Posted by: steveonfilm | April 17, 2013

You Don’t Have to Justify Feedback

I read and provided feedback to a “writer friend” of mine a few days ago. Their script was 129 pages long and they asked for some general feedback on the story, characters, and some ways to trim the story down. You know, the kind of stuff we all ask for when sending out an early draft of something. I put together what I thought was a thoughtful critique with some constructive criticism. This was the first time I’d provided this sort of feedback for this person.

The story had a good framework, but the execution left a little to be desired. That’s not to say it was a bad story, it wasn’t. The acts were good. It was entertaining if a little redundant and slow at times. The main characters were interesting. The story beats all made sense, even if a few were somewhat predictable. All in all it was a relatively good early draft. I point out all the stuff I liked and then moved into some of the constructive feedback that concentrated on the areas the writer asked for. There were a few scenes that could be dropped. Two characters who really weren’t needed. A lot of the dialog seemed out of place for some of the characters. And I pointed to at least six scenes that the writer could come into much later and save probably 5-6 pages alone. You know, some general feedback from a guy struggling to be a writer too.

It did not go over well.

I’m not going to go into the back and forth that ensued between me and the writer. But I ended up having to call them to get them to calm the fuck down.

Here’s the thing with feedback, you don’t need to justify your opinions. That’s what great about opinions, they’re your own. You can feel however you want. I can look at a building downtown and say, “This thing is ugly.” I don’t have to then get with the architect and tell them all the ways they need to fix it. I also don’t have to have any sort of qualifications before I can pass judgement that I find their building ugly.

Now, if you’re being an asshole in your feedback, THAT you do have to justify and deal with. And it people stop asking you to read their stuff, then you can put the pieces together yourself on why that is. There is a difference between being a jerk and being constructive. But you should NEVER have to justify your feedback with any sort of credentials or credibility. If a person doesn’t think your qualified to provide them feedback, then they shouldn’t ask you for it.

/Rant

Keep writing,
-Steve

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Responses

  1. Why is there so much of this? Are writers really so arrogant on the whole, or is it just their self-doubt causing them to flip out?

    I’ve seen this happen over and over, and have luckily only provided feedback for writers who already know enough about the craft to take it in the spirit that it was not only intended, but the spirit in which they asked for it.

    I think some writers, when they ask you to make those kind of suggestions, are secretly hoping you read it and tell them there are no issues.

    • I don’t think the issue is with writers, as much as with people who take all criticism as a personal attack.

      It happens at my job with project proposals I poke holes in and offer suggestions to. Several engineers immediately get defensive and then attack me and my judgement.

      After we talked on the phone and I helped them realize they were acting like a child, they “get it” so to speak.

      Also, like you mentioned, I think a lot of people are secretly hoping for reassurance.


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