Thursday, April 17, 2014

Your Input Requested: A Preview of Checklist v5!

Okay guys, time again to see how the sausage is made. I think that I’m going to debut Checklist v5 (Hopefully the definitive one) next week, but I thought I run it by you first.

As you can see, for the first time, I’m thinking about dividing each section into three or four sub-categories. I’ve already cut a few questions, and I’ve proposed (in green throughout) cutting, combining or moving more or them. I’m also interested in your reactions to the names of the subdivided sections and how I phrased the master questions that go with each one.

These are just some idle questions I’m wondering about the checklist as I try to finalize it for the book. Feel free to chime on any you have opinions about. (And I apologize in advance for any suggestions I don’t take!)  Thanks, guys!

Part 1: Concept:

The Pitch: Does this concept attract interest?
  1. Is the one sentence description uniquely appealing?
  2. Is this a clever twist on a classic type of story? Cut?
  3. Does the concept contain a fundamental (and possibly fun) ironic contradiction?
  4. Is this a story anyone can identify with, projected onto a bigger canvas, with higher stakes
Story Fundamentals: Will this concept generate a strong story?
  1. Is the concept simple enough to spend more time on character than plot? Cut?
  2. Is there one character that the audience will choose to be their “hero”?
  3. Is at least one actual human being opposed to what the hero is doing?
  4. Does this challenge represent the hero’s greatest hope and/or greatest fear and/or an ironic answer to hero’s question?
  5. Does something inside the hero have a particularly volatile reaction to the challenge?
  6. Is this challenge something that is the not just hard for the hero to do (an obstacle) but hard for the hero to want to do (a conflict)?
  7. Is the hero the person working the hardest to solve the problem?
  8. In the end, is the hero the only one who can solve the problem?
  9. Does the hero permanently transform the situation?
  10. Does the situation permanently transform the hero?
The Hook: Will this be marketable and generate word of mouth?
  1. Does this story show us imagery we haven’t seen before (that can be used to promote the final product)?
  2. Is there at least one “Holy Crap!” scene? 
  3. Does the story contain a surprise that is not obvious from the beginning?
  4. Is the story marketable without revealing the surprise?
  5. Is the conflict compelling and ironic both before and after the surprise?
Part 2: Character:

Believe: Do we recognize the hero as a human being?
  1. Does the hero have a moment of humanity early on? (A funny, or kind, or oddball, or out-of-character, or comically vain, or unique-but-universal “I thought I was the only one who did that!” moment?)
  2. Is the hero defined by actions and attitudes, not by backstory?
  3. Does the hero have a well-defined public identity?
  4. Does that ironically contrast with a hidden interior self?
  5. Does the hero have a consistent metaphor family (drawn from his or her job, background, or developmental state)?
  6. Does the hero have a default personality trait?
  7. Does the hero have a default argument tactic?
  8. Is the hero’s primary motivation for tackling this challenge strong, simple, not-selfless, and revealed early on?
Care: Do we feel for the hero?
  1. Does the hero start out with a false philosophy (or accept a false piece of advice early on)? Move to Structure?
  2. Does the hero have an open anxiety?
  3. Does the hero have a private fear?
  4. Is the hero vulnerable, both physically and emotionally?
  5. Does the hero have a great flaw? (but…)
Invest: Do we trust the hero to tackle this challenge?
  1. Is that great flaw the flip side of a great strength?
  2. Is the hero curious?
  3. Is the hero generally resourceful?
  4. Does the hero use pre-established special skills from his or her past to solve problems (rather than doing what anybody would do)?
  5. Does the hero have three rules he or she lives by (either stated or implied)?
  6. Is the hero surrounded by people who sorely lack his or her most valuable quality?
  7. Does the hero have (or claim) decision-making authority?
  8. Does the hero have a goal already in the first scene (which is usually a false goal)? (Split up? Have a false goal under feel for, actively pursuing that false goal under Invest in?)
  9. Does the hero engage in physical exertion early on? (add other tricks to this, such as high-fiving a black person, being kind to kids, etc? Or just cut this entirely?)
  10. Does the hero engage in reversible behavior (so that we will instantly see that he or she has changed when we see a contrasting behavior later on)? (Repeated in structure. Cut it here or there?)
Part 3: Structure (if the story is about the solving of a large problem)

