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There is an old screenwriter’s rule-of-thumb:

  • If someone reading your script tells you it has a problem, they’re probably right.
  • If they try to tell you exactly what’s wrong, they’re right half the time.
  • If they try to tell you how to fix it, they’re almost always wrong.

Think about it – even the most casual consumer of stories has literally spent thousands of hours listening to them – in the movies, on television, or even sitting around the living room with Mom and Dad. All of us are experts at listening to stories, so when we hear a story that doesn’t work our expertise let’s us know. But fewer of us are experts at analyzing stories, and even fewer are expert at creating them. So our success at giving advice is those areas is more hit-and-miss. Not that we aren’t capable – just that we haven’t paid the price to learn how.

So the wise screenwriter listens with both ears to people’s reactions to a script, but ignores most suggestions on how to fix the problem, instead relying on his or her instincts.

Do these screenwriting tips translate into taking feedback in other areas of life?