Posted by: michellemuldoon | January 3, 2011

“Notes” To Take Note Of

I’m about to start my rewrite of “Who’s Got Wendell Finster?”, (yes, it’s the slowest rewrite in human history) and I’m trying to make sense of the notes I’ve received on the script. Before I go any further, I’m going to give you the best piece of advice I could give you. When you get notes on a script, use them right away. Don’t wait a week, or a month, get right to it.  The longer you wait, the less sense the details of the notes make.

So, back to “Wendell Finster”. I have these really great notes from Pilar Alessandra, (she’s never steered me wrong) and for the first time, they’re notes heavily skewed to the “big picture”. What do I mean by that? Well, they’re about the overall story arch, does it flow and make sense and is the focus of the script on the right primary element of the story.

This differs from other notes on scripts I’ve received where we’ve looked at the small elements of the script, mainly the scenes, and discussed if they achieve their aim, are they too long or short, and do they progress in a smooth and easily read manner. What does this say about “Wendell Finster”? Well, it means my scene choice and selection was sound. The scenes start and end appropriately, there’s a story to tell within the scene and they aren’t superfluous.

What does the “big picture” mean for this script? It means the elements I’ve focused on are not as solid as my secondary story, which truth be told, should be the “A” story and not the “B” story. It’s going to take a realignment of the key elements of the script and it means writing some completely new scenes, removing or streamlining others, and treating what I have like one big jigsaw puzzle.

Is it a good idea to use these notes? Yes, it is. Never apply notes that don’t make sense to you. Never blindly make every change that every reader tells you to do. However, this doesn’t mean disregard everything people say. Learning the difference between good notes, and bad notes is an important part of your growth as a writer. If you hear something repeatedly, then listen to it. If the notes really make sense to you, try them. Notes and the subsequent drafts they produce should be a journey to “wholeness” for a story. When it’s whole, a story has the power to resonate deeply within the hearts of the viewer, and isn’t that our goal? Doesn’t every writer want to elicit an emotional response in the viewer?

If a script doesn’t have a big picture, then the puzzle pieces known as scenes won’t make sense in the long run. Know what you want to say. Know how you want to say it, and let the words on the page create that grand image through the telling of individual stories known as scenes. That’s the “big picture”.

Pilar pinpointed my “big picture” issues on this script, and as usual, I reread the notes and I know she’s right.  So, now, I’m off to rebuild “Wendell Finster’s” world. It’s a big, big, big, big world out there. And Wendell’s about to have his make a lot more sense.

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