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Old 09-21-2018, 05:22 PM   #1
Kmark100
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Default Nicholl comments

By now I'm sure everyone knows that Nicholl finalists have been announced and congratulations to those who made QF, SF, finalists, and winners. If you were like me, perhaps you purchased the reader comments? Just curious if anyone would be willing to share some of those? Please by all means omit any character names, important plot points, etc.

Here is one of mine:

Nicholl reader comment #1:

[character name] takes place in a dark time in America’s history and uses that backdrop to tell the story of a complex hero in the titular character. He’s a man tortured by trauma in his past and contending with those demons daily, even as he contends with the societal demons of inequality and racism.

The main character is compelling and the gradual reveal of his backstory and how he came to be the guardian of a young boy keeps us leaning in. The boy provides a nice counterpoint to [main character], and their relationship is really the emotional core of the story, even moreso than the romantic and supportive relationship between [the two main characters]. Who, it should be mentioned, is a lively and compelling character in her own right. These three central characters create a strong group to root for.

Antagonist [character name] character offers interesting layers – his own backstory is filled in so that we understand where much of his current behavior and attitude comes from. [antagonist character] is perhaps the one character who feels a bit uneven -- a violent bully who is also, at times, almost childlike in his behavior (around his father).

The script is a fast read, thanks to spare description and dialogue. And the script takes on thematic ideas of tolerance, redemption, and the nature of family, without sacrificing the entertainment of a mostly fast-moving and action-packed plot.
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Old 09-21-2018, 09:19 PM   #2
ClintW3
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Default Re: Nicholl comments

The script was in top 10 percent, but reader comments varied widely.


Round 1 - Reader 1 Comments:


The story creeps along slowly, at a pace that doesn’t seem to reinforce its narrative.



Round 1 - Reader 3 Comments:

Crafted with skill, this moves forward at a good pace and brings settings to life with crisp, sharp and vivid images.



So, which is it? Does the pace suck or not.


*sigh*
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Old 09-22-2018, 01:30 PM   #3
Crayon
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Default Re: Nicholl comments

Quote:
Originally Posted by ClintW3 View Post
So, which is it? Does the pace suck or not.
Perhaps it depends on what the reader was sucking when they read it. Espresso, beer, hash pipe, diazepam?
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Old 09-25-2018, 10:07 AM   #4
cvolante
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Default Re: Nicholl comments

This is why I don't think contests should give us their feedback. Especially contests that offer it for free. We either made it or we didn't. The whys can vary and aren't always that helpful. Sometimes it ends up just another ego stroke or another kick in the teeth when we already had it with the initial contest results.
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Old 09-25-2018, 11:06 AM   #5
catcon
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Default Re: Nicholl comments

Agreed. The only thing of value would be the evaluation methodology they use - presumably some sort of checklist.

Yeah, it would still based on subjective opinion, but being point-by-point it might be more useful to writers.

Every contest must use such a document or form, and I specifically asked Nicholl about it many years ago. Needless to say, how they evaluate our submissions is privileged information, so it was no surprise they rejected the notion - even for the same fee that these (mostly) vacuous notes cost us.

Seeing the kinds of notes that were posted to their FB page, I never paid up because they simply didn't look useful. But, some writers may like 'em.
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Old 09-25-2018, 03:17 PM   #6
figment
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Default Re: Nicholl comments

Quote:
Originally Posted by ClintW3 View Post
The script was in top 10 percent, but reader comments varied widely.


Round 1 - Reader 1 Comments:

The story creeps along slowly, at a pace that doesn’t seem to reinforce its narrative.


Round 1 - Reader 3 Comments:

Crafted with skill, this moves forward at a good pace and brings settings to life with crisp, sharp and vivid images.


So, which is it? Does the pace suck or not.

Hahaha. This reminds me of mine last year:

Reader 1

The characters are the high point. The lead girl, X, is a fireball... She is loads of fun...

… (in addition) XX and XX are each nicely drawn and well differentiated.

… The quality of the craft should get this script some notice, and the memorable main character will surely spark interest as well. She is someone we all wouldn't mind being entertained by.


Reader 2:

... X was not easy to like... she plays the victim … there’s nothing special about her.


Yeah -- they're talking about the same character. What did I learn? Some readers just hate female main characters. But honestly, how you go from one reader thinking the protagonist is a "victim" to another reader who thinks she's "Loads of fun." Huh...
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Old 09-25-2018, 06:07 PM   #7
Friday
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Default Re: Nicholl comments

Well, maybe they should have a supervisory reader spot check some of these every now and then to make sure that they're isn't a wide variance. I know it can be subjective, but if different readers are going rogue and just making it so it's a random situation where people get different answers depending on what they pick. I suspect some of the early ones are less seasoned.
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Old 09-25-2018, 09:31 PM   #8
ClintW3
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Default Re: Nicholl comments

For me, the lesson learned is:


Don't pay for the Nicholl comments.


Unless you plan to rewrite the same script year after year after year, there is really no point to it. The comments aren't going to boost your entry the next year.
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Old 09-26-2018, 12:19 PM   #9
Unfinishe
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Default Re: Nicholl comments

Of course, I've watched movies and charged that the glacial pacing seriously undermined what could have been an interesting story, while friends argued, "I liked the slow, deliberate approach." Hell, our own opinions of movies change over time. Probably in my early years I thought 30 minutes could have been cut from Heat, but now I'd like another hour added just to learn more about the lives of all involved.

Reader comments can be frustrating, but I think they both said something that clicked for me this year. I am re-writing to clarify the second act goal, which I had thought was mysterious and intriguing but is instead ambiguous and confusing.

Here are some comments from the reader I call "But Guy" because almost everything comes with a but.

Quote:
There is some interest to this premise and its twists, but the narrative though line is challenging to follow in places. There is an able display of craft skills here. The characters are distinctive. The relationships are complex, but their lengthy backstory makes them a bit difficult to grasp. The dialogue has some stronger moments that feel naturalistic, but can be hard to follow in some scenes. Detail has some solid textures and vividly evoked visuals, but is not as clear on settings. There are moments of subtext, but it is inconsistent.

The intrusive writer’s voice in description supports the tone at the outset, but seems to get carried away in places with characters’ inner thoughts and hitting home the message, which would more effective in action than description.
This last part has confounded me -- "more effective in action than description." Is he saying that I'm just describing character thoughts?

The other reader didn't seem to think so:

Quote:
Writing and craft in this script are generally topnotch. Scenes are polished, tightly-cut, with active description that gives external cues as to its character’s internal states.
Then there are those universal weapons that cut deep. Again from "But Guy"

Quote:
The second act feels episodic.
Ouch. Guilty.

Quote:
The opening of this story, with rapid intercutting of past and present, makes it challenging to follow and become engaged.
That's what people say...

Quote:
There are times when the action is clear and others when we are struggling a bit to follow what is going on.
Yep.

Quote:
The through line gets murky until the FBI component comes in, but their target is muddy. The many new characters and double lives leaves us working to understand relationships and grasp the focus.
Certainly.


I think a lot of people would agree with his comments, but there are places in the script where readers are deliberately misled. "I inferred X, but now it seems his motives were Y. I'm confused. Why is this happening? What's really going on??"
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Old 09-26-2018, 03:02 PM   #10
jroger
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Default Re: Nicholl comments

I for one have always found the Nicholl comments useful. Sure it's subjective and some of the feedback is conflicting, but the comments are almost always thoughtful and the criticisms valid (even if I don't agree with them). I've gotten some good mileage out of the Nicholl comments as compared to other contests and the paid blcklst site.
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