1st Quarter: Is the challenge laid out in the first quarter?
  1. When the story begins, is the hero becoming increasingly irritated about his or her longstanding social problem (while still in denial about an internal flaw)?
  2. Does this problem become undeniable due to a social humiliation at the beginning of the story?
  3. Does the hero discover an intimidating opportunity to fix the problem?
  4. Does the hero hesitate until the stakes are raised?
  5. Does the hero commit to pursuing the opportunity by the end of the first quarter?
2nd Quarter: Does the hero try the easy way in the second quarter?
  1. Does the hero’s pursuit of the opportunity quickly lead to an unforeseen conflict with another person?
  2. Does the hero try the easy way throughout the second quarter?
  3. Does the hero (and/or villain) get to have a little fun at this point, in a way that exemplifies the appeal of the concept?
  4. Does the hero get excited about the possibility of success?
  5. Does this culminate in a midpoint disaster?
3rd Quarter: Does the hero try the hard way in the third quarter?
  1. Does the hero lose a safe space and/or sheltering relationship at this point?
  2. Does the hero try the hard way from this point on?
  3. By halfway through, are character decisions driving the plot, rather than external plot complications?
  4. Does the hero find out who his or her real friends and real enemies are?
  5. Does the hero learn from mistakes in a painful way?
  6. Does a further setback lead to a spiritual crisis?
4th Quarter: Does the challenge climax in the fourth quarter?
  1. Does the hero adopt a corrected philosophy after the spiritual crisis?
  2. After that crisis, does the hero finally commit to pursuing a corrected goal, which still seems far away?
  3. Before the final quarter of the story begins, (if not long before) has your hero switched to being proactive, instead of reactive?
  4. Despite these proactive steps, is the timeline unexpectedly moved up, forcing the hero to improvise for the finale?
  5. Do all strands of the story and most of the characters come together for the climactic confrontation?
  6. Does the hero’s inner struggle climax shortly after (or possible at the same time as) his or her outer struggle?
  7. Is there an epilogue/ aftermath/ denouement in which the hero’s original problem is finally resolved (or succumbed to), and we see how much the hero has changed (possibly through reversible behavior) (In two places, cut which?)
Part 4: Scenework

The Set-Up: Does this scene begin with the essential elements it needs?
  1. Were false and/or hopeful expectations for this interaction established beforehand?
  2. Does the scene eliminate small talk and repeated beats by cutting out the beginning (or even the middle)?
  3. Is this an intimidating setting that keeps characters active?
  4. Is one of the scene partners not planning to have this conversation (and quite possibly has something better to do)?
  5. Is there at least one non-plot element complicating the scene?
  6. Does the scene establish its own mini-ticking-clock (if only through subconscious anticipation)?
The Conflict: Do the conflicts play out in a lively manner?
  1. Is this scene a character event, not just a plot event? (Either about the hero’s action or the hero’s volatile reaction to someone else’s action?) (Cut? Rephrase?)
  2. Does the audience have (or develop) a rooting interest in this scene (which may shift)?
  3. Are two agendas genuinely clashing (rather than merely two personalities)?
  4. Does the scene have both a surface conflict and a suppressed conflict (one of which is the primary conflict in this scene)?
  5. Is the suppressed conflict (which may or may not come to the surface) implied through subtext? (Cut?)
  6. Are the characters cagy (or in denial) about their own feelings?
  7. Do characters use verbal tricks and traps to get what they want, not just direct confrontation?
  8. Is there re-blocking, including literal push and pull between the scene partners (often resulting in just one touch)?
  9. Are objects given or taken, representing larger values?
  10. If this is a big scene, is it broken down into a series of mini-goals?
The Outcome: Does this scene change the story going forward?
  1. As a result of this scene, does at least one of the scene partners end up doing something that he or she didn’t intend to do when the scene began?
  2. Does the outcome of the scene ironically reverse (or ironically fulfill) the original intention?
  3. Are previously-asked questions answered?
  4. Are new questions posed that will be left unanswered for now?
  5. Does the scene cut out early, on a question (possibly to be answered instantly by the circumstances of the next scene)? 
Part 5: Dialogue

