Venturing outside your comfort zone

Try it. You might like it.
Try it. You might like it.

Everybody likes different things. A universal truth if ever there was one.

Something I like may be the total opposite of something you like, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.

But how willing are we to be open-minded and try something different than what we like?

Do you immediately get all defensive and resist? Do you cautiously dip in a toe and carefully proceed? Or do you embrace the opportunity and jump right in, feet first?

And what in the world does any of this have to do with screenwriting?

Easy. Good scripts can be found in so many different genres. As a constantly-learning writer, you should be reading all kinds of scripts, no matter what the genre.

Sure, you can only read scripts just like what you write, but that narrows your focus and can get a little dull after a while.

Changing things up and reading scripts you normally wouldn’t can only help you be a better writer.

A friend asked me to read his horror spec. Horror is definitely not my thing, but he’d read one of my scripts, and the least I could do was return the favor.

Even though it wasn’t a movie I would go to see, I made a point of reading it from a writer’s point of view. Was the structure sound? Were the characters developed enough? Did the plot make sense? Was it scary? Formatted correctly? Any spelling errors?

Despite my opinion of the horror genre, I enjoyed the read and told him so in my notes, highlighting what I thought worked and pointing out what didn’t. He appreciated my honesty, and thought I made some good points.

Victory for both sides.

Counter to that, I’ve had my share of feedback that could best be interpreted as simply disinterested.

One reader from a high-profile service seemed to skim to around page 30, then called it a day, filling out their notes with generic comments. In as vague terms as possible, they made it pretty clear this wasn’t for them.

It’s extremely difficult to win over the reader who’s ready to stop reading your script before they even begin. Unfortunately, there’s not much you can do about it. The best you can do is put it behind you and move on.

(Which I did. The same script would eventually go on to some moderate contest success and get me a manager.)

Fortunately, there are those who, even though your genre “isn’t their thing”, will read your script and hopefully give you some notes that will help make it better.

You just have to get out there and find them, making sure to offer to return the favor.

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