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Be Your Own Audience

When I’m writing and rewriting something – a script, story, manuscript – it’s hard to see the forest for the trees. Much of the time I get so inside my story that it’s hard for me to step outside of it and think rationally if what I’m trying to construct is working or not, and then how to make it better. There is usually some level of disconnect between what I want to be on the page and communicated to the reader and what is actually on the page and understood by the reader.

Such as: How would I feel if I saw this in the theatre?

As a reader, so often I’m exposed to scripts where I feel the writer just never considered this basic question. When I’m reading boring, chatty scenes, I actually wonder if the writer ever considered having to sit through their own scenes in a theatre.

In fairness, I’ve come to understand that part of this process is simply starting out trying to construct a logical story that works. My own process is trying to connect the dots in a way that works and then working to bump up the elements from there. However, I realize that in just trying to cover the basics, I’ve been missing some critical elements. The theatrical factor.

I’ve started using myself as my test case audience member. I might come up with a concept that I think is cool as a writer and then I’ll flip it and think, ‘If I saw that in the theatre, would that really be as scary, funny, sad, nervewracking?’ Sometimes the answer is yes and sometimes no.

Now I am also working the creative process from outside in on the grand scale, meaning looking at the emotional response I’m trying to get and then breaking in from there. For example, if I were writing a horror movie, I try to think if I were in the audience, what would scare the shit out of me? What have I never seen before in a horror that would be awesome and terrifying? Or, for example, if I were watching a comedy, what would have me falling out of my seat, rolling in the aisle, pissing my pants?

There are many ideas I might have about constructing my story that might be intellectually cool or serviceable, but when I get down to brass tacks and really track the emotional viability of it, am I truly connecting with my reader in the way I would need to for the project to work?

When reviewing your own writing as an audience member, hopefully you can get enough distance from your pages to feel into if they’re truly as evocative as they can be. Use this gauge to help you with rewriting and taking your project to the next level.

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