Empathetic: Is the dialogue true to human nature?
  1. Does the writing demonstrate empathy for all of the characters?
  2. Does each of the characters, including the hero, have a limited perspective?
  3. Do the characters consciously and unconsciously prioritize their own wants, rather than the wants of others? Are the characters resistant to openly admitting their feelings (to others and even to themselves)?
  4. Do the characters avoid saying things they wouldn’t say?
  5. Do the characters listen poorly?
  6. Do the characters interrupt each other more often than not?
Specific: Is the dialogue specific to this world and each personality?
  1. Does the dialogue capture the syntax of the world and/or character (but ignore the dialect)? Cut?
  2. Does the dialogue capture the jargon of the setting?
  3. Does the dialogue capture the tradecraft of the profession being portrayed?
  4. Are there additional characters with distinct metaphor families (different from the hero’s, even if they’re in the same profession)?
  5. Are there additional characters with default personality traits?
  6. Are there additional characters with default argument strategies?
  7. Does each character have a distinct voice? (Can you always tell who is speaking without looking at the names?) (Cut? Already covered by previous questions?)
Heightened: Is the dialogue more pointed and dynamic than real talk? 
  1. Does the dialogue have more personality than real talk?
  2. Is the dialogue more concise than real talk?
  3. Is there a minimum of commas in the dialogue (the lines are not prefaced with yes, no, well, or the other character’s name)?
  4. Do non-professor characters speak without dependent clauses, conditionals, or parallel construction?
  5. Are the non-3-dimensional characters impartially polarized into head, heart and gut?
Strategic: Are certain dialogue scenes withheld until necessary? Move these to structure?
  1. Is exposition withheld until the hero and the audience are both demanding to know it?
  2. Is there one gutpunch scene, where the subtext falls away and the characters really lay into each other?
Part 6: Tone

Genre: Does the story tap into pre-established expectations?
  1. Is the story limited to one genre (or multiple genres that are merged from the beginning, without introducing a new genre after the first quarter?)
  2. Is the story limited to one sub-genre (or multiple sub-genres that are compatible with each other, without mixing metaphors)?
  3. Does the story satisfy the basic human urges that get people to buy and recommend this genre and sub-genre? (Move to concept?)
  4. Are unrealistic genre-specific elements a big metaphor for a more common experience (not how life really is, but how life really feels)? (Too similar to concept question?)
  5. Does the story follow the general structure of its genre? (Cut?)
  6. Does the ending satisfy most of the expectations of the genre, and defy a few others?
Mood: Does the story create a certain feeling?
  1. Does the story establish and maintain a consistent mood, separate from the genre?
  2. Is the degree and nature of the jeopardy established early and maintained throughout?
  3. Is the mood maintained?
Expectations: Does the story set, reset, upset and ultimately exceed its own expectations?
  1. Is there a dramatic question posed early on, which will establish in the audience’s mind which moment will mark the end of the story?
  2. Are there other open questions posed in the first half, which will keep the audience from asking the wrong questions later on?
  3. Are there characters whose situations prefigure various fates that might await the hero? 
  4. Does foreshadowing create anticipation and suspense (and refocus the audience’s attention on what’s important)?
  5. Are set-up and pay-off used to dazzle the audience (and maybe distract attention from plot contrivances)?
  6. Is the dramatic question answered at the very end of the story?
Part 7: Theme

