She says that since the thing is gonna cost a lot to make, and it will take some time away from my family, that I should strive to make it as good as possible right from the start.
I sent out some email a couple of days ago and got a lot of great responses telling me where I can find readers and critics and so now, I have several people I don't know reading my stuff.
It's a little scary. But you know what? Pam was right. Friends are a little biased.
The first response came in today:
On a technical note, I had a little difficulty following your Prologue script since it’s not written in standard screenplay format. You might want to consider fleshing this out further in standard format for several reasons – 1st off, it’ll make things easier for a producer to break it down for costs and scheduling, and secondly, it’ll be much easier for others to read and follow. It will also allow you to see how long the piece is more accurately on the page. As written, it’s about 4 pages, but I would think in standard format, this would be at least 6 to 8 pages or so.Yikes. I'll tell you, I found myself wanting to get defensive when I read this, but the thing is, he's right.
In the actual writing, many times you refer to what characters are thinking and feeling, but I’m not sure that those ideas come across on the page. Obviously, having a character wring his hands and stare with daggers accomplishes this to a certain extent, but this comes across as a bit cartoony, though I’m not certain that is what you are going for.
And that brings me to tone in general. As written, much of what is described in both the Prologue, and additional episodes feels somewhat cartoony and melodramatic. (in particular, the scene with Fanny and Farnsworth at the beginning where he is pawing her.) BUT, if this is part of the steampunk genre, then that’s something I am not qualified to judge. To me, this has the feel of an old silent movie, where the bad guy twirls the ends of his moustache to underscore how evil he is. I’m not sure that this is what you are going for, but that’s my gut reaction.
I am also trying to imagine all of the dialog spelled out on cards as you indicated. This device is difficult for me to fully grasp however, because there are times where several lines of dialog are spoken. This will require the audience to read quite a bit, and will probably slow things down overall. I realize that this is something of a “period” piece where people spoke in a particular cadence, etc. I think you accomplished this just fine, but some of the dialog sounds a bit too “on the nose.”
As far as story structure goes, I understand that the Prologue sets up the characters and character dynamics, but for me, it felt somewhat voyeuristic in that I was watching things happen, but never really felt a part of it. I didn’t ever get a sense of who any of these people are, other than their function in the story.
In my opinion, Fanny and Wu are the most interesting characters, but the focus isn’t really on them. They seem to be the only characters that show any real emotion, or have any real storyline – true love separated by class. But their story takes place in the background, and is only related to us much later in dialog when we learn that Wu was killed, etc.
Mulvey and Coraline’s story seems to be more the focus of the piece, but not much really happens to them, nor is it paid off in the end. The opposing forces against Mulvey are only indicated as an afterthought, but we never really see anyone plotting against him, other than Grimmauld. I like the underwater sequence with the octopus, and this could look really cool, but much of the drama happens within Mulvey’s head, and not really on the page. I know in the Prologue we see that Grimmauld is in love with Coraline, and that he has issues with Mulvey, but I never get a real sense of what anyone is really after.
I know I’ve jumped around quite a bit here, but I’m not sure that the through-line of your story is as fleshed out as well as it should be. In the Prologue, we meet the characters; in the Descent, we develop Mulvey and Grimmauld’s antagonistic relationship; in Huzzah, that relationship is resolved when Grimmauld is killed; then in the Revenge, the story is less about Mulvey and more about Fanny where things come to a close. Mulvey is brought back in at the end in that the dirigible belonged to him, but he himself had no hand in defeating the “bad guys.”
Overall, I’m not sure who’s point of view the story is really being seen through. I guess what’s lacking for me is a central main character with an identifiable goal, and an opposing force that stands in the way of that goal. You have the beginnings of this happening here, but for me, it’s not fleshed out enough, nor does it come to a satisfying ending because there hasn’t been anyone to really root for in the story. Yes, at the end, Mulvey and Fanny get their revenge, but thematically, I’m not sure what the piece is really about. The story is basically resolved, but I don’t get a sense that any of the characters really achieved what they were after, mainly because I never knew what they were after in the first place.
I have a lot of work to do.