m looking forward to tackling the re-write.
I must admit that while I experienced tremendous satisfaction at the depth of the work we accomplished I was also completely drained, creatively, by the end. I’m surprised I had enough brain juice to get home and eat. But, that’s to be expected after a solid day’s work.