The Observant Writer…. ‘cold’ reading

Recently I participated in a ‘cold reading’ night and then had my script critiqued by a guest panel of judges. The overall verdict was that I was a smart writer and the script had real promise but no heart. What does that mean?

First of all, congratulations are in order. #1 – You finished a script. #2 – You risked submitting it to a ‘cold read’. Wow, that’s fabulous.

For those unfamiliar with the term, a COLD READING is a gathering where a group of actors meet, are handed a script and within about 30 minutes start acting it out. Often it’s just the opening act of a feature script that’s read. And it’s one of the scariest rides on the planet and one of the most exhilarating! Hearing your words in an actors’ mouth is one of the best ways to gauge the effectiveness of your dialogue and pacing of your writing.

And as you found out, a cold reading can also reveal some of the weaknesses of your script that might have slipped by some of your other critiques. From the comments you received it sounds like one side of your brain shanghaied you.

Really well plotted thrillers and heist movies delight us with the mastery of the turns and twists of the plot. But if they contain heart-wrenching scenes of loss or betrayal those deeply rooted emotional stories come from the other side of the brain. One side is all about solving puzzles – while the other is about universality and connection. (Jill Bolte Taylor’s fabulous, fabulous TED talk gives a beautiful and passionate explanation of the relationship between brain hemispheres and creativity.

What’s probably missing in your piece is that moment (s) where the camera focuses on the protagonist and we get to SEE their pain/reaction/emotional response. We need emotional connection to the main character to actually care enough to plow through their story with them. Early on in your script give us an emotional link to your hero/heroine and then reinforce it several times throughout the story. Those emotional ties will keep us cheering your character through to the bitter or sweet finale of the film.

I hope this helps. And I do wish you luck with your rewrite – Wordsmythe wants so help!