In my professional work as a script doctor at ScriptProfessor.com, I am always struck numb by those that believe anyone can write and that everyone can fix a dramatic work.  Nothing could be farther from the truth.  Understanding how to make a script work is a tough task that few people in the world really understand and even fewer are able to perform at any price.


The trick to script doctoring is confessing that every script has different needs.  There is no single solution that can heal any ill.

Too often, our training suggests that drama and conflict are formulaic — a math problem, if you will — in need of “solving” merely by placing the correct contents in the righteous order.  If that were possible, let alone true, then we could have computer programs “solving” broken scripts and the need for the human touch would be unnecessary.

That brings us to the indefinable necessity of:  The Human Touch.  It takes an experienced eye and a journeyed heart to correctly infer the original author’s intentions, strengths, and inherent weaknesses and then intervene, without first doing any harm, to make the most of the base idea.

Sometimes that process is painful for the original author as everything must be thrown away and started anew — but the residue of the founding intention is never lost and that seminal fire is always celebrated in the ongoing, ovaric, doctoring of any script or dramatic work.

Script Doctoring is more than just fixing conflict, realigning structure and including missing emotion — it is about honoring the method in the madness of the characters — and in order to get to that sacred place, experience and training are a necessary must; but without empathy and yearning, all the training in the world won’t tell you where a script is lame and how to make it race again in the right light of original inspiration.

8 Comments

  1. I like that. Fixing a script needs to be about the writer and not the fixing person. Does what you say apply to other forms of writing like speeches and presentations.

  2. Thanks, Anne! Great to have you back with us!
    Yes, the argument I make is connectible to all forms of persuasive and dramatic writing when it comes to help making the work better. Young people are not as talented “fixers” as their aged counterparts, I argue, because they do not have enough treacherous life experiences to know the difference between beauty and peril and the horror between the divine and the ordinary.

  3. That makes sense. Good to know these things David so I know where to turn when my one great novel is ready to come out.
    Sorry I’ve been out. I’m back now as things settle in.

  4. Hi David,
    You are right about “experienced eye and journeyed heart” to enliven a script altogether. I think it’s even more tough to convey the message to the author.

  5. That’s an excellent point, Katha. The most successful script doctoring, in my experience, is when you’re working with a producer or a director and the original author is out of the loop. Original authors don’t want to change one word of their “perfect gem” and they end up wasting a lot of money on advice they never intend to take.