I’ve been sorting through some of my old files and papers – including some of the ones I’ve kept from my university degree course. Continuing with the ‘Introduction to Screenwriting: Adapting for the Screen’ module (c.2004), here’s a useful list of questions to ask when reviewing scripts. Whilst some of the list is script-specific (eg. Practicalities), most of the questions can also apply to written fiction.
- Do you believe in them?
- Is the speech pattern of each character:
- Do we know enough about everybody important to understand them fully? Are they written at sufficient depth?
- Are their motivations clear?
- Do they develop, or do they end the piece the same people as when it began?
- Do they have a life of their own, or are they puppets manipulated by the writer?
- Is there any?
- Is the conflict something vague in the background (‘Fred vs Life’), or is it personalised?
- Is the background too much in the foreground?
- Is anything of importance to the characters at stake?
Action (not ‘activity’)
- Do people do things?
- Does anything happen?
- Does anybody make anything happen?
- Does the story mark time while the characters unburden themselves?
- Do people actually get to grips with things, or is it all shadow boxing?
- Is the story a mere succession of events?
- Is it full of cause and effect?
- Is there sufficient variety of pace?
- Are the climaxes right?
- Does the plot develop at the right speed?
- Does the end work?
- Are the audience’s expectations satisfied?
- Is the theme implicit or explicit?
- Is it clear what the pace is actually about?
- Do the characters know?
- Should they know?
- Is the theme clearly illustrated by the plot?
- Does the writer bring to the theme an individual point of view?
- Is it the right length for the ‘message behind the story’?
- How expensive does it look?
- Are all the characters necessary/are there enough?
- Are there too many sets?
- Did you want to turn the page?
- Did you instinctively like/dislike the script [/etc]? Were you bored?
- Does the writer know their stuff?
- Have they got the vital spark?
- Would you want to work on it?
- Would the majority of people be entertained?