Difficult: Is the meaning of the story derived from a fundamental moral dilemma?
  1. Can the theme be stated in the form of a classic good vs. good (or evil vs. evil) dilemma?
  2. Do the characters consistently choose between goods, or between evils, instead of choosing between good and evil?
  3. Is an open thematic question asked out loud (or clearly implied) and left unresolved in the first half?
  4. Do many small details throughout tie into the thematic dilemma?
Grounded: Do the stakes ring true to the world of the audience
  1. Does the story reflect the way the world works?
  2. Is the story based more on observations than ideas? Cut?
  3. Does the story have something authentic to say about this setting? Cut?
  4. Does the story include twinges of real life national pain?
  5. Are these issues addressed in a way that avoids moral hypocrisy?
  6. Do all of the actions have real consequences?
Untidy: Is the dilemma ultimate irresolvable?
  1. Does the ending tip towards on one side of the thematic dilemma without resolving it entirely?
  2. Does the story’s outcome ironically contrast with the initial goal?
  3. In the end, is the plot not entirely tidy? Rephrase?
  4. Do the characters refuse (or fail) to synthesize the meaning of the story, forcing the audience to do that?

14 comments:

Justin Walsh said...

Part 1: Concept
The Pitch
2. Is this a clever twist on a classic type of story? Cut?

I think cut. It feels like destructive advice for an inexperienced writer (demands they compare). A more experienced writer either won’t need this advice, or will already be subsumed enough in story that this won’t illuminate anything.


Part 1: Concept
Story Fundamentals
1. Is the concept simple enough to spend more time on character than plot?

Do NOT cut. I think this is hugely important for any writer to think about. Story doesn’t mean you can write about anything, and, as the design adage goes: A design is not complete when no more can be added, only when no more can be taken away.


Part 2: Character
Care
1. Does the hero start out with a false philosophy (or accept a false piece of advice early on?)

Is there any reason not to duplicate questions in different sections? If you note it at the start, and that such repetitions are used to highlight areas of overlap in different parts of story, I think that in itself has value. I’d keep this in the Character section though. Maybe you could ask in Structure if the character’s false philosophy drives their initial actions/reactions?


Part 2: Character
Invest
8. Does the hero have a goal already in the first scene (which is usually a false goal)?

I’d split this as you suggest. A goal makes us care. We want to want.


Part 2: Character
Invest
9. Does the hero engage in physical exertion early on?

Please don’t use high-fiving a black person as an example. That’s turning real-life minority pain into a demonstration of how awesome the hero is. Maybe ask: ‘Early on, do you show that the hero is someone worth following?’


Part 2: Character
Invest
10. Does the hero engage in reversible behaviour?

Again, can you ask the question in both? If not, I’d keep it here, in Character.


Part 3: Structure
4th Quarter
7. Is there an epilogue/aftermath/denouement in which the hero’s original problem is finally resolved (or succumbed to), and we see how much the hero has changed (possibly through reversible behaviour)?

Which original problem? False goal, story goal, or internal need? Should be more specific here. Again, I’d keep both in. I think it’s so important to show how different parts of character, structure, etc., feed into each other to create a whole story.

Justin Walsh said...

Part 4: Scenework
The Conflict
1. Is this scene a character event, not just a plot event?

I’d consider rephrasing to: ‘Can you make this scene a character event, not just a plot event (or vice-versa)?’ Not all scenes will work both ways, and sometimes you need one that’s just one or the other. I’d always encourage people to interrogate their own work.


Part 4: Scenework
The Conflict
5. Is the suppressed conflict implied through conflict?

I’d keep this, if only because it hints at a way to express suppressed conflict.


Part 5: Dialogue
Specific
1. Does the dialogue capture the syntax of the world and/or character?

This is a tough one because it’s important, but the question itself is so vague that I’m not sure someone coming to it cold would know what you mean. I’d try to find a way to explain it better. If you can do that, keep it. Otherwise, cut.


Part 5: Dialogue
Specific
7. Does each character have a distinct voice?

I think this is covered in the previous questions. I’d cut it.


Part 5: Dialogue
Strategic

I’d repeat. I think it helps to generate an overall storytelling context in the mind.


Part 6: Tone (listed in your post as Part 5, same as Dialogue)
Genre
3. Does the story satisfy the basic human urges that get people to buy and recommend this genre and sub-genre?

I’d mention something in concept to again show how everything weaves together.


Part 6: Tone
Genre
4. Are unrealistic genre-specific elements a big metaphor for a more common experience?

Hmm. I think that sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. If the work is of quality, metaphor will some through. I’d cut this as potentially de-railing for novice writers, and something experienced writers will already have come to terms with.


Part 6: Tone
Genre
5. Does the story follow the general structure of its genre?

I’d cut. Quite prescriptive advice that could stifle someone, invites huge amounts of analysis, and may not be all that useful even so.


Part 7: Theme
Grounded
2. Is the story based more on observations than ideas?

I think you need to explain this better. Coming to it cold, I’d have no idea what you meant.


Part 7: Theme
Grounded
3. Does the story have something authentic to say about this setting?

This doesn’t work for me at all. ‘Does the story have something authentic to say about our world, regardless of the setting’ seems more apropos. If it doesn’t, then isn’t it just disposable?


Part 7: Theme
Untidy
3. In the end, is the plot not entirely tidy?

I’d rephrase. Needs a clearer definition.


Hope this helps, Matt!

Matt Bird said...

It does! Thanks so much!

Of course you're right about not mentioning "high-five a black person" in the checklist. It always gets a laugh (from both white writers and black writers) when I point it out, but in the context an academic-sounding checklist it sounds cold and callous (and assumes your hero isn't black!)

Justin Walsh said...

I can see how it would get a rueful laugh all right :) But fuck that shit ;)

Mark said...

I have found "Does the hero have three rules he or she lives by (either stated or implied)?" to be one of the questions least likely to provide an interesting answer in your test drives. Is there a different way of asking what you're getting at?

Under Character, I feel like the distinction between Care and Invest is a little odd. I sort of see what you're doing, but if this is the way the checklist is going to look, I *really* don't like the idea of having the flaw and strength questions separated into two sections. I also think it really depends on the type of movie as to whether, for example engaging in physical behavior or being vulnerable makes the audience care for the hero, invest in the hero, or both.

j.s. said...

In general, I'm in favor of redundancy, especially when it's a case of a list item involving potential redundancy or overstatement vs. a more streamlined but perhaps less thorough or nuanced way of saying something.

I think you should think of these checklists more as Atul Gawande-like tools for the best practices health and safety of living stories. You don't want to kill the story because a step was unclear. Better to have the writing equivalent of "wash hands" repeated two or three times then to say it only once and risk losing a patient.

Frankly, my overwhelming impression is that you're done. This checklist is very solid. The small changes you're grappling with may make it oh so slightly better or worse for any given individual, but it's really marginal at this point. Time to stick a fork in it.

A few specific reactions to your suggested cuts, roughly in list order, below:

-----
"Does the dialogue capture the syntax of the world and/or character (but ignore the dialect)? Cut?"

Here's one you maybe could cut, if only because your more specific follow up questions tease out what you mean better than this initial general one.

-----

"Does each character have a distinct voice? (Can you always tell who is speaking without looking at the names?) (Cut? Already covered by previous questions?)"

Redundancy that works for me.
-----

"Strategic: Are certain dialogue scenes withheld until necessary? Move these to structure?"
Tough call. If it were only the first point, maybe. But the second one is more about dialogue. Can you have a version of this in both places?

-----
"Does the story satisfy the basic human urges that get people to buy and recommend this genre and sub-genre? (Move to concept?)"

Agree with your instinct to move it.

-----
"Are unrealistic genre-specific elements a big metaphor for a more common experience (not how life really is, but how life really feels)? (Too similar to concept question?)"

I say, leave it.

-----
"In the end, is the plot not entirely tidy? Rephrase?"

How about something more like: "While resolving the main conflicts, do you allow some plot points to remain unresolved, as they are in life, where not every loose end is tied up neatly?"

Emily said...

"Does the dialogue capture the syntax of the world and/or character (but ignore the dialect)? Cut?"

I'm not sure if this is specifically sticking out at me as someone who's studied linguistics, but "dialect" is ALL the things that make one variety of a language different from another: not just the phonology, but the syntax and the vocabulary.

If I were writing the question, it would probably be something like "Does your dialogue capture the syntax and rhythms of the character's dialect, not just the pronunciation?" -- you could probably tweak that into something better.

OTOH it may not be a big deal for the majority of people.

MCP said...

Pitch
2 – Keep. If someone does this part well they can definitely get lots of people to at least read their work.

Fundamentals
1 – Could go either way. No strong opinion.

Care
1 – Definitely move to structure.

Invest
8 – Don't split up. I would move this to structure as well.

9 – Keep. Physical might not be best description of it. Saving Cats.

10 – Move to structure.

Conflict
1 – Cut. The other questions cover this.
5 – Keep.

Specific

1 – Keep.
7 – Cut. Covered by other questions.

Genre

3 – Keep in Genre.
4 – Definitely keep. One of the best questions.
5 – Keep, if you have some more genre structures in there. The four-part ones were interesting, but almost a little too theoretical and broad to be of practical use.

Grounded

2 – Cut.
3 – Keep.

Untidy
3 – Rephrase if you use Untidy as the category heading.

Matt Bird said...

Thanks so much, everybody. I'm now officially buried in notes, and I'm in the process of digging myself out by organizing it all.

Sorry for the slow blogging recently, but I'll come back soon with the new checklist, a new TV checklist, and, for the first time, a short intro checklist and ideas about how to begin a project.

Paul Clarke said...

Part 1: Concept Story Fundamentals
1. Is the concept simple enough to spend more time on character than plot?

JUSTIN SAID:
Do NOT cut. I think this is hugely important for any writer to think about. Story doesn’t mean you can write about anything, and, as the design adage goes: A design is not complete when no more can be added, only when no more can be taken away.

I agree, but it wouldn't it make more sense to say: Is the PLOT simple enough to spend plenty of time on character?

It doesn't seem to be a concept level issue to me. The concept is more about can it be explained simply. Can you give someone a clear idea of the story in a couple of sentences.

Whereas if your plot is too complex then you find yourself constantly having to stop the story to explain it. (I'm sure there's a checklist item for this. I'm just at work and don't have the time to go through it all)

Patrick said...


Is this a clever twist on a classic type of story? Cut? (I‘m trying to understand what this sentence means/there are many stories that can have a clever twist and become films and not be classic. Classic may have to be dropped/rethought…maybe ‘established?’ ‘standard’. It falls a part when seriously looked at.)

Is the concept simple enough to spend more time on character than plot? Cut? (I‘m loving this concept right now. It‘s a nice motivator for me as an author to consider how deep my characters are. But, it is very abstract and I see why you want to dump it. [Don‘t all of these questions lead to indepth posts? Maybe this topic is mislabeled?] )

Does the hero engage in physical exertion early on? (add other tricks to this, such as high-fiving a black person, being kind to kids, etc? Or just cut this entirely?) (This idea is wrong and disjointed as is. Were you tired or just plain blocked when you came to this one? You are mixing a bunch of concepts. Are you talking save the cat? Princess Leia shooting storm troopers? Or, )

Is there an epilogue/ aftermath/ denouement in which the hero’s original problem is finally resolved (or succumbed to), and we see how much the hero has changed (possibly through reversible behavior) (In two places, cut which?) (It can‘t be in two places. This highlights what I think you should do--sorry about the size of revision I‘m suggesting--restructure the whole thing to one section. When I was trying to write a story from an earlier checklist I found myself needing to revise after reading each section and then found salient ideas in the character section that would have helped me in plot and felt confused, frustrated, and I gave up. Now, I just don‘t have the time.)

The Conflict: Do the conflicts play out in a lively manner?
Is this scene a character event, not just a plot event? (Either about the hero’s action or the hero’s volatile reaction to someone else’s action?) (Cut? Rephrase? Yes, it seems to elevate protagonist scenes to the neglect of scenes that advance the story. It champions 3rd person limited POV in writer talk.)

Does the scene have both a surface conflict and a suppressed conflict (one of which is the primary conflict in this scene)?
Is the suppressed conflict (which may or may not come to the surface) implied through subtext? (Cut?) (Seems redundant when it follows the section before it.)

Specific: Is the dialogue specific to this world and each personality?
Does the dialogue capture the syntax of the world and/or character (but ignore the dialect)? Cut? It’s a good question, doesn’t apply to many stories, but I don’t see cutting it.

Matt Bird said...

Thanks, Patrick!

Scooter Downey said...

First off,
Keep doing what you're doing. Big fan of the site. Secondly --

Part 1: The Concept
2. Is this a clever twist on a classic type of story? Cut?

Keep it. Forces the screenwriter to be original and take risks without going into crazytown. Addresses a recurring problems in specs: the story is a big shrug and has a by-the-numbers execution.

1. Is the concept simple enough to spend more time on character than plot? Cut?

Revise for clarity. To me the question makes it sound that there ought to be large sections of the movie where the story isn't advanced and we see the characters talking about their feelings. Beginner screenplays can often be thin on story and damaged by disruptive lulls. The concept should be simple enough that the characters aren't overwhelmed by Inception-like levels of exposition, but big enough that nearly every scene can incrementally advance the plot while also revealing character.

6. Is this challenge something that is not just hard for the hero to do (an obstacle) but hard for the hero to want to do (a conflict)?

Consider revising or explaining better in a future post. I think this is a fundamental insight, but can throw off a beginner as they conceive their screenplay. For example, in Silence of the Lambs, the challenge is to catch a serial killer. The way the question is worded, it makes it sound like Clarice Starling ought to have a hard time wanting to catch the serial killer. But what you really mean is that in order to accomplish her goal of catching the bad guy, Clarice must do something she doesn't want to do (reveal her history to Hannibal).

9. Does the hero engage in physical exertion early on? (add other tricks to this, such as high-fiving a black person, being kind to kids, etc? Or just cut this entirely?)

Seems like two categories that sometimes overlap. Physical exertion vs. save the cat.

As for all the redundancy questions, I think it's ok and helpful to have similar ideas in two different categories.

Part 4: Scenework
Setup: 1. Is this scene a character event, not just a plot event? (Either about the hero’s action or the hero’s volatile reaction to someone else’s action?) (Cut? Rephrase?)

Do not cut. Extremely important. I think it's phrased well.

5. Is the suppressed conflict (which may or may not come to the surface) implied through subtext? (Cut?)

Don't cut. If it gets the writer even thinking about subtext, that's a good thing.

Part 5: Dialogue
Specific: 5. Does each character have a distinct voice? (Can you always tell who is speaking without looking at the names?) (Cut? Already covered by previous questions?)

Don't cut, even if redundant. Forcing writers to do this makes the reading experience much easier and enjoyable.

Part 6: Tone
Does the story follow the general structure of its genre? (Cut?)

This is pretty vague. Stories within the same genre can have quite different structures. What's more important is that the structure proceeds in a clear, logical and believable fashion.

Part 7: Theme
Does the story have something authentic to say about this setting? Cut?
Don't cut.

Untidy: 3. In the end, is the plot not entirely tidy? Rephrase?
Yes, I would rephrase. The question is not entirely tidy.

Matt Bird said...

I just noticed this here. Thanks so much, Scooter, you've got me rephrasing